Age of Exploration




Human beings have always been explorers. The Phonecians, Greeks, Romans, Vikings, and others have been interested in other cultures.


There’s even speculation that Pytheas, a sailor from the Greek colony of Marseilles, in about 300 B.C. sailed north and sailed around “England and Scotland, visiting the Isle of Man, the Orkneys and Iceland. He may also have explored the swampy estuaries of Holland and Flanders, the mouth of the Baltic and the Jutland peninsula” (

But the Age of Exploration was different.


“The Age of Exploration was the energy of the Renaissance hurling itself into the conquest of space to reveal the modern world.” - Life’s Picture History of Man (New York, 1951)


Few know that the Age of Exploration almost didn’t happen.


We know that in the Age of Exploration the West discovered the East. But not many people realize that the Europeans may have come close to being discovered by the East first!


Admiral Zheng He (pronounced jung huh) and China’s Ascendancy

(adapted from




The Great Chinese Mariner - (1371-1435)


The year is 1405, during the Ming Dynasty in China, and a giant imperial armada sails slowly out of the harbor at Liujiajiang, on the mouth of the Yangtse river. Nearly 300 craft, from giant "treasure ships," each displacing 500 tons and bearing twelve sails, to small sea-going junks, jostle their way into the East China Sea under the command of the "Three-Jewel Eunuch" Zheng He.


Never before in human history have so many ships been assembled under a single command; indeed, not until the pell-mell evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 and the Atlantic convoys of World War II will the world witness a fleet this large.


During his 28 year naval career, Admiral Zheng visited 37 countries, traveled around the tip of Africa into the Atlantic Ocean and commanded a single fleet whose numbers surpassed the combined fleets of all Europe. Between 1405 and 1433, at least 317 ships and 37,000 men were under his command. The flagship of the fleet was a nine-masted vessel measuring 440 feet, nearly 1.5 times the length of a football fields. (


Zheng is on a trade mission to the Arabian Sea, the nerve-center of 15th century world trade. His ultimate destination: the port of Calicut.


Chinese merchants had ventured into the Arabian Sea before, trading with Arabs, East Africans and Indians in ports on India's Malabar coast. The imperial fleet's task is to deepen and strengthen these commercial ties by establishing diplomatic relations with kingdoms in India, Arabia and East Africa. The "treasure ships" also are carrying Chinese goods like silks, porcelain and musk, to trade for Indian and African products - like spices, exotic timbers, jewels, pearls and ivory.


Described as a giant of a man with a booming voice and flashing eyes, Zheng is nonetheless an unlikely naval commander. Not only is he a eunuch (he was castrated as a teenager), more at home among the intrigues of the imperial court than out at sea, he is also a Muslim, descending from Central Asian refugees.


But over the next three decades, Zheng would build an incredible seafaring legacy, to become Asia's greatest admiral. He would lead the imperial armada on seven expeditions to the Arabian Sea, along the way defeating fearsome pirate fleets,

occasionally seizing (and then benevolently releasing) territory, and forging diplomatic relations with a dozen countries.


And all this, fully 87 years before Christopher Columbus set sail for India and 94 years before Vasco da Gama found it - the two maritime breakthroughs that are generally regarded as landmarks of globalization. Some say he even was the first to circumnavigate the globe -- 100 years before Magellan! the 15th and 16th centuries, [Calicut] was Asia's most important commercial hub, a glittering emporium that attracted traders from all over the "civilized" world: Western Europe, East Africa, Central Asia and China. Calicut's harbor bustled with freight-bearing ships from Lisbon, Constantinople, Malindi and Nanjing. It was a tiny kingdom, no more than a harbor and a small hinterland. But it was blessed with a long line of sagacious rulers, known as Zamorins, who understood the needs of international traders and bent over backwards to accommodate them. Under their enlightened rule, Calicut was a proto-Hong Kong: a free port that offered world-class berthing and warehousing facilities, and the rule of law.


Zheng He's adventures would be forgotten within a single generation of his passing. At the death of Emperor Yongle in 1424, the power of the eunuchs in the imperial court would gradually be broken by the Confucian elite, who frowned on any contact with the barbarians beyond Chinese borders. Zheng's travels - indeed his very name - would be struck from the official record. Chinese merchants would still venture into the Arabian Sea, but only smalltime traders; their role as a dominant  merchant-marine force (and the MFN status) would be taken first by the Arabs and then by the Portuguese, Dutch and British.


The East May Have Found the West -- Instead of Vice-Versa!


Even allowing for a slowdown at the death of the great admiral, it's entirely conceivable that the treasure ships would have rounded Africa and arrived on the shores of Portugal, Spain and England. Instead of European adventurers finding the sea route to the East, the East would have come to Europe. And, given the vast superiority of the Chinese shipbuilding technology (military as well as commercial) it's not hard to imagine that East-West seaborne trade may have been dominated by Zheng He's successors for centuries. The colonization of Asia and the Americas may never have taken  place!


Why did none of this come to pass? Blame it on totalitarianism. In essence, China failed to capitalize on Zheng's explorations because of an emperor's whim. It didn't help that knowledge of the admiral's discoveries and successes was restricted to the imperial capital of Nanjing; the great Chinese peasantry had little, if any, inkling of the great world beyond the seas and the great potential for personal enrichment that lay on distant shores. When the emperor, at the behest of his courtiers, decided that maritime adventures were undesirable, there was not a murmur of protest from the public - they didn't know any better.


Portugal and the European Age of Exploration


Contrast that with Portugal at the end of the 15th century. Granted, it was no democracy, but Henry the Navigator and his successors didn't have the almost total control over the lives of their people that Chinese emperors enjoyed. Besides,

stories of the successes of the pioneering seafarers electrified the Portuguese people; wealthy merchants and ordinary folks alike believed (and were encouraged to believe by palace propaganda) that great prospects lay ahead of anybody who dared to sail to the East. Once the public appetite for adventure and wealth was roused, no European king could have banned adventuring.


And there was another crucial difference between Admiral Zheng He and the Europeans.


The fact, however, is that Zheng's remarkable voyages (up to six or seven long trips over a period of 30 years) were not intended to discover new territories. They were made to re-open direct trading relations between China and many different peoples around the Indian Ocean, which had fallen into the hands of middlemen or been cut off entirely for over a century due to various political and military upheavals.


Why they explored


Two main impulses for the age of exploration:


1. Religious

2. Commercial


1. Religious


The Age of Exploration was also an age of evangelization. It was motivated by Christian impulses.


Jesus - Go into all the world to spread the Gospel


In the late Middle Ages, and on into the Reniassance, explorers sought to spread the light of Christ to the remote corners of the earth.


There was a pesky problem faced by the Europeans. What was it? [Islam]


Islam had been spreading like wildfire since the 7th century. By the 15th century, the 1400s, it had spread throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and it was still a dominant force in Spain.


Ottoman Turks


By 1300s a new Muslim power arose, the Ottoman Turks. They were more agressive and militant than the Seljuk Turks that the Crusaders had fought. Soon they became the world superpower and absorbed virtually all of the old Byzantine Empire.


Then, in 1453, an event took place that shook Europe to its foundations. What was it? [fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks after a 53-day seige using cannon and newly-invented gunpowder. There were bad omens. Sacred pictures perspired or spoke solemn words of warning; images of the Virgin Mary fell and refused to be lifted up. It was as if God had forsaken the city. Sultan Mohammed II brought 80 of his ships around the protective chains guarding the city and aimed the guns and catapults at the city. The Byzantines wouldn’t surrender, so the Turks attacked. They fired at the city walls and tried to climb up them. The final charge was by Janissaries, Christian children captured by Muslims and trained to be Muslim warriors. The Emperor Constantine was trampled to death by the rushing hordes. An imaum clibed the pulpit of Hagia Sophia Church and wailed, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Prophet! Come to prayer!” Date was May 29, 1453]




The shock waves of the defeat of Constantinople reverberated across Europe. The empire, which had been holding back the forces of Islam for 800 years, had collapsed!


Christopher Columbus was two years old when Constantinople fell.


The Turks weren’t finished. They conquered much of Eastern Europe and came within 100 miles of Rome. They laid seige to Vienna in 1527, but never took the city.


2. Commercial


Since the Crusades, Europeans had developed a taste for foods of the east, such as spcies. Spices were so precious in Europe that they were often used as currency.


-- cinnamon: Used by upper crusts in order to cover up the taste of cured meats, which began to spoil during the winter. Cinnamon also was reported to cure various ailments during the Middle Ages, including coughs and indigestion. A pound of cinnamon could be used to purchase three sheep.


-- cloves, nutmeg, and ginger


They also liked precious stones, perfumes, gums, dyes, and fragrant woods.


Other European nations wanted to get into the action. They thought that if they found a route to the East via water, they would break the Italian monopoly on trade.




Henry the Navigator


Both of these reasons -- religious and commercail -- were combined in one man, Henry the Navigator. He wanted to spread the gospel. But he also wanted to find trade routes to circumvent the Muslims and also break the monopoly that the Ventians and other Italians had on trade in goods from the East.


He has one foot in the Middle Ages and one in the Reniassance. He was a crusader and a man of science.


Prince Henry the Navigator, was born in 1394. He wanted to unite Africa, Asia, and Europe against Muslims.


But there was a problem. What was it? [Muslims controlled the trade routes between Asia and Europe, sometimes jacking up the prices 4000 percent.]


Prince Henry needed to break this economic stranglehold if Christendom was to be successful against the Muslims.


BUT HOW? [find shorter route to Asia]


He also felt that if the peoples of Africa and Asia could be converted, they would trap Islam in a pincer movement and cut them off. They’d be surrounded.


But Henry had more challenges ahead. He needed to:


1. Develop the technology to get ships around Africa and then to Asia. (No Suez Canal back then, and it would be controlled by Muslims anyway.) So...he starts a scientific academy that brought together navigators, shipbuilders, astronomers, geographers, cartographers, and mathematicians. He dedicated 40 years and vasts amounts of money to accomplsihing the task.


Navigation methods of the time:


-> Henry’s navigators discover Azores, Cape Verde Islands, and explored much of the west coast of Africa.

--> They also invented the caravel, the type of long-distance ship Columbus used to get to the New World


2. Needed to convince sailors that the tropics were safe.


Most navigators knew the earth was round. How?


Understanding a round earth came in stages. First the Pythagoreans argued by induction, 2500 years ago: The moon is round, they said. So is the sun. Surely the earth must also be round.


Two centuries later, Aristotle argued from observation. When a boat sails off in any direction, he noted, its hull always disappears before its sails do. The hull is obviously being obscured by curvature, so the earth must be round.


Educated people knew the earth was round in the 3rd century BC, but they still didn't know how to measure its size.


Then the Egyptian Eratosthenes, director of the Library in Alexandria, wedded observation to calculation. His idea was as simple as it was brilliant. When the sun was directly above Aswan, 500 miles away, he measured the shadow cast by a vertical tower in Alexandria. The rest was simple trigonometry. He calculated earth's diameter with only 16 percent error, and his method was used right down to modern times. (



So...navigators in Europe knew the earth was round. But they feared that at the equator:


1. the sun poured down sheets of liquid flame

2. the ocean boiled

3. searing heat turned white men black


Pope Nicholas V in September 1453 (only months after the fall of Constantinople) gave the Portugese monarch dominion over the southernmost parts of Africa. The Pope said that Henry was:


“...burning with zeal for the salvation of couls” and that he “made manifest...the most florious name if the Creator himself throughout the entire world, even in those places most remote and unknown...”


