Spanish and Portuguese voyages.docx - Spanish and...

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Spanish and Portuguese Voyages (Ralph Davis) The Portuguese and Spaniards had constantly been in contact with the Atlantic waters and had more experience than any other European nation about the Atlantic islands. They were engaged in trade with Morocco and fished in the Atlantic. Their voyages did not go beyond the Sahara. The Sahara marked the limit of their regular voyaging. They could not have gone further anyway because the ships and navigation of the time were not adequate to meet the problems entailed in long voyages down such a long coast such as that of Africa. 1291 and 1348 Italians and Catalans made failed attempts to sail further south. The Canary Islands were discovered after 1400 and some Spaniards settled their as well. Soon the nation with humble backgrounds, Portugal with its adventurers and seamen was the one to explore the West African coast and settle their extensively and not the affluent Mediterranean traders. Davis refutes the reasons given by others for the Portuguese engaging themselves in these explorations which are of political and technical nature. He says that there was a definite tension in Europe due to the Turkish expansions and threat to various east European nations and but these hardly influenced the Portuguese. In opposing the technical reasons he says that, the chronology of maritime innovation will not support the view that exploration began because the means to carry it out had ripened. On the contrary, technical innovation was called forth by the urgent needs of oceanic exploration after it had taken the decisive strides southwards. He says that explorations began with quite primitive means with no navigational instruments beyond compass and log and ships which were not rigged in a way to face the wind systems of the Atlantic coast.There were decisive improvements in the ships and navigational methods in the middle of the 15 th century when the Portuguese had already ventured south beyond
Sahara coast. These improvements enabled explorations to penetrate farther but had no part in its commencement. So Davis says that neither ideological crusading nor technical changes can account for the sudden 15 th century achievement in exploration by a hitherto insignificant nation. Portugal was a poor and small country with a mountainous terrain. The extent of the export trade in oil, cork, fruit, wax and honey and the need for corn fostered the growth of the Portuguese shipping industry. The economical craft which it used found favor with the merchants of the great Mediterranean trading cities-Genoa, Barcelona ,Florence-and were widely employed in their carrying out trade. Portuguese fisheries were well developed and extended far beyond native waters to the North African and Irish coasts. Enterprise in Portugal was directed towards the sea and adequate resources existed not only for exploration but also for the vigorous exploitation of new discoveries whether on the African coast or Atlantic islands.

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