Vasco da Gama followed the route established by his predecessors on his journey,

Who was Vasco da Gama? A Portuguese explorer who was the first European to sail directly to India is the usual answer. But, Paris-based historian J B P More disagrees with this history textbook answer.

‘Vasco da Gama not 1st on India route’

"The coming to Malabar of Vasco da Gama by the African sea route at the close of the 15th century is not a great navigational exploit from the geographical and historical point of view. da Gama followed the route established by his predecessors such as Diogo d'Azambuja, Diogo Cao and Bartolomeu Dias on the first leg of his journey," said More, who teaches at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Economiques et Commerciales, Paris.

Speaking on 'Portuguese interactions with Malabar and its Muslims in the 16th century' at Roja Muthiah Research Library, More explained, "The second leg — crossing the Arabian Sea to the Malabar coast from East Africa — was not da Gama's discovery.


 Vasco da Gama meets the Zamorin of Calicut

   Indians, Arabs and Persians had been crossing the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean from the Persian Gulf to as far as China through the Strait of Malacca for several hundred years."

Ficheiro:Caminho maritimo para a India.png But was da Gama the first one to set foot on Malabar soil? No, according to More. "When he arrived in India, Malabar was divided into various principalities, of which the most powerful was the Zamorin of Calicut (today's Kozhikode in Kerala). The place was a main port for the spice trade in the Malabar region by then. da Gama followed the instructions and came straight to Calicut. But the first man to set foot on Malabar soil was not da Gama. It was Joao Nunes, a convict sent by Gama on a reconnaissance mission," he said.

The Zamorin of Calicut welcomed da Gama later by paying the courtesies due to a foreign dignitary. But da Gama made a diplomatic blunder by giving some cheap gifts to the king. "He presented the king some cheap gifts consisting of hats, hoods, striped cloth, sugar, oil and honey. The king was displeased. But the Zamorin later allowed him to set up a warehouse in Calicut," said More, who is the author of books such as 'The political evolution of Muslims in Tamil Nadu' and 'Origin and early history of the Muslims in Kerala'.

According to More, da Gama's expedition was well-planned with an eye at the spice trade. His trip had the support of the Portuguese royal establishment and the Roman Catholic Church. Speaking on violence unleashed by the Portuguese in the region, More said it had no parallel and added that da Gama was involved in some of the most heinous violence and atrocities especially against Muslims in the region


Bartolomeu Dias

VOYAGE OF Bartolomeu Dias (1487–88)
Untitled Document
Bartolomeu Dias (c. 1450 - May 29, 1500) was a Portuguese explorer who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of Africa, in 1488, the first European known to do so since ancient times. In 1481 Dias accompanied Diogo de Azambuja on an expedition to the Gold Coast. Dias was a cavalier of the royal court, superintendent of the royal warehouses and sailing-master of the man-of-war São Cristóvão (San Christovao). King John II of Portugal appointed him on October 10, 1486 as the head of an expedition which was to endeavor to sail around the southern end of Africa in hopes of finding a trade route leading to Asia. The chief purpose of the expedition was to find the country of the legendary Christian African king known as Prester John, concerning whom recent reports had arrived through João Afonso de Aveiro and with whom the Portuguese wished to enter into friendly relations. After ten months of preparation, Dias left Lisbon in August 1487 with a fleet consisting of three ships, two armed caravels of fifty tons each and one supply-ship. Among his companions were Pêro de Alenquer, who wrote a description of Vasco da Gama's first voyage, João Infante, Álvaro Martins, and João Grego. The supply-ship was commanded by Bartolomeu's brother, Pêro Dias. There were also two African men and four women on board who were to be set ashore at suitable spots to explain to the natives the purpose of the expedition. Dias sailed first towards the mouth of the Congo River, discovered the year before by Diogo Cão and Martin Behaim, then, following the African coast, he entered Walvis Bay. From 29° south latitude (Port Nolloth) he lost sight of the coast and was driven by a violent storm, which lasted thirteen days, far beyond the cape to the south. When calm weather returned he sailed again in an easterly direction and, when no land appeared, turned northward, landing in the "Bahia dos Vaqueiros" (Mossel Bay) on February 3 1488. Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope with two caravels, then Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, in 1488. In February 1488 he rounded the southern coast of Africa as far the Great Fish River. After it was clear that India could be reached by this route, he turned back. It was only on his return voyage that he discovered the Cape of Good Hope in May 1488. Dias returned to Lisbon in December 1488 after an absence of sixteen months and seventeen days. He explored a total of about 2,030 km of unknown African coast. He originally named the Cape of Good Hope the "Cape of Storms" (Cabo das Tormentas). It was later renamed by John II as the Cape of Good Hope (Cabo da Boa Esperança) because of the opening of a route to the east. The discovery of the passage around Africa was significant because for the first time Europeans could trade directly with India and Asia bypassing Middle East overland routes and middle men. This would eventually lead to a rise of Atlantic trading countries and a general decline of Middle East and Mediterranean countries for centuries afterwards. In 1497 Dias accompanied, but in a subordinate position, Vasco da Gama's expedition to India. He followed Gama with one ship to Cape Verde. He also accompanied Pedro Álvares Cabral on the voyage that resulted in the discovery of Brazil in 1500. He died off the Cape of Good Hope in a storm; his vessel was one of those wrecked not far from the Cape of Good Hope. An official report of the expedition to the Cape of Good Hope has not yet been found. Dias' grandson Paulo Dias de Novais was a Portuguese colonizer of Africa in the 16th century.