By the time he died in 1460, his captains had sailed 1500 miles west, more than 1/3 the way across the Atlantic.


The Portugese worked slowly down the African coast


Cape Verde - by 1455

Sierra Leone - by 1462

Passes equator - 1471

Congo River - by 1482


Upon Prince Henry's death in 1460, the mantle of sponsoring exploration came to rest on a new monarch, King John II. King John II was not satisfied with the revenues he was receiving from trading voyages and he was determined to establish a Christian Empire in West Africa.



-- In 1441, two of Henry's captains, Antam Gonclaves and Nuno Tristao, set out, separately, to Cape Bianco on the western coast of Africa. To the south of the Cape they came across a market run by black Muslims dressed in white robes and turbans. There they received a small amount of gold dust. The Portuguese crew also seized twelve black Africans to take back to Portugal, not as slaves, but as exhibits to show Prince Henry. The new captives included a local chief who spoke Arabic. The chief negotiated his own release, the terms of which were that if he and a boy from his family were taken back to their homeland and released, they would provide other black slaves in exchange.

-- In 1442, Antam Goncalves sailed back to Cape Bianco, then returned with more gold dust and ten black Africans. The following year, Portuguese explorers returned from Africa with nearly thirty slaves.

-- Within ten years, thousands of slaves had been transported by sea to Portugal and the Portuguese Islands.



Marking Discoveries

To mark the philosophical change in Portugal's voyages from trade missions to settlement, a series of granite pillars were commissioned for subsequent voyages.

On each pillar could be found the royal arms of King John II as well as a Christian cross. When explorers reached a previously uncharted region, they were to place the pillar ashore to claim the land in the name of Christendom and Portugal. By 1487, Portuguese explorers had placed granite pillars as far south as Cape Cross.


The Portugese navigators were brave souls who lost all terror of the sea. They were children of the Renaissance who want to prove things.



Bartholomew Diaz


In 1487, Diaz does it. He and his three boats sailed to the southern tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope.


A famous Portuguese navigator of the fifteenth century, discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope; died at sea, 29 May, 1500.


King John II appointed him on 10 October, 1486, as the head of an expedition which was to endeavor to sail around the southern end of Africa. Its chief purpose was to find the country of the Christian African king known as Prester John, and with whom the Portuguese wished to enter into friendly relations.


Prester John was the mythical founder of a Christian kingdom in Africa.

- lives in enchanted palace in the mountains

- in front of palace was a magic mirror where he could see all kingdoms

- throne of rubies, pearls, and emeralds

- robes washed in fire and woven by the salamander

- 7 kings wait on him continually

- 60 dukes

- 360 counts

- countless knights and noblemen

- 30 archbishops @ right hand

- 20 bishops @ left hand



In Jerusalem at the beginning of the fifteenth century the Abyssinian priests described their country to the Christian Portuguese merchants as the Kingdom of Prester John.


The Portuguese persistently sought the Presbyter's kingdom along the whole African coast (Vasco de Gama even carried with him letters of introduction to this supposed Christian ruler), and believed that in Ethiopia they had at last fallen in with him. As a matter of fact, the Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia had for centuries successfully withstood the onslaughts of Islam.


After ten months of preparation Dias left Lisbon the latter part of July or the beginning of August, 1487, with two armed caravels of fifty tons each and one supply-ship. There were also two negroes and four negresses on board who were to be set ashore at suitable spots to explain to the natives the purpose of the expedition.


King John, in view of the success of the expedition, is said to have proposed the name it has since borne, Cape of Good Hope. In December, 1488, Dias returned to Lisbon after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days. He had shown the way to Vasco da Gama whom in 1497 he accompanied, but in a subordinate position, as far as the Cape Verde Islands.


If it can be said that Bartolomew Dias found the gates to the sea-route to India, it would remain for another explorer to force them open.


In 1500 Dias commanded a ship in the expedition of Cabral; his vessel, however, was one of those wrecked not far from the Cape of Good Hope, which he had discovered thirteen years before.


MONDAY: Christopher Columbus







3 things to keep in mind before we start talking about explorers:


- History shows the sovereign hand of God at work.

- God works through imperfect people to accomplsih his goals.

- Some historians act as though sin were not a factor in history. They’re surprised when human beings show human failings. Rather, as Christian historians, we can show them grace because God has shown us His grace.


Christopher Columbus


Christopher Columbus is one of the most controversial figures in world history. At the 500th anniversary of his discovery in America, he was denounced as a racist, a genocidal maniac, and even worse!


Over the years he has been seen in different ways. [SEE HANDOUT]

1892 Papal Encyclical on Columbus:


Muslims -- and Marriage-- in Spain


For Christians in Spain, the Muslim invaders weren’t a distant threat but a present reality. They ruled sections of Spain since the 700s, and were in charge of southern Spain known as Granada. There was almost contant warfare between Muslim and Christian kingdoms in Spain from the late 11th century. Eventually Spanish Christians came to believe that all of Spain must be under Christian rule.


This sentiment gained force when in 1469, a famous marriage took place. Which one was it?


[Queen Isabella of Castille married King Ferdinand of Aragon, therefore uniting Christian Spain.]


The Spanish Christians won city after city from Muslim control. They took the final city, Granada, on January 2, 1492. A triumphal procession marched into the city, including king and queen. The king and queen knelt in the city square and thanked God for delivering the city from 781 years of Muslim rule. Now all of Spain was Catholic Christian.


Someone else marched into the city with them. Any guesses? [Christopher Columbus]


His Beginnings


There was a legend about Offerus, a third-century pagan prince who was of great size and strength. He wanted to serve the strongest and bravest king, but found none worthy of his allegiance. One day carries a child across a raging river. Child grew heavier until it felt as if Offerus had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Swore allegiance to this Christ (the child), changed his name to St. Christopher (Christ-bearer), and eventually was martyred for his faith.


His son, Ferdinand Columbus, believed that his name “foretold the novel and wonderful deed he was to perform.” -- to bring Christ to the unreached people groups of the world.


Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451 - Genoa, capital of a wealthy seafaring, mercantile republic which was very active in the spice trade when spices were widely used to enhance flavor and mask spoilage. The Genovese have always been proud and jealous of their cuisine - redolent with the aromas of herbs - sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram and basil.


Yet, they were always careful not to adopt foreign spices such as cinnamon, pepper, cloves or other strong spices (even though they earned their livelihood trading them). The Genovese were deep-sea sailors, whose long voyages took them beyond sight of land and they were assaulted by day and night the odors of pepper from India, cloves from Zanzibar and cinnamon from Ceylon. By the time they docked, the last thing they needed was more spice.


Genoans were so conservative that they refused to allow coffee to be served in public or private in the early 1600's when at the same time coffee houses were the rage in Venice. Only much later was this restriction lifted.


Describing Columbus and His Family


His description and his personal activities - see F. Columbus handout, p. 9


--> His folks may have been "conversos" -- converted Spanish Jews!

--> Columbus wrote Spanish -- not Italian -- his entire life!!

- Christopher’s father, Domenico, was a weaver, as was his grandfather. Later he became a wine merchant and had his own vineyards.

- Columbus's mother, Susanna Fontanarossa, came from a mountain village where chestnuts were the main staple of the diet.

- He began his career as a sailor and may have fought against Muslim Barbary Pirates. Columbus himself in a letter to King Ferdinand says that he began to navigate at the age of fourteen.

- Shipwrecked off the coast of Portugal at age 25 in 1476. His son, Ferdinand, said that his father felt that God had preserved him for some great work.

- Stayed in Lisbon and set up shop as a mapmaker. Brought his younger brother, Bartholomew, into the family business


Like Henry the Navigator, Columbus was concerned over Muslim expansion. But his solution was to sail west to Asia, not south around Africa.


DRAW MAP ON BOARD. Columbus believed that it would be faster to sail west to get to the Orient. He got the idea in 1474 when he asked the Florentine astronomer Toscanelli whether there was a shorter way to get to Asia than by rounding Africa.


But Columbus (and Toscanelli) failed to understand a few things:


1. That there was a huge landmass between Europe and the Orient - N+S America


2. That it would take a whole lot longer to cross than he had imagined. He underestimated earth's diameter, and he overestimated the width of Asia. He thought Japan lay only 2700 miles west of the Canary Islands. A correct calculation would've put it 10,000 miles away -- far beyond the reach of any 15th-century ship. And yet Columbus had access to a much better estimate of earth's size -- one that was 1700 years old. The irony is that he thought the earth was smaller than the Greeks thought it was. (He kept a secret log and underestimated distances so as not to alarm his crew.)


If America had not existedÑhad not been in the wayÑColumbus would have had to turn back long before reaching his goal, or he and every man on his ships would have died.


While Christopher made the case to court in Portugal, Bartholomew made it to authorities in France and England.


He met his future wife, Felipa, while attending church in Lisbon, and married her in 1479. Had one child (Diego) before she died in 1485.


After a while, he meets a peasant woman named Beatriz, and Ferdinand was born in 1488. Apparently they never married. (Maybe not to ruin his chances before Ferdinand and Isabella?)


He and Bartholomew were turned down by kings of France, England, and Portugal. Finally, he tried asking Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, beginning in 1486, but they were skeptical and anyway (for reasons of the distance involved), they were preoccupied with the Muslim wars. Finally, in 1492, when the Muslim question was resolved, they backed Columbus’ venture, agreeing to his terms after some reluctance (he rode off toward France when he was stopped by a royal rider).  They were ready for a new crusade.


His terms:


a. He was to be admiral of all the lands and seas he discovered

b. He was to be viceroy of his discoveries

c. He was to have 10% of the profits from the new lands


Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties to Christopher Columbus : 1492 --

didn’t “discover” America, but he was the first to turn his discoveries into permanent colonies.


Columbus was interested in finding gold and discovering a shorter route to the East.

BUT: Whatever influence scientific theories and the ambition for fame and wealth may have had over him, in advocating his enterprise he never failed to insist on the conversion of the pagan peoples that he would discover as one of the primary objects of his undertaking. He quoted Isaiah 49:6 - “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” He said at the end of his life, “It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel his hand upon me) to sail to the Indies” (Book of Prophecies).


He also hoped that any gold he found would be used for a Crusade to free Jerusalem from the Muslims, and that Columbus himself would lead it!


He also believed that the world would last only 7,000 years and that the end was only 155 years away! Thus the urgency of his mission!


Columbus also had his faults: Pride, stubbornness, and borderline arrogance.


On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail with three ships - Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. 90 men aboard Santa Maria, the largest ship. The ships were quite tiny by modern standards--no longer than a tennis court, and less than 30 feet wide.  The Santa Maria had 40 men aboard, the Pinta, 26, and the Nina, 24.


Before they left, every boy and man on the crew gave last confession to a priest and took Holy Communion.


Sailed for 70 days - smooth weather - Columbus's crew included four jailbirds!  A murderer who killed a man in a brawl -- and three punks who helped him break out of prison!  Columbus didn't bring women until his third voyage in 1498.  The ladies was brought as wives for the Spanish colonialists -- one lady for every ten guys!  Some of the Spaniards eventually took Indian wives.


Columbus wrote that two main meals were served daily, cooked on wood fires set in sand boxes.


Seamen were some of the most religious people around. They prayed morning, noon, and night, and even sang songs of faith. At sunset each sailor, including Columbus, had his own private devotions.


Columbus’ Log for 1492: ://


Oct. 6 - Conference with officers of three ships. Trun around in 3 days if no land.

