Spain conquered the Canary Islands in 1402. It was the kingdom’s first colony, and neighboring Portugal was eager to make a conquest, too. The Portuguese under Prince Henry the Navigator ventured further into the Atlantic until they found a group of islands in 1431. The archipelago was later named Azores and Portugal claimed it as the kingdom’s own colony starting in 1432. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.
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The Start of the Age of Discovery
In 1439, the Catalan Gabriel Valsequa (Gabriel de Vallesca) published a star chart (planisphere). In this map, de Valsequa mentioned that a Portuguese navigator named Diogo de Silves discovered the islands of the Azores in 1427. De Silves’ discovery of the islands is still disputed, so the claim remains a legend.
The German mariner and geographer Martin Behaim produced a globe called Erdapfel in 1492. He put the discovery of the islands of Azores in 1431 after two ships led by an unnamed commander visited the area. The Portuguese navigator Diogo Gomes also told Martin Behaim that two expeditions to the Azores were made during the time of Prince Henry the Navigator. The first expedition reached the islands of Pico, Faial, Santa Maria, Terceira, and San Miguel. The exact date of this voyage, however, remains a mystery.
The Beginnings of the Portuguese Empire
The second voyage mentioned by Diogo Gomes was under the command of the Portuguese monk Fray Gonçalo Velho Cabral in 1431. His crew saw some islands, but the ship immediately returned to Portugal. He and his men returned to the area in 1432. They landed on an island that they later named “Santa Maria” in honor of the Virgin Mary. They explored the area for some time and sailed back to Portugal to report to Prince Henry.
Prince Henry the Navigator honored Gonçalo Velho Cabral by giving him the island of Santa Maria as his fief. He also planned to send herds to the islands and once again sent Gonçalo to explore the area. Gonçalo Velho Cabral was appointed as the Commander of the Islands of Azores in 1433 by King Alfonso V. It was not until 1435 that the group of Portuguese settlers organized by Gonçalo Velho Cabral landed in Santa Maria.
The Portuguese rulers sent more expeditions to the area and settled the island of Sao Miguel in 1444. Some settlers arrived on the Island of Terceira five years later. The islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira, meanwhile, were settled in 1452. By the end of the 1400s, the Portuguese were the undisputed masters of the Azores and the neighboring islands of Madeira.
Barreto, Mascarenhas. The Portuguese Columbus, Secret Agent of King John II. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
Minahan, James. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.
Olson, James Stuart, and Robert Shadle, eds. Historical Dictionary of European Imperialism. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.
Shafer, Boyd C., Bailey Diffie, and George Winius. Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion: Volume 1 Foundations of the Portuguese Empire 1415-1580. University of Minnesota Press, 1977
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