Portugual Empire in the East

1502 to 1739

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Portugal led the world in navigation, exploration, and ship-building. During this time it systematically built up a trading empire in Asia that was the envy of all of Europe, and destroyed the monopoly that Arab merchants had over trade with the east. This was enormously significant for several reasons. First, it greatly weakened the powerful Ottoman empire and its allies, which was had conquered much Christian territory in the Balkans and threatened all of Europe. Second, it facilitated the spread of the Christian Faith throughout the east, since Portuguese missionaries actively evangelized natives. Third, it brought enormous riches to Portugal and later to Spain, but ultimately weakened them due to corruption and decadence.
By the seventeenth century the Portuguese trading empire in the east began to decline. The Dutch East India Company was established in 1602 and within a few generations had conquered many Portuguese trading ports, less by arms than by more agressive trading practices. Portugal continued to loose influence in the region for the next few centuries until the 1770's when the French and Mysoris conquered many of Portugal's remaining holdings on the Malabar coast of India. Their primary portt at Goa, however, remained in Portugal's hands until 1961 when it was peacefully ceded to the Indian government.

Exploration of West Africa : 1419-1499


The driving for behind Portugal's sea-faring escapades of the fifteenth century, was Prince Henry the Navigator. In his youth he fought against the Moors at Ceuta, a Mediterranean island which served as a base for Moorish trade and piracy. The rest of his life he dedicated to the arts of ship-building, map-making, exploration, and navigation. Slowly and systematically, he oversaw the exploration of the West Coast of and established Portuguese forts and trading posts all along the African coast. Although he died well before the Cape of Good Hope was rounded, his legacy long survived him, and his innovations in ship-building and navigation spread throughout Europe.
From the conquest of Ceuta in 1415, until Bartholomew Diaz's famous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, Portugal made steady progress in trade, colonization, and missionary activity along the West Coast of Africa. Portuguese colonies on the west coast of Africa include:

 D'Azambuja receiving the native chief at Elmira.











From the conquest of Ceuta in 1415, until Bartholomew Diaz's famous voyage around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, Portugal made steady progress in trade, colonization, and missionary activity along the West Coast of Africa. Portuguese colonies on the west coast of Africa include:

YearLandmark Location
1415 Ceuta Island South of Spain
1419 Madeira Islands West of Morocco
1427 Azore Islands West of Portugal
1434 Cape Bojador Western Sahara
1441 Senegal River Senegal
1445 Cape Verde Islands West of Senegal
1475 Bight of Benin Gulf of Guinea
1482 Congo River Congo
1486 Cape Cross Namibia
1488 Cape of Good Hope South Africa


Diogo Cão
Diogo Cão.jpg
Born ca. 1452
Vila Real, Kingdom of Portugal
Died ca. 1486
Nationality Portuguese
Occupation Navigator and explorer
Known for First European to explore the Congo River and the west coast of Africa to Namibia.

Early life and family

Diogo Cão's Coat of Arms
He was born in Vila Real (some say in Évora), in the