Oct. 9 - No land sighted, but evidence of it: land vegetation, birds, driftwood carved by human hands


King and queen had promised of 10,000 maravedis to man who first saw land. Columbus saw a light on October 11, 1492.  On the next day, at 2 a.m., Rodrigo de Triana, a sailor, cried, “Land! Land!” from the Pinta. But Columbus claimed the prize because the light has signfified the spiritual light that was introduced among the natives. de Triana, disgusted, became a Muslim.


They hit landfall on an island in the Bahamas. Went ashore October 12. Columbus renamed the island San Salvador (Bahamas) and unfrled the banners of Spain. He and his men fell to their knees on the sandy beach and uttered their “immense thanksiving to Almighty God.”


He landed in Cuba on October 29, where he first saw natives smoking tobacco -- enormous leaves fashioned into tight rolls, an aboriginal cigar. By some historical accounts, Columbus himself was indifferent to the appeal of tobacco, so preoccupied was he by his quest for gold. But tobacco was among the curiosities and riches Columbus's ships brought back from The New World.


December 5, 1492 - ariives in Haiti. On Dec. 24, the Santa Maria runs aground off coast of Haiti and had to be abandoned. The local native population helped unload the ship. He set up a garrison with 40 men called Navidad -- first European settlement in the New World ?-- and left the men behind.


First Voyage of Columbus: Meeting the Islanders --


The largest group of people living in the islands of the Caribbean were the Ta’nos (Arawaks). Their villages were governed by chieftains, or caciques, who enjoyed some distinctions of rank but received tribute in times of crisis only. Related families lived together in large houses built of poles, mats, and thatch.


The Ta’nos were known for their fine wood carving and hammocks woven from cotton. Not a particularly warlike people, they played ceremonial ball games, possibly as a substitute for warfare and as an outlet for competition between villages and chiefdoms.


 The other major group living in the Caribbean were the more mobile and aggressive Caribs, who took to the sea in huge dugout canoes. By the late 15th century, the Caribs had expanded into the smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean from the mainland, displacing or intermingling with the Ta’nos. Columbus’s first encounter with them on January 13, 1493.


Columbus soon realized that slavery was not confined to Europe and Africa. The apparently mild-mannered Tainos were regularly enslaved by raiding bands of Caribs. Many of those Columbus is accused of enslaving were actually willing captives. They were fleeing in terror from the Caribs. Being a slave to the Caribs was not a pleasant experience, though it usually was a rather brief one. The Caribs had the unhappy habit of eating their slaves.


They even developed cannibalistic gourmet food. More than one search party found ghastly evidence of their gastronomic preferences. Samuel Morison relates, "In the huts deserted by the warriors, who ungallantly fled, they found large cuts and joints of human flesh, shin bones set aside to make arrows of, caponized Arawak boy captives who were being fattened for the griddle, and girl captives who were mainly used to produce babies, which the Caribs regarded as a particularly toothsome morsel."


Had the landing of Columbus not interfered, they in all probability would have exterminated the Arawaks and spread over the Greater Antilles also.


They left for Spain on January 16, 1493, and arrive in Lisbon on March 4 (rubs it in with Portguese king). It is clear that Columbus, like most of his contemporaries, saw nothing inherently evil in slavery, yet he was far from a wild-eyed slave merchant. His motives in taking some of the Indians back to Spain was to teach them Spanish in order that they might be used as translators and missionaries among their countrymen (see the Journal entry for November 12, 1492).


He became a celebrity in Spain, despite some suspicion that he had not discovered Asia. As the famous writer and scholar Peter Martyr de Angler’a, an Italian who had gone to live in Spain, said in a letter that month: “NowÑO happy event!Ñunder the auspices of my kings [Isabel and Fernando], there is becoming known that which from the beginning of creation had been hidden from us.”

had seen only small amounts of gold. The natives had told him that it was west of where they lived. Needed gold for various reasons:


1. finance his trips

2. wealth meant influence (wanted to be a world-changer)

3. fund a crusade in the Holy Land



- The Catholic Church arrived in the New World immediately after Christopher Columbus laid claim to it for Spain. 

- After Columbus's discovery of the new lands he wrote a series of treatise as to what the European purpose there was. 

- Columbus, in his writings, said that the purpose of the New World was

two fold.  He said that the gospel message of the church should be spread

globally beginning with his discoveries in the New World.  Second, he stated that

the riches discovered in the New World should be dedicated to the recapture

of Jerusalem from the Moslems. 

- Columbus saw the discovery of the New World as a prophesy coming true. 

- He saw the Indians that lived there as a labor source that should be christianized and used for the greater good of the church. 





Second Voyage


And he planned a second voyage that would set up colonies -- 2,000 colonists in 3 or 4 towns with priests and churches. The king and queen okay the trip in May 1493, but insisted that Indians be treated well.


Columbus leaves with 17 ships in September 1493. On board was a motley crew - hidalgos (gentlemen who refused manual labor, just wwanted gold); criminals, some who had been sentenced to death. Columbus introduced horses into the New World during his Second voyage.


- He discovered some new islands, including St. Croix. Columbus continued on to another island of towering mountains, Guadeloupe, and anchored at a landing site today known as Ste. Marie, which is marked by a monument.


- The ships then sailed north, passing Nevis, St. Kitts and St. Barts or Barthelemy.  Later the convoy came upon an island that Columbus named Santa Cruz, known today as St. Croix.


On three of the islands during his second voyage he finds Arawak captives of the Caribs, frees them, and sends them to Spain.


From the Virgin Islands, the explorer moved north to Borinquen (Puerto Rico), where he anchored at Anasco Bay (south of Rincon).  Next Columbus headed for his colony at La Navidad.


He was attacked by the Caribs and found that all 40 men left at Navidad had been massacred because the Spaniards had chased native women and tried to steal gold. The Spanish arrested the ringleader and sent him to Spain to stand trial (died en route), even though Columbus’ men wanted to execute him.


Columbus then took 1600 Caribs as slaves. 550 sent to Spain. 650 given to local settlers. 400 set free. They are enslaved so they don’t murder the Arawak subjects of Spain. So the slave trade begins. Unfortunately, Arawks were soon enslaved as well.


Good news: Bartholomew arrives and is named governor of the colony.


Set up two colonies, but there were problems. Two hundred colonists leave and complain about Columbus. In October 1495 the Crown sent a royal inspector to investigate. Columbus was irate and in March 1496 decided to return and answer the charges himself.







Treaty of Tordesillas


The Treaty of Tordesillas (signed at Tordesillas, June 7, 1494) divide the world outside of Europe in a exclusive duopoly between the Spanish and the Portuguese along a north-south meridian 370 leagues (1770 km) west of the Cape Verde Islands (off the coast of Senegal in West Africa), roughly 46¡ 37' W. The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Spain. The treaty was ratified by Spain, July 2, and by Portugal, September 5, 1494.

It was intended to resolve the dispute that had been created following the return of Christopher Columbus. The line was not strictly enforced - the Spanish did not resist the Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian.

The remaining exploring nations of Europe such as France, England, and the Netherlands were explicitly refused access to the new lands, leaving them only options like piracy, unless they (as they did later) rejected the pope's authority to divide undiscovered countries altogether.

With the voyage around the globe of Magellan, a new dispute was born. Although both countries agreed that the line should be considered to be running around the globe, dividing the world in two equal halves, it was not clear where the line should be drawn on the other side of the world. In particular, both countries claimed that the Moluccas (important as a source of spices) lay in their half of the world. After new negotiations, the Treaty of Saragossa of April 22, 1529 decided that the line should lay 297.5 leagues west of the Moluccas. Spain got a monetary compensation in return.




Third Voyage


The king and queen are satisfied with Columbus’ answers and decide to give him 6 ships for his next voyage. Left Spain in may 1498.


Discovers Trinidad, named after the Trinity. Saw Venezuela, the first European to see South America. But has problems -- disease and fighting decimating settlers. Columbus send the disgruntled settlers home, but they raise a stink in Spain.


The king and queen send Francisco de Bobadilla as new governor of the Indies. He and Bartholomew were put in irons and sent them back to Spain in 1500. Columbus protests in humility to the king and queen, and they free him. Said he was acting in good faith. They recalled Bobadilla, but replaced him with another governor.


Fourth Voyage


In May 1502, he goes on his last voyage. Ferdinand and Isabella specifically prohibit him from taking any slaves.


 Arrives at Santo Domingo, then explored Cuba and much of Central America. But his health was so poor he probably never left the ship.


He sailed his four ships along the coast of Central America and the jungles of Panama, but the ships had deteriorated so much that the search was abandoned.  Columbus ran his two remaining ships aground at St. Ann's Bay in Jamaica and built shelters on their decks for about 100 men.  They would wait almost a year for



Returned to Spain in November 1504. He was 53 years old but was suffering from arthritis, gout, and feverish deliriums. Nine days after he arrived he learned that Queen isabella was dead.


Ten days after her death Columbus wrote to his son Diego:

“The most important thing is to commend lovingly and with much devotion the soul of the Queen our lady, to God. Her life was always Catholic and holy, and prompt in all things in His holy service. Because of this we should believe that she is in holy glory, and beyond the cares of this harsh and weary world.”




Dies in Valladolid, Spain, on 20 May 1506. He went to his grave saying Il mondo e poco (“The world is small”).


Columbus and the Natives


It is true that Columbus harbored strong prejudices about the peaceful islanders whom he misnamed "Indians" -- he was prejudiced in their favor.


For Columbus, they were "the handsomest men and the most beautiful women" he had ever encountered. He praised the generosity and lack of guile among the Tainos, contrasting their virtues with Spanish vices. He insisted that although they were without religion, they were not idolaters; he was confident that their conversion would come through gentle persuasion and not through force. The reason, he noted, is that

Indians possess a high natural intelligence.




The charge of genocide is largely sustained by figures showing the precipitous decline of the Indian population. Although scholars debate the exact numbers, in Alvin Josephy's estimate, the Indian population fell from between fifteen and twenty million when the white man first arrived to a fraction of that 150 years later.


Undoubtedly the Indians perished in great numbers. Yet although European enslavement of Indians and the Spanish forced labor system extracted a heavy toll in lives, the vast majority of Indian casualties occurred not as a result of hard labor or deliberate destruction but because of contagious diseases that the Europeans transmitted to the Indians.


The spread of infection and unhealthy patterns of behavior was also reciprocal. From the Indians the Europeans contracted syphilis. The Indians also taught the white man about tobacco and cocaine, which would extract an incalculable human toll over the next several centuries. The Europeans, for their part, gave the Indians measles

and smallpox. (Recent research has shown that tuberculosis predated the European arrival in the new world.) Since the Indians had not developed any resistance or immunity to these unfamiliar ailments, they perished in catastrophic numbers.


This was a tragedy of great magnitude, but the term "genocide" is both anachronistic and wrongly applied in that, with a few gruesome exceptions, the European transmission of disease was not deliberate. As William McNeill points out in Plagues and Peoples, Europeans themselves probably contracted the bubonic plague in the

 fourteenth century as a result of contagion from the Mongols of Central Asia-some twenty-five million (one third of the population) died, and the plague recurred on the continent for the next three hundred years. Multicultural advocates do not call this "genocide."


Theological Questions Raised By Columbus’ Discovery


Before 1492, Europe had had some contact with Jews, Muslims, and Asians, which forced it to develop some ideas about  tolerance and pluralism in civic life. But the contact with America was the event that caused a profound rethinking of everything.


