Portugal- History of Exploration from 1480 AD - 1700 AD
1. Spain and Portugal--Unified but Declining: Spain was slowly being strangled to death by its own colonial empire abroad. Although Spain had amassed great wealth which resulted in a "golden age" for Spanish culture and the arts under Philip II (r. 1556-98), much of that fortune was squandered on luxuries, the ill-conceived Armada, and the purchase of prestige to the point that the Spanish economy began to deteriorate by 1600. The Portuguese throne, which was empty following the death of its monarch in 1580, was claimed by Philip II and thus began the "Spanish Captivity." Spain's declining fortunes sucked Portugal down with it as the former's wars against the English, Dutch, and 30 Years' War resulted in the capture of Portuguese colonial possessions abroad. Portugal had been compelled to pay (literally) for Spain's mistakes. Although the Portuguese threw off the Spanish yoke in 1640, it permanently lost its Asian empire and was never again a great power. Indeed, it was forced, increasingly, to ally with England just to remain politically viable 2. A Route to the Orient Leads to the New World: During the 15th century, the emerging nations of Western Europe--Portugal, Spain, France, and England--became increasingly dissatisfied with the Italian monopoly on Levantine and Far Eastern trade and began to look around for a way to bypass the middlemen. They also objected to the length of time it took for goods to travel by caravan as well as the hazards imposed by predatory bandits along the way. In addition, the balance of trade was becoming increasingly unfavorable for these 4 nations as precious gold and silver supplies drained eastward, while mainly goods came west. Portugal Leads the Way East: Portugal was the first European nation to establish direct contact with the Far East. Its mariners were trained in the school established in 1418 by Prince Henry the Navigator. In 1488, Bartolomeo Diaz sailed...
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