To begin with, there was a religious question. One of the controversies from the Middle Ages that Columbus' voyage reignited was not whether the world was round (every educated person knew that), but whether people could exist at the antipodes (the ends of the Earth). Would God have created any people outside of all contact with the Old and New Testaments? One of the consequences of such a creation would be that the people would have been left without at least potential knowledge of what was needed for salvation. The problem arose, thus, not from ignorance, but from profound concern about the form of God's universal charity.


Bartolomea de las Casas, the widely acclaimed Dominican priest who defended the

Indians, went so far as to argue that even human sacrifice and cannibalism among the natives should not be held against them because both practices showed deep reverence and a spirit of sacrifice towards the Almighty.


The Spanish crown was so sensitive to these moral arguments that in 1550 it ordered all military activity to cease in the Americas and created a royal commission at Valladolid to examine Spain's behavior in the New World. No other growing empire in history has ever similarly interrupted itself to take up moral issues. Ultimately, greed and ineffective Spanish administration led to the abuses we know of, but the commission did bring about penalties for some of the worst offenders, as well as certain reforms in administration and policy.


At Valladolid, Las Casas argued against Juan Gineas de Sepualveda, another theologian, that Indians were human beings. Sepualveda rejected that argument, but to establish his case he had to try to prove that reason was so weak in the Indians that, left to themselves, they could not live according to reason. By commonly accepted Christian principles, only rational incapacity, not (as is often assumed) the mere assertion of European cultural superiority, could justify Spanish control of natives, and even then only for the good of the Indians. The judges of the debate did not reach a definite conclusion, but Valladolid represents a consolidation of Spanish and papal misgivings going back to 1500, and gross mistreatment of the Indians gradually lessened.


Development of International law


The second great moral result of the European arrival in the New World came in the area of international law.


Again, we now take it for granted that even nations deeply alien to us have a right to their own territory and  culture, but it is largely due to the reflections begun by Francisco de Vitoria, a Dominican theologian and friend of Las Casas, that we have such principles.


Vitoria was highly respected by the Spanish king, who appointed him to several royal commissions (unfortunately, he died before the great debate at Valladolid). But Vitoria did not hesitate to tell the monarch that he had no right to lands occupied by Indians, nor could he make slaves out of rational beings. Furthermore, Vitoria went so far as to call the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, in which the Pope ceded lands to the Spanish and Portuguese, improper because the pontiff did not have temporal sovereignty over the earth, particularly over lands already occupied by natives.


In this, Vitoria was developing principles that were also coming to have an influence over Pope Pius III, who in response to reports from the New World proclaimed in his 1537 encyclical Sublimis Deus:


Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by the Christians are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen it shall be null and of no effect. . . . By virtue of our apostolic authority we declare . . . that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.





Vasca da Gama


Born in 1460, the same year Henry the Navigator died. The discoveries of da Gama were more important at the time than those of Columbus.


Trip to India


Modern History Sourcebook: Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE


Map of Da Gama’s Travels:


1.Sails with four ships and about 150 men, bound for India, July 1497. A great crowd gathered in Lisbon to see off Vasco da Gama, the 37-year-old captain of the expedition. As the city’s canons thundered a farewell salate, da Gama’s fleet sailed away.


2.Stops for a week in the Cape Verde Islands.


3.Sets a course through the South Atlantic, sailing far from land in order to avoid the winds near the coast.


4.Returns to the coast by St Helena Bay.


5.Rounds the Cape (Nov. 22) and anchors in Mossel Bay. He buys an ox from the Hottentots but quarrels with them when his crew takes their water.


6.Ships try to sail up the coast, but are forced back south again by winds and a strong current.


7.Sets up a padrao on the coast beyond Natal.


8.Reaches the port of Mozambique (March 2) where he sees four Arab shows laden with goods.


9.Reaches the busy trading centre of Mobasa. Finding their trade is not welcome, he continues to Malindi.


10.Has a good crossing to India due to favourable winds and the help of an Arab pilot. Ibn Majid, the most distinguished Asian navigator of his time, was retained by the Portuguese captain. (IRONIC: A Muslim helps them find a route to the Christians in Asia. The trip might never have happened without him!)


11.Reaches India, May 1498. "On Friday, 18th May," wrote da Gama in his Journal, "after having seen no land for twenty-three days, we sighted lofty mountains...”


12. He meets the ruler of Calicut. The Portuguese sailor was greeted with the words "May the devil take thee! What brought you hither?" When asked what he sought so far away from home, da Gama replied that he came in search of Christians and of spices. (This caused tension when found that most of local traders were Muslims.)


13. Perhaps more surprising was that in the Indian Ocean ports that it had taken the Portuguese nearly a century to find by sea, da Gama found merchants who for centuries had been trading European metals and gold bullion for Indian and imported spices through the Venetians. In addition to European goods, da Gama also saw items from North Africa and Malaya, and gold and ivory from East Africa. The distances involved astounded da Gama.


14. Portuguese arrogance and disregard for local custom soon eroded the initial goodwill displayed by the Hindu raja. In certain instances, the Portuguese improperly

worshiped at Hindu shrines, and da Gama kidnapped some of the local inhabitants to serve as interpreters for subsequent voyages, all of which served to antagonise the local population. Perhaps more importantly, local merchants, who learned of Portuguese behaviour in Africa and who were seeing it displayed in their own country, had no desire to see their livelihood destroyed and refused to trade with the Europeans.


15. Leaves India. The return crossing is much slower because he is sailing against the wind.


16.One of Da Gama’s ships, the Sao Rafael, is abandoned and burned because there are not enough men left to sail her. Da Gama then sails home.


17.Sails home via the Azores.


He was compelled to return with the bare discovery and the sacks of cinnamon and pepper he had bought there at inflated prices [but still he made a 3000% profit!]. Glass beads and tin balls were the main items that Da Gama used to trade with.


He returned to Lisbon in August 1499, and received a hero’s welcome. King Manual of Portugal was delighted by Vasco Da Gama’s claim that he made contact with the "Christians of India".


** The sheer distance covered by da Gama was three times the distance travelled by Christopher Columbus during his first voyage to Hispaniola in 1492.


The Portugese wanted to take part in the Indian Ocean trade. But there was a problem. WHAT WAS IT? [They had nothing to trade]


Prior to the emergence of the Portuguese, control of maritime trade in the Indian Ocean was established peacefully. Over the centuries, a mutually beneficial relationship developed between Muslim traders and Hindu merchants.


How did they solve this problem? [Brute force. Most of the trading ships were not armed.


The Portugese weren’t thrilled with the lack of goods da Gama brought back. So they opened it up to private enterprise!


Pedro Alvarez Cabral (b.1464 - d.1520) and his subcommander, Bartolomeu Dias, went. Unlike da Gama's men, Cabral's were to receive payment determined before sailing with a portion given in spices that would be bought in Calicut and later resold when they returned to Lisbon.


Besides this "profit sharing" aspect, individual investors were allowed to buy into the expedition. The individual who took the largest share was the Florentine banker, Bartolomeo Marchioni. It is important to note that the merchants of Florence, having fallen behind Venice in the contest for the oriental trade, were eager to invest in Portugal's exploration ventures.


Cabral's fleet departed from Lisbon on March 9, 1500, with thirteen vessels and 1,200 men. He arrived at Calicut on September 13.


But he goofed! His very first action was to land his translators but because these men were of low caste, the Zamorins of Calicut took insult and negotiations deteriorated from there. After ten weeks Cabral succeeded in loading only two of his ships with pepper.


Frustrated, Cabral seized an Arab ship because he thought they were receiving preferential treatment. This provoked a Calicut mob to destroy the trading factory and kill forty Portuguese. Cabral's response was to destroy several foreign vessels, killing 600 men, and then bombard Calicut itself. Cabral went to Cochin, Calicut's largest rival port, where he had greater success doing business.


Fearful of an approaching fleet of eighty vessels from Calicut, and nervous about missing the sailing season, Cabral departed from India after a brief trade mission to Cannanore. While making the crossing to Mozambique he lost more ships but eventually returned to Lisbon on June 23, 1501, with only five survivors.


Cabral's voyage was a success financially because of his load of pepper, but in other respects it foreshadowed future trouble between Portugal and India’s rulers. Cabral managed to convince King Manuel  that his voyage’s misfortunes should be considered as insults to the Portuguese Crown. The stage for the third Indian Expedition was set.





King Manuel gave the command of the third Indian expedition to Vasco da Gama. His mission was to destroy Egyptian power in the Indian Ocean, which would allow the monopoly of the oriental trade to pass into Portuguese hands.


Of the fifteen vessels in the fleet, five were left to patrol the Arabian coasts and to deny entry from the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. Another five vessels would be sent from Lisbon to reinforce da Gama within a month.


The first incident of this military expedition was an attack on a large merchant ship. On board were 250 men and many women and children. The Portuguese quickly boarded and dismantled the ship and then set it on fire. The crew and passengers beat out the flames only to have the Portuguese attempt to rekindle them. After eight days of bombardment the doomed ship was betrayed by one of its crewman. In return for his life he set an all-consuming fire that killed everyone on board except for a small number of children.


After this “successful” engagement da Gama set course for Calicut where he was refused exclusive trading privileges. Enraged, da Gama slaughtered 800 fishermen and bombarded the town for two days before sailing for Cochin. The king of Cochin, although a rival to Calicut, did not want anything to do with the Portuguese. Da Gama ignored the king and constructed a fortified trading factory before departing for Cannanore, leaving a single squadron to defend the port.


Shortly after da Gama’s departure, that squadron’s commander abandoned Cochin to raid the Arabian coast. Calicut’s forces soon overran Cochin. It would have been destroyed if it had not been for the timely arrival of six Portuguese ships.





John Cabot


Patent Granted by King Henry VII to John Cabot and his Sons, March 1496:


Before Cabot


For many years, the history of European exploration of Newfoundland was assumed to

begin only with the voyage of John Cabot and the Matthew in 1497.


The suggestion that the Norse had voyaged to Newfoundland 500 years earlier was dismissed as the stuff of fantasy and legends.


Part of the problem was that the only available evidence for such voyages was what was written in the sagas:

            1. These were written down long after the alleged voyages, and were filled with all sorts of fantastic stories based more on imagination than the real world.

            2.  Moreover, the sagas were quite vague on details, and often one saga contradicted another.

            3. The alleged Norse discoveries failed to result in a permanent European foothold in the New World.


We now know that the Norse did indeed make it as far as Newfoundland. Suddenly, the legitimacy of the claims that they were the first to cross the Atlantic was beyond dispute.


But if the Norse adventures, once believed to be fantasy, could turn out to have really happened, might the claims also be true, that others had voyaged across the Atlantic before them?


John Cabot


Not very much is known for certain about John Cabot - or Giovanni Caboto, to use his

original, Italian name.


We do not even know precisely when and where he was born. It is likely, though, that he was born around 1455 in Gaeta, near Naples, and was the son of a merchant.


But by 1461 Cabot was living in Venice, where he became a citizen. In about 1482 he

married a Venetian woman, Mattea, and they had three sons: Ludovico, Sebastiano and Sancio.


A merchant like his father, Cabot traded in spices with the ports of the eastern Mediterranean, and became an expert mariner.


Valuable goods from Asia - spices, silks, precious stones and metals - were brought either overland or up the Red Sea for sale in Europe. Venetians played a prominent part in this trade.


Then, about 1490, Cabot and his family moved to Valencia in Spain.



[Cabot wanted to be part of an  expanding frontier of exploration, the Atlantic Ocean. The leaders in this enterprise were the Portuguese, and the Spanish were also interested.] 


His scheme was to reach Asia by sailing west across the north Atlantic. He estimated that this would be shorter and quicker than Columbus' southerly route. Cabot was trying to go one better.


He knew the world was much bigger around than Columbus claimed, and that it thus would be impossible to sail straight from Spain to Asia. He had a simple yet ingenious plan, to start from a northerly latitude where the longitudes are much closer together, and where, as a result, the voyage would be much shorter. [DRAW MAP TO ILLUSTRATE]


However, neither Portugal nor Spain was interested in John Cabot. The Portuguese pioneered their route to Asia by sailing down the African coast and around the Cape of

Good Hope. And once Columbus had returned in triumph from his first transatlantic voyage in 1493, the Spanish likewise thought they had found their route to the east.


As a result, Cabot turned in 1494 or 1495 to England - to the merchants of the port of

Bristol, where he settled with his family, and to the king, Henry VII.


In England, Cabot received the backing he had been refused in Spain and Portugal. First, the merchants of Bristol agreed to support his scheme. They had sponsored probes into the north Atlantic from the early 1480s, looking for possible trading opportunities. Some historians think that Bristol mariners might even have reached Newfoundland and Labrador even before Cabot arrived on the scene.



These had been unofficial voyages. In contrast, on 5 March 1496, Henry VII issued

letters patent to Cabot and his sons authorizing their voyages.


Internet Medieval Sourcebook:


Whatever Cabot did was in the name of the English Crown.


Cabot made his first try in 1496. It was a failure. All we know about the voyage is

contained in a 1497 letter from John Day, an English merchant in the Spanish trade, to

 Christopher Columbus. It states that "he [Cabot] went with one ship, he had a disagreement with the crew, he was short of food and ran into bad weather, and he

decided to turn back."


The following year, Cabot had better luck.


Cabot began his second trip on May 2, 1497. He sailed from Bristol, England in his ship, The Matthew. 


He headed north for a few days, then cut back west, sailing directly for what he believed to be the northern coast of Asia.


In spite of good weather and a fair wind, his crew became anxious after several weeks at sea. Cabot himself, concerned about the ice in the ater, steered somewhat to the south and was pushed further in that direction by the current. Sporadically his men, afraid of the ice and despairing of finding land, urged him even more in that direction; sometimes the ship headed due west, sometimes southwest. About the time Cabot crossed the Grand Banks, a storm hit, disorienting him and blowing him past the long sought land just to the north.


Taking soundings after the storm, Cabot realized he was near land, and headed due west. At last, after 35 uncertain days, the eastern shore of Cape Breton Island came into view early in the morning. Figuring he had been proven correct, and being somewhat short of provisions due to the unexpectedly long trip over, he turned confidently back north to head for home.


He also probably wanted to learn the outline of the coast toward the north, where he expected to land in the future; he thus eschewed the way he had come and aimed northward. Striking out across what later would be named appropriately the Cabot Strait (although he would not have known it as a strait), after a few days he was surprised by the southern shore of Newfoundland running east and west in front of him. Perhaps thinking this was only an outcropping of Asia, he followed it for some distance to the east.


Eventually, after realizing the coast was much larger than he first thought, and short on provisions, he cut back southeast to recapture the approximate latitude along which he found the original land, since this would certainly carry him home. Perhaps Cabot, too, was misled about just how far south he had travelled initially, and did not realize the extent of his error. Aided by the Gulf Stream and strong west winds, Cabot made it home very fast, if not quite in the 15 days attributed to him.


In his travels, Cabot found the fishery of Newfoundland. Some people say Cabot used a basket to dip fish from the sea. England’s primary import from Iceland was cod, but Cabot’s crew thought there were so many cod that they could replace Iceland’s imports entirely.


In becoming the first European to land on these shores since the time of Leif Erikson, Cabot opened up the Grand Banks to a steady encroachment of European fishermen, thus paving the way for eventual colonization.


Cabot and his crew also in Nova Scotia "found tall trees of the kind masts are made." These white pine trees were gigantic, some supposedly six feet in diameter and over 200 feet tall.


Cabot saw no Indians. BUT: the place where Cabot landed recently had been occupied, they found a trail that went inland, they saw a site where a fire had been made, they saw manure of animals which they thought to be farm animals, and they saw a stick half a yard long pierced at both ends, carved and painted with brazil. Also, Cabot saw what may have been fields cleared for villages.


Cabot was the second European to discover North America, thus laying an English claim to North America which would be followed up only after an interval of over one hundred years. In a sense the American colonies are the result of Cabot’s voyage.


Cabot was paid cash for discovering Newfoundland. He was also given a pension. He only collected that pension once. It is believed he drowned at sea.





Ferdinand Magellan


In 1520, Magellan, a Portugese sailing for Spain, circumnavigated the globe. He was the first European to sail on the Pacific Ocean.




Modern History Sourcebook:

Ferdinand Magellan's Voyage Round the World, 1519-1522 CE -




Born about 1480 at Saborosa in Villa Real, Portugal. Died during his voyage of discovery on the Island of Mactan in the Philippines, 27 April 1521.


- Son of Pedro Ruy de Magalhaes, mayor of the town, and of Alda de Mezquita.

- He was probably schooled at a local monastery.

- When Ferdinand was twelve years old, his father had secured an appointment for him, as he did for Ferdinand's older brother, as a page to Queen Leonora, at her court in Lisbon, so that he could be educated at the cost of the state. Here the queen's page received instruction on a wide range of subjects: music, dance, hunting, horsemanship, jousting, swordsmanship, map-making, rudimentary astronomy, and celestial navigation.

- These studies filled him at an early age with enthusiasm for the great voyages of discovery which were being made at that period.

- ALSO: In March 1493, Christopher Columbus made port in Portugal on his return voyage from the New World. Columbus' accomplishment electrified the thirteen-year-old Ferdinand.

- In September 1499, Vasco da Gama returned to Lisbon, successfully finding the sea-route to India. The entire royal court was engulfed in excitement, including the young squire Ferdinand Magellan.

- Magellan spent the next eight years in the East, where he began his career as an unpaid crew member (a supernumerary), and finished as an experienced sea captain and veteran of many battles. During these years he was wounded twice, made two fortunes and lost them, and commanded his own caravel.

- After the capture of Malacca, Magellan acquired a slave and a caravel. The slave became know as Black Henry, a thirteen-year-old boy who was a companion to Magellan for the rest of his life.

- With the caravel he was given a free hand to explore and he headed east.

- Upon his return to Lisbon, Magellan submitted a report stating that he had discovered lands he thought were located to the east of the Tordesillas line of demarcation, belonging therefore not to Portugal but to Spain.

- This report antagonised Magellan's superiors but Magellan refused to retract his claims.

- In 1513, Magellan was recalled back to Lisbon in disgrace, put on half-pay, demoted in rank, and refused a place on the next expedition to the East.

- Frustrated, Magellan volunteered for service in Morocco in the continuing battle with the Moors.

- In Morocco he was given a good post. Magellan did see action in North Africa and was wounded seriously and almost court-martialled.

- This alienated Magellan even more and he decided to return to the East as soon as possible. However, he was constantly frustrated in his attempt to secure a command of a caravel.

- Finally King Manuel humiliated Magellan in front of the entire King's court by refusing him the kiss of fealty.

- That night Magellan left the palace in disgrace and boarded a merchantman bound for Porto. After twenty years of service to the Portuguese Crown, Magellan's career was in ruins in his homeland.

- Condemned to inactivity and checked in his desire for personal distinction, he once more devoted himself to studies and projects to which he was mainly stimulated by the reports of the recently discovered Moluccas (Malaysia) sent by his friend Serr‹o.

- Magellan therefore resolved to seek the Moluccas by sailing to the west around South America.

- As he could not hope to arouse interest for the carrying out of his plans in Portugal,

 and was himself, moreover misjudged and ignored, he renounced his nationality and offered his services to Spain.

- King Charles I of Spain (afterwards the Emperor Charles V) gave his consent as early as 22 March 1518

- The king made an agreement with Magellan which settled the different shares of ownership in the new discoveries, and the rewards to be granted the discoverer,

 and appointed him commander of the fleet.


Magellan’s Fleet


- This fleet consisted of five vessels granted by the government; two 130 tons each, two of 90 tons each and one of 60 tons. NAMES = Trinidad, Victoria, Concepci—n, San Antonio, and Santiago

- 277 men aboard:


* Only 37 of the 270 odd crew were Portuguese

* Three of the five captains of the individual ships were Spanish.

* The remainder of the various crews were comprised of Greeks, Italians, French, Flemings, Africans, Spanish, an Englishman

* Also on board was a Venetian, Antonio Pigafetta, a Papal Ambassador at the court of King Charles. WHY WAS HE IMPORTANT? [He kept a diary that revelaed the truth about Magellan.]


- They were provisioned for  two years. DETAILS:


- 213,800 lbs. of biscuits,
72,000 lbs. of salted beef

- 57,000 lbs. of salted pork

- 984 lbs. of cheeses

- 5,600 lbs. of beans

- 10,080 lbs. of chickpeas.


- 500 lbs. of gun powder

- lead-shot

- cannon balls of iron and stone

- 100 corselets, with breast-plates and helmets

- sixty crossbows

- 4,300 arrows

- 120 skeins of wire for bows

- 200 shields

- 1,140 darts

- 120 javelins

- 1,000 lances

- 206 pikes




- Magellan commanded the chief ship, the Trinidad

- Magellan took the oath of allegiance in the church of Santa Mar’a de la Victoria de Triana in Seville, and received the imperial standard. He also gave a large sum of money to the monks of the monastery in order that they might pray for the success of the expedition.


The Voyage -- and Mutiny

The fleet sailed 20 September, 1519, from San Lucar de Barameda.

- Six days out of port a pinnace intercepted the fleet with a letter that said that three of Magellan's captains were plotting to murder him. They called him a "spawn of the devil, witness his clovenhoof."  (Magellan had a club foot.)

- That very evening the three captains tried to lure Magellan into combat hoping to stab him but Magellan avoided the confrontation.

- For the first several weeks the mood of the fleet was contentious due to the three Spanish captains' constant undermining of Magellan's authority. Cartagena was the leader of this belligerent contingent and he badgered Magellan tirelessly about his strategy of sailing along the African coast instead of heading into the ocean.

- Cartagena voiced his opposition to Magellan's command. Cartagena was accused of

 mutiny and dragged away and put in the ship's stocks. Magellan stripped Cartagena of his command and released him on parole although he was within his rights to behead a traitor. For a time Magellan's boldness of action had brought the armada into temporary obedience to his command.

- Near the end of October the fleet approached the Equator and was caught in a series of electrical storms.

- They were already running low on water and showing signs of scurvy.

- They continued south to avoid Portuguese waters and made anchorage on December 13 at what would become Rio de Janeiro.

            --> There they were greeted by the Guarani Indians who believed the white men to be gods andshowered everything they owned upon the visitors, even theirwomen.

            --> In Brazil, the Spanish negotiated. "For the King in a deck of playing cards...they gave me six chickens, thinking that they had got the better of me.” They were also able to buy young native women from their fathers for the price of a hatchet or knife. Magellan allowed his crew some freedom and many of them set up 'love nests' with their women on shore, but he still kept a firm discipline when it mattered - executing the ship's master of the Victoria for sodomising a young apprentice seaman.

- Magellan ordered the vessels beached in pairs for repairs as stocks of yam, cassava, melon, and pineapple were loaded into the ship holds, and pork was salted and stored in empty wine-casks.

- On Christmas morning the fleet departed and with favourable winds and currents was able to sail down the coast of South America at 160 kilometres per day.

- Despite the air of mutiny among the seamen Magellan managed to win them over to his ideas and in early February the fleet left the estuary of the Rive Plate and sailed onto the Cape Horn.

- They sailed for eight weeks along the coast that had turned desolate and provided little shelter in the face of increasing squall activity of hurricane winds and heavy seas. During the onslaught the Victoria ran aground, the Santiago was demasted, the San Antonio sprang a leak and her pumps required around-the-clock manning.

- His captains continued to belittle Magellan's leadership. By the third week in March Magellan was forced to halt his progress and winter where they were in Patagonia. Day after day blinding snow squalls plagued the search for a safe harbour until the

fleet sailed into the sheltered harbour of St. Julian, where Magellan would face a mutiny.

- On April 1, Magellan called everyone ashore for Mass, but three captains did not appear, and soon afterwards there was open revolt. The ringleader was Cartagena, the same man Magellan had released on parole. He took command of 3 of the 5 boats (and 170 out of 265 men), but Magellan quashed the revolt. It was over in less than 48 hours.

            --> The rebels were swiftly punished. Cartagena was first put on parole, then (when they again made trouble) marooned, and Quesada was executed.

            --> Although many of the crew had participated in the Mutiny, forty were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. However Magellan could not afford to lose sucha large number of his company and so he pardoned the lot; they were put to work, chained by the feet, working  the pumps, clearing the putrid bilges and undertaking other menial hard labor.

            --> While transferring supplies, Magellan discovered that Portuguese spies had managed to sabotage his provisions. They had doctored the books and as a result only half of the provisions had actually been loaded onto the ships back in Seville.  Magellan immediately set his crew to replenishing supplies by fishing, hunting, and trapping.


Native Encounters


- During this time the fleet's crew had several encounters with the indigenous people, whom they referred to as "Giants", who stood a head-and-shoulders taller than the Europeans.

- Relations with the indigenous people turned hostile in July after Magellan attempted to kidnap two of them to take back to Europe. 


The Pacific


- November 28, after being battered at the tip of South America, they entered the Pacific Ocean, which Balboa was the first European to see in 1513

- We are told that "the iron-willed Admiral" brokedown and cried. 

- Then he assembled his men on deck.  Pedro deValderrama, the Trinidad's priest, stood on the poop deck andcalled down on the crew of all three remaining vessels the blessing of Our Lady of Victory.  The men sang hymns.  The gunners firedbroadsides.  And Magellan proudly unfurled the flag of Castile.   

- "We are about to stand into an ocean where no ship has ever sailed before," Magellan is said to have cried.  "May the ocean be always as calm and benevolent as it is today.  In this hope I name it the Mar Pacifico." 

- The concept of the Pacific Ocean, the greatest physical uniton Earth, had been born.  Balboa had seen it.  Now it was up to the explorers to try to comprehend theenormity of their discovery.  But before they could do that, Magellan had to sail across it.

- The first few weeks in the Pacific were uneventful.

- The fleet ran north parallel to the Chilean coast until they picked up the Peruvian Drift from astern and the Westerlies from abeam.

- By the middle of the month Magellan altered course to the west-northwest as he neared the thirteenth parallel hoping to sight the coast of Asia. This was an unfortunate choice and the ships sailed for weeks without any sight of land. Food stocks rotted and dwindled, and six weeks out from the Strait of Magellan his men began to die of scurvy. By mid-January over a third of the men were so weak they could not walk, and water was rationed to a single sip a day. Pigafetta describes, "We ate biscuit that was no longer biscuit but powder of biscuits swarming with worms that had eaten the good. It stank strongly of rat urine. Rats were sold for half a ducat each and even so we could not always get them."

- The truly important phase of the journey starts on February 3, 1520, when the vessels left their anchorage near today's Montevideo, Uruguay and headed south.  No charts or sailing directions existed then.  The sailors were passing unknown coasts, and confronting increasingly terrifying seas and temperatures that dropped steadily day by day. They began to see penguins--"ducks without wings," they called them, patos sin alas--and "sea-wolves," or seals. 

- By March 4th the Trinidad had no more food, nineteen men had died, twenty were too weak to stand, and less than a dozen were able to do any work at all.

- By the evening of March 5 the situation seemed hopeless until land was spotted. They landed on the Marianas but were very quickly surrounded by an armada of canoes filled with indigenous people, the Chamorros, fully armed with clubs, spears, and shields. Crossbows were fired and islanders were killed. The Chamorros retreated. Magellan then had the village bombed by his cannon. He led a landing party to pillage the remains of the village filling their butts with water and taking everything edible: coconuts, yams, chickens, pigs, rice, and bananas. That night the Chamorros returned in hundreds of canoes but the winds strengthened and the Europeans sailed away.

- For then next couple of days the ships sailed on, stopping at Guam and other islands along the way to resupply. Magellan decided to continue to the Philippines and not to the Spice Islands that captive Chamorros had told him were within a few days sailing.

- On March 16 Samar, the most easterly island of the Philippines, was sighted. The next few days were spent recuperating after the long ordeal. A wide range of fruits were gathered, which helped immensely the recovery of those stricken with scurvy.

--> Interesting fact: Enrique, a humble Philippine Slave was then the first man to have circumnavigated the globe.

- Many Philippinos were converted. (Still a Catholic nation to this day.)

- Magellan was killed when Magellan and 60 men went up against 3,000 natives in the Philippines. He had headed into battle with full body armour, thinking he was invincible.

- "Youwill feel the iron of our lances," Lapu Lapu was told by Magellan's interlocutor.  "But we have fire-hardened spears and stakes ofbamboo," replied a defiant chieftain.  "Come across whenever you like."

However, a spear through the foot slowed him down and gave the locals who were less heavily armed the opportunity to take the upper hand.

- The Spanish officers didn’t bother to recover Magellan’s body.

- Pigafetta was to write, "thus they killed ourmirror, our light, our comfort and our true guide."   


After Magellan’s Death


- A new commander was elected, but most of the officers were killed in a plot hatched by Black Henry. He had been promised his freedom should Magellan die and then found that Serrano, the newly elected leader, would not honour this, was probably instrumental in helping set up the trap.

- Those officers who escaped burned Magellan’s papers in order to destroy all evidence of their mutinous history.

- The men now turned pirates.  They captured ships, murdered the crews, stole cargoes, raided ports for women. (They kept aharem of Muslin women on board, which led to petty jealousies and fights.)

- Now only the Victoria and the Trinidad remained to carry out Carvalho's plans for piracy.

- Del Cano, who was one of the mutineers at St. Julian, was now the commander and led the Victoria into the Indian Ocean at the end of March. Very soon the crew was once again in the grips of scurvy, and low on water and rations.

- By late May the Victoria managed to make its way past the Cape of Good Hope. By July 8 the Victoria had run out of food and water. Only twenty-four men of the sixty who had begun the journey were left and Del Cano had no choice but to make for the Cape Verdes.

- On September 8 they cast anchor near the Mole of Seville. They shot their cannon, and marched ashore barefoot with lighted candles to the church of Santa Mariade la Victoria.

- It was a cirvumnavigation of the Earth that had taken just two weeks under three years to complete.

- Of the 270 odd crew that had left in 1519 only 35 altogether returned to Spain.

- The ship brought back 533 hundredweight of cloves, which amply repaid the expenses of the voyage.




- It gave the first positive proof of the earth's rotundity and the first true idea of the distribution of land and water.


- Columbus had thought the earth was 6/7 land and 1/7 water. Everyone now knew that was false.


- Compared toColumbus's voyage of 8,000 miles over the relatively quiet Atlantic, Magellan's expedition of 42,000 miles--22,000 of themover waters no white man had ever seen--was an achievement without parallel in an era of fragile wooden ships.


- As Pigafetta wrote:  "In the midst of the sea he was able to endure hunger better than we.  Most versed in nautical charts, he knew better than any other the true art of navigation, of whichit is certain proof that he by his genius, and his intrepidity,without anyone having given him the example, how to attempt the circuit of the globe which he had almost completed . . .  Theglory of Magellan will survive him."  






Vasco Nunez de Balboa


Discoverer of the Pacific Ocean from the west coast of Central America.


A Hidden World


The Pacific Ocean is huge:

- By far the largest of the world's oceans.

- At 155 million km? (61 million mi?) it covers 28% of the planet's surface, more than all landmasses combined

- From west to east, the Pacific stretches 19,800 km (12,300 miles) across the globe--that's halfway around the world.

- Over 30,000 islands are scattered across it, almost all in the western third and very few elsewhere.

            -->  The three major archipelaga are the Indonesian one in the far west, made up of about 17,000 islands, the Philippine archipelago with 7000, and the Japanese with 3900 islands

- The total coastline of the land bordering it is approximately 135,000 km (84,000 miles).

- At its deepest, in the Marianas Trench, solid ground can be found only by heading straight down for 10,924 m (35,798'), while its average depth is about 4.270 m (14,000').

- The Pacific Ocean alone contains a third of all liquid water on Planet Earth.

- The ocean is one of the prime sources of seafood for the world. The Pacific yields about 60% of all fish consumed by humans.

            --> Sardines, tuna, herring, salmon, they're all there


Birth and Early Life


- Balboa was born in Spain, 1475, either at Badajoz or at Jerez de los Caballeros; died at Darien, 1517.


- In 1500, Balboa sailed with Rodrigo de Bastidas from Spain to Colombia, South America.


- They searched for treasures (pearls and gold) along the northern coast of South America and in the Gulf of Uraba (near San Sebastian).


- They were forced to abandon their leaky ship in Hispaniola.


- Balboa returned to the island of Hispaniola (Cuba), and had to settle for raising pigs for a living there.


- In 1509, the first Spanish expedition to colonize the mainland of South America left Hispaniola. Balboa tried to join the expedition, but because he was deeply in debt, the men to whom he owed money prevented him from leaving.


- In 1510, Balboa and his dog Leoncico stowed away on a boat going from

Santo Domingo to San Sebastian.


-When they arrived at San Sebastian, they discovered that it had been burned to the ground. Balboa convinced the others to travel southwest with him to a spot he had seen on his earlier expedition.


New Colony -- and Gold


- In 1511, Balboa founded a colony, the first European settlement in South America - the town of Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien. He was made acting governor.


- Balboa was soon joined by two Spaniards who, to avoid punishment, had fled from Nicuessa's ship and found refuge and the kindest treatment with Careta, the cacique of Coyba. They requited this hospitality of the pagan chief by advising Balboa to attack Careta in his dwelling, where he would find immense booty.


- The governor prepared to do so. One of the Spaniards returned to Careta to assist Balboa in his betrayal, and the other acted as guide to the invaders. Balboa was kindly received by the cacique and his people, and departed with presents. He halted a little way from the village, and when the Indians were all asleep, he led his men into the town at midnight and made Careta, his wives and children and many of his people captives.


- With them and a considerable booty, the treacherous Balboa returned to Darien, when the good cacique, distressed at his situation, said: "What have I done to thee that thou shouldst treat me thus cruelly? None of thy people ever came to my land that were not fed, and sheltered, and treated with loving-kindness. When thou camest to my dwelling did I meet three with a javelin in my hand? Did I not set meat and drink before thee, and welcome thee as a brother? Set me free, therefore, with my family and people, and we will remain thy friends. We will supply thee with provisions, and reveal to thee the riches of the land. Dost thou doubt my faith? Behold my daughter! I give her to thee as a pledge of my friendship. Take her for thy wife, and be assured of the fidelity of her family and her people."


- Careta's daughter was young and beautiful. Balboa was deeply impressed by her charms. He granted the prayer of Careta, took his daughter to be his wife according to the usages of her country, and becoming very found of her, she soon acquired great influence over him. He assisted Careta in wars against his enemies, and they became fast friends.


- Whilst visiting a powerful cacique, a friendly neighbor of Careta, Balboa was told by the son of that chief, that beyond the mountains toward which he pointed, was a mighty sea that could be discovered from the summits of the great hills; that the sea was navigated by vessels almost as large as the Spanish brigantines and equipped like them with sails and oars; that the rivers which flowed down from the southern slopes of the mountains abounded with gold, and that there was a country further southward, bordering on that great sea, where the kings ate and drank out of golden vessels, and that gold was as plentiful there as iron was among the Spaniards. (Refering to the Incas of Peru.) [NEVER KNOWN OF PACIFIC IF HADN’T LET CHIEF GO FREE]


- This information seemed like a revelation from heaven beaming into the mind of Balboa. He felt a sudden impulse to abandon his wayward life, and an ambition to be ranked among the great discoverers of his age. If he could first see that mighty ocean and the precious rivers and the country where its kings ate and drank out of golden vessels, he would surely be elevated to fame and fortune.


- He eagerly inquired how the summits of the mountains and the borders of that sea might be reached. "You will have to fight your way to the top and down their slopes,

 and through the plains beyond, with powerful caciques and brave warriors," said the young man. "You will need at least a thousand men, armed like those who follow you." Distance of 50 miles to the ocean.


- Balboa hastened back to Darien to make preparations for his journey. His thoughts were wholly occupied with plans for the discovery of the great sea beyond the mountains. He pondered the subject when awake and it gave color and shape to his night-dreams.


- He wrote a letter of January, 1513 to the King that outlined in some detail his plans, which are here abstracted or excerpted in their order in the letter. He asked for five hundred or more men from Hispanola so that with the men he had, less than a hundred of whom were fit for war, he might "enter the country inland and pass to the other sea on the side of the south."


- Now Balboa asked for a thousand men and formidable military equipment and offered such means and entry into the other ocean the riches which would conquer a large part of the world. If these things were true, he was asking for a position of power unheard of for a person of his origin and station since Columbus.


- Instead of getting the acceptance and support he had asked, his letter had the opposite result. On May 31, 1513, Ferdinand ordered the officials at Sevilla not to lose a single day in getting an armada ready for embarkation of eight hundred to a thousand men under "a principle person whom I shall order to go from here."


- On June 11 he notified the vecinos of Darien that he would sent someone to take charge of the government as they had asked, there being a faction in opposition to Balboa. On June 18 addressed Pedrarias Davilla as Ôour Captain and Governor of Tierra Firme."


- On July 28 he ordered the latter to start proceedings against Balboa in the matter of the complaints made by Enciso. The overly ambitious upstart would be replaced

by an aged officer of rank and aristocratic origin, also belonging to the circle of Fonseca.


- Whatever Balboa might do to protect himself had to be done quickly. There was no time to discover the western gold mines or do the things about which he had written so confidently.


- The start from Santa Maria was by nine large canoes trailed by a galleon. According to Oviedo there were eight hundred persons, which meant that Indians were in a large majority.


- Whilst awaiting an answer he made several expeditions from Darien, and everywhere he heard the story of the great sea beyond the mountains.


-Finally, one hundred and fifty armed men, with ample supplies, arrived at Darien from Hispaniola, and Balboa determined to march for the mountain summits.


- With one hundred and ninety men and a number of bloodhounds, he made his way to Coyba, where Careta furnished him with guides and Indian warriors; and on the 6th of September, 1513, the expedition set off for the great hills which loomed up in the southern horizon.


- They fought their way victoriously, spreading terror among the natives by their guns, which, to the Indians, seemed like demons vomiting lightning and thunder.


- At ten o'clock in the morning of the 26th of September, Balboa and his followers emerged from a thick forest high up in the mountain range.


- Only sixty-seven of his Spanish soldiers now remained, who were able to climb that rugged height. The bald rocky summit alone remained to be ascended.


- Commanding his followers to halt, and not a man to stir from his place, he climbed to that summit, when the glorious apparition of a broad sea burst upon his vision. It seemed to him that a new and unknown world, separated from the known by the lofty mountain barrier on which he stood, had been unfolded to him. It was even so.


- Overcome by mingled feelings of awe and joy, he fell upon his knees and fervently poured out his thanks to God for permitting him to be the first of Europeans to discover that mighty sea. He then shouted to his followers to come up; and when they had gathered around him on that breezy height, and beheld the sea stretching out interminably, he exhorted them to be faithful to him and valorous in the conquests of rich heathen lands before them, and so give glory to God and their king and win riches for themselves.


- They embraced their leader and made vows of fidelity to him even unto death. Then they chanted the Te Deum Laudamus. So it was that the Pacific Ocean was discovered by Vasco Nunez de Balboa. It was called by him the South Sea, but Magellan, who sailed into it through the straits which bear his name, a few years later, called it the Pacific Ocean, because its waters were far less turbulent than those of the Atlantic which he had just crossed.


- Balboa now called all of his followers to witness the fact that he took possession of that sea, with all its coasts and islands, in the name of the sovereigns of Spain; and the notary drew up a testimonial to that effect, which the leader and his sixty-seven warriors signed.


- Then a tree was cut down and wrought into a cross; and on the spot where Balboa first saw the ocean, it was planted with solemn religious ceremonies, whilst the Indians looked on in wonder, not comprehending the meaning of the sacred symbol nor the significance of the act.


- Descending the mountains on their southern sides, Balboa and his followers made their way to the sea. Four days later, as the tide came flowing in upon the sandy beach, the leader took a banner on which the Virgin and Child were painted, and under them the arms of Castile and Leon. - The second rites of possession were performed here "by the first Christians who put their feet into the South Sea, all trying the water with their hands and proving that it was salt."


- Then drawing his sword and throwing his buckler over his shoulder, he marched into the water until it covered his knees, and waving his banner he with a loud voice again proclaimed that he took possession of that sea and its islands, in the name of the sovereigns of Spain.


- A testimonial to that effect was again signed by all, and the conquest was regarded as complete.


- After that Balboa made voyages along the coast of the Pacific, and heard tidings of the rich kingdom of Peru, where the Incas or monarchs ate and drank out of vessels of gold.


- That kingdom, then eminent for its civilization, was afterward conquered by Pizarro, with circumstances of great cruelty and wickedness.


- Vasco Nunez de Balboa, falsely accused of traitorous intentions by his jealous rival and successor, Davila, was beheaded at Acla, in Central America, by order of that officer, in 1517, when he was in the forty-second year of his age.




Spain and Portugal had their time, but by the end of the sixteenth century, other plays wanted to get into the act. One of them was England, who was returning to exploration after a long absence.


Sir Francis Drake was a player in England’s Age of Exploration. He was also a real-life pirate.


Sir Francis Drake


Early Life


- The Drake family was well off, much more so than most of their neighbors. The entire property contained a bit more than 157 acres.


- Most people had but a single change of clothes, and laundry was done only once or twice a month. Bathing was even less frequent. An occasional sponge bath would do for the summer, and no bath at all in the winter, though most people were careful to wash their face and hands and keep their teeth clean.


-Food was usually plentiful but not fancy. Bread and beer were staples, along with peas and beans, greens, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and beets. Cows, sheep, and goats provided milk, butter, and cheese, and on rare occasions there was beef, pork, and mutton. There were chickens and eggs, while fruit trees and bushes provided apples, plums, and berries. But elaborate meals were for the wealthy and powerful. Farm families ate in accordance with their station: soup and another dish or two for the main meal; bread, cheese, and possibly fruit at other times. The local Tavistock beer, made with oats, had an unusual taste that some visitors to the region found disgusting.


Religious Persecution


- As cloth making in Tavistock was not a full-time occupation, Edmund Drake, his father, soon took up another occupation: he became a priest in the Church of England.


- Very little is known of Edmund's family life or his ecclesiastical connections. The date of his ordination is unclear, as is the date of his marriage.


- His wife may have been named Anna Myllwaye, though the evidence for this is slim.


- In any case, they were probably married in 1539, and Francis Drake, by the best estimate, was born in February or March 1540


- The recent sequestration of religious property eliminated many of the ecclesiastical benefices that had once supported secular priests. Either this circumstance or Edmund's recent marriage made it difficult for him to find a living as a priest. It may also explain why he became involved in a dispute in 1548, a dispute so serious that he was forced to leave Tavistock.


-Ê As a result of the dispute Edmund Drake and two other men were charged with assault. At least one and perhaps two of the men were priests. The story of the crimes is simple. On 16 April 1548, Edmund Drake and William Master came upon Roger Langiford in Le Cross Lane near Petertavy, just outside Tavistock. First insulting the man, Drake and Master then beat the poor fellow with staves and swords "so...that he feared for his life." More than this, they took poor Roger's purse, which held twenty-one shillings and seven pence.


- Nine days later Edmund Drake and John Hawking were in Tavistock. Another man, John Harte, came by on his horse, an animal valued at three pounds. Drake and Hawking, threatening Harte with staves, swords, and knives, forced him to give them the horse. Afterward, John Drake, William Master, and John Hawking fled the county.


- When Edmund Drake left town, he did not take his family with him, and his whereabouts for the next few years are unclear. In 1553 he was curate of the parish at Upchurch, Kent, but he was soon forced to leave that post, very likely because of his marriage.


- At home Francis heard talk of politics and religion, trade and foreign affairs.


- Francis Drake very likely adopted the moderate religious practices of the Hawkins family. But he also discovered that there were opposing viewpoints. The boy Francis went with his Hawkins relatives to Dutch, French, and Spanish ports, attending both Catholic and Protestant churches, just as circumstances might dictate.



Piracy On the Side


- He began his career  became an ocean sailor around age 18


- At sea he learned that it was possible and profitable to seize foreign ships and cargoes from merchants who were themselves shading the law. They saw that a successful fleet commander with influential friends at court could on occasion commit piracy and suffer little or nothing in consequence.


- Hawkins and the other Devon seamen were merchants, but they also found piracy profitable. Then as now, a pirate was a mariner who robbed from the ship of another mariner. There were varying degrees of piracy, and war could sometimes turn piracy into an act of patriotism, when pirates stole from the ships of the enemy. When pirates stole from one another, whether in war or in peace, the authorities usually looked the other way. Francis Drake grew up in this Devon coast society where piracy was a common calling, not highly respected, but widely tolerated and easily understood.





-  In his 20s, Drake joined his relative, John Hawkins, in the slave trade with the Spanish colonies in the New World.


- John Hawkins made plans with his friends in the Canaries to break into the slave trade in Guinea. (Due to labor shortage to decimation of local population.) Pedro de Ponte would help provide the fleet with water and supplies, make necessary arrangements with merchants in the Indies, and find a skilled pilot to handle navigation. Hawkins would provide the ships and the capital.


- Condemned by many religious officials as totally inhuman, slavery was tolerated by others on the ground that the slaves would be baptized and therefore eligible for salvation. For Hawkins and his partners the main consideration seemed to be profit. Prices in the Indies were high, forty ducados per slave, and costs in Africa were low. Profits in the slave trade were enormous, and it was not hard to find financial backing.


- The fleet of three or four small ships left Plymouth in October 1562, manned by a hundred sailors of whom one was probably Francis Drake.


- The fleet sailed to Sierra Leone. There Hawkins filled the ships with blacks, stealing some from Portuguese traders, capturing others on his own, and finally taking a Portuguese vessel to carry the slaves that could not be crammed into his own holds.


- One of the four English ships were sent home with goods, some traded, some acquired "by the sword." This seems to have been the ship on which Francis Drake sailed, as the evidence seems to show that he did not go to the Indies on this occasion.


- Hawkins sold the slave at below-market rates to Spanish traders, and he was back in Plymouth by September 1563, awash in such stunning profits that the Spanish government joined Portuguese diplomatic officials in attempting to bring an end to this new English adventure.


Second Slaving Trip


- The second slaving voyage for young John Hawkins, in 1564, was likely the first West Indies trip for twenty-two-year-old Francis Drake, sailing again as a simple seaman.


- In Sierra Leone Hawkins took slaves by force, sometimes from other traders, sometimes by raids on black villages. The slaves and trade goods were soon sold for a profit at stops in the West Indies and on the coast of South America, but delicate negotiations were required.


- Since the trade was illegal, the Spanish colonists usually insisted that Hawkins first make a show of force, after which they hurried to buy his slaves at a big discount from the usual price.


Run-ins with Spain


- Stopped by a large Spanish force at San Juan de Ullua in 1568 Hawkins and Drake made an agreement with them but when it was to their advantage, the Spanish attacked.


- After the ensuing battle Drake hastily returned to Plymouth and was later accused by Hawkins of desertion.


- From these expeditions Drake learned much about ships and the Western Hemisphere, and he developed a great hatred for the Spanish. For the rest of his life he conducted a personal war against Spain.


- Drake returned to the Caribbean in 1569, 1571, and 1572, and attacked Panama in the latter two voyages. In 1572 he was wounded while two of his brothers died in battle.


- When he returned to England, Queen Elizabeth had made peace with Spain and he had to go into hiding, possibly in Ireland, where he reappeared in 1575.


Circumnavigating the World


- At that time (1577) he announced that he was going to the Mediterranean to open up the spice trade in Alexandria, but his true plan was to circumnavigate the world.


Drake’s Voyage Around the World, 1580:


- The primary destination was the Pacific coast of South America, the private and incredibly rich domain of Spain.

-The little fleet crossed the Atlantic to a Brazilian landfall; while running down the coast, storms, dissension, and a fatal ambush by Patagonian natives slowed but did not stop the expedition.

- Before leaving the Atlantic Drake disposed of two unfit ships and renamed his flagship, previously the Pelican, the Golden Hind. The three remaining vessels passed through the deadly Strait of Magellan with ease and speed, only to encounter tremendous storms upon entering the Pacific. The smallest ship, the Marigold, went down with all hands; the Elizabeth, separated from the fleet, found herself back in the strait and turned tail for England.

- The storms abated and the Golden Hind, now alone, cruised up the Chilean and Peruvian coasts.

- For nearly half a year Drake raided the  unprepared Spanish settlements and shipping, leaving panic, chaos, and a confused pursuit in his wake.


- Sailing northward, the leaking Golden Hind next neared land high along the northwest American coast, somewhere above California. Unable to continue north in what was probably a search for a shortcut home - the fabled Northwest Passage - Drake turned south and ran along the coast until he found a "convenient and fit harborough." (The location of this "lost harbor," almost certainly somewhere in Northern California, has been the subject of intense controversy for well over a century; it remains elusive.)


- Drake stayed in the region he named Nova Albion (New England) for about five weeks, repairing the Golden Hind and enjoying extensive and peaceful contact with the Native Americans. Next he set out across the vast Pacific; the crossing was

smooth and landfall was made in sixty-eight days.

- The next few months were spent in the Indonesian Archipelago, where difficulty in finding a route through the thousands of islands nearly ended in disaster when the Golden Hind ran hard aground on a reef, escaping only because of a change in the wind.

- Sailing on to the west across the Indian Ocean and rounding the Cape of

Good Hope, the Atlantic was regained without further incident.

- After sailing up the length of Africa the Golden Hind arrived triumphantly in England late in 1580; some three years and 36,000 miles had passed beneath her keel during this most famous circumnavigation of the globe.

- In 1581, after his return from this successful and profitable voyage, Queen Elizabeth

knighted him.


            Not Wanting to Make Waves with Spain


- On Drake's return home, the Golden Hind's logbook and charts were tucked away - never to reappear - by Queen Elizabeth, who was anxious to keep English discoveries secret and to avoid irritating increasingly hostile Spain; a blanket prohibition against revealing details of the voyage was issued as well.


Spanish Armada


- Shortly after Elizabeth's accession to the throne of England, in 1559, a peace treaty was signed between England, France and Spain bringing peace to Europe.


- Without the burden of having to pay for a war, England became prosperous and in 1568 Elizabeth used money to increase the size of the navy. The new ships that were built were faster and easier to steer than before. 


- At the end of the year the English navy seized a treasure ship bound for the Netherlands, which was controlled by Spain. Philip II of Spain was very cross and relations between England and Spain worsened.


- Philip was also annoyed that Elizabeth had restored Protestantism in England. His anger with England increased further after Elizabeth knighted Francis Drake.


- After the Protestant leader of the Netherlands, William of Orange, was assassinated, Elizabeth provided Drake with a navy of 25 ships and told him to harass Spanish ships.


 - The English sailor took Spanish possessions from Colombia and Florida. Philip retaliated by seizing all English ships in Spanish ports.


- Elizabeth's support for the largely Protestant Dutch rebellion against her former half-brother-in law, Philip of Spain, and her apparent connivance in raids on Spanish colonies and trade, led to war with Spain from 1585.


-- In 1588, Philip sent an Armada - a massive force of 130 ships and 19,000 troops - from Lisbon to Calais.


-- The English (under the admiral, Howard of Effingham and his lieutenants, Francis Drake and John Hawkins) mounted a night-time attack with fireships against the fleet at Calais and then inflicted considerable damage in a battle off Gravelines. However, weather conditions forced the Armada back to Spain, round the north of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland - suffering heavy looses from storms and shipwrecks on the way. Further fleets were sent in 1596 and 1597, but both were stopped by storms.


-  For over four hundred years, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 has been celebrated by the English as a glorious God-sent victory in which the Protestant David vanquished His Most Catholic Goliath.



-- Philip II saw this enterprise as a Crusade to re-establish Catholicism in England and as a means to relieve pressure on the Low Countries.


-- Philip prayed two to three hours daily in the weeks preceding the departure of his fleet. Though God did not grant him a famous victory, his prayers may have limited the scope of the defeat. As Fernandez-Armesto observes, "Like most wars, the Armada campaign was fought for peace."


-- As much as anything else, the makeup of the Armada limited the likelihood of its success from the outset. The Armada was largely composed of ships built for use in the quiescent waters of the Mediterranean. They proved to be too flimsy for the heavier seas of the Atlantic.


- The effective fighting strength of the Armada was thus limited to the 34 vessels fit for action in the Atlantic - about the size of the opposing English fleet.


- Furthermore, in strategic terms, failure to secure a northern port of safety proved, in the end, to be a catastrophic oversight. For after the fighting on August 8th, 1588, the Armada had no safe harbor. It was forced to proceed home by the circuitous route round the British Isles, thus exposing itself to the ravages of the unexpected hurricane which eventually doomed the expedition.


- There is no question that Spanish sailors who had the misfortune of being shipwrecked off Ireland, where two-thirds of the Armada came to grief,

met a cruel fate (if they weren't executed immediately upon capture, they died of disease or starvation in prison).


- Only one Spanish ship was actually reduced to sinking condition by English gunfire. After the fighting in July and early August, the Armada remained largely intact. Had not the unseasonably bad weather brewed up, the fleet should have made it back to Spain with few additional losses.


- After the weather crippled the Armada, Philip II prayed even more earnestly and began to raise another fleet. Indeed, according to the author, "The Armada marked the rebirth, not the extinction, of Spanish sea power as the lost ships were replaced with better ones and the Spanish Main refortified against attack... The menace [to England] of Spanish sea power was stronger after the Armada than before."



Drake’s Journal Sees the light of day


- This secrecy was relaxed somewhat and a series of narratives of the journey were published, based not on formal reports but on the notes and comments of various men who had been with Drake.

- Both the published accounts and their surviving sources are fragmented, contradictory, enigmatic, difficult to read, largely of unknown or at least of disputed authorship and often not readily accessible.


            Llama Encounters


- In one of their adventures he and his men encountered a strange animal never before seen by Englishmen - the llama. Finally, loaded with booty including twenty-six tons of silver, the English left Spanish waters.

- An incident that occurred in late January of 1579 near the port of Arica, which lies close to the modern border between Chile and Peru

- English called them “eight Lambes or Peruvian sheepe”


Attacks on Spain


- Relations with Spain continued to deteriorate, and in 1585 Drake returned to the West Indies. On Hispaniola he captured the supposedly impregnable city of Santo Domingo. Later in Columbia he captured Cartagena.


- By now with one-third of his men dead and many others unfit for service, Drake was unable to attack Havana.


- After sacking St. Augustine, Florida, he sailed up the coast to Roanoke Island where he arrived on 26 June 1586. There he visited Sir Walter Ralegh's colony headed by Ralph Lane, planted in 1585. He found a disheartened group of men. The

 once-friendly Indians were now hostile, and the supply ship was late.


- Drake offered Lane victuals for one month and a ship, the 40 ton Francis. He also agreed to take some of Lane's weaker men back to England and to replace them with his own men. A major storm, however, forced the Francis out to sea and caused a change in plans.


- Drake offered Lane a larger ship, the 170 ton Bark Bonner but it was too large to pass through the inlets. Instead Lane and his colonists decided to return to England with Drake.


- This expedition did not make great profits for investors but it did inflict great damage on the Spanish Empire and led almost directly to the launching of the Armada that Philip II began to assemble.


- The Spanish planned to attack in 1587; but, learning of these plans, Drake attacked Cadiz and Lisbon, where he destroyed ships, and at Cape St. Vincent, where he burned barrel staves needed for casks for food and water. These actions delayed the Armada until 1588 and caused it to sail with unseasoned casks which leaked water and allowed food to spoil.


-  The defeat of the Armada in 1588 was Drake's last success. Now forty-five years old, he had passed his prime.


- In 1589 Drake led an expedition to Portugal to set up Don Antonio as King of Portugal in opposition to Philip II who had annexed Portugal in 1580. This expedition was badly planned, the men were poorly trained, there was little food, expectations were too high; it was a dismal failure. Drake now delayed when he should have acted quickly. It was as if he had lost his nerve.


- For the next five years Drake lived in retirement at Buckland Abbey near Plymouth. His first wife, Mary Newman, whom he married in 1569, died in 1583 and he then married Elizabeth Syndenham. There were no children by either wife. After his retirement he improved Plymouth's water system and served in Parliament.


Ill-Fated Invasion of the New World


- During this period Spain recovered from the loss of its Armada and fortified its cities in the New World; thus, in 1595 when Queen Elizabeth sent an expedition to America headed by Drake and Hawkins, it met disaster. From the beginning there was dissension between the two leaders.


- Through a series of English errors the Spanish learned their destination was Puerto Rico and prepared for their arrival. Failing there Drake sailed to Panama where he was also unsuccessful.




- Discouraged and sick, Drake died on 28 January 1596. Thus ended the life and career of one of England's great men. With others he made English sea power great, carried the English flag around the World, and defended his country against the Armada.



There were also Spanish explorers, which we’ll discuss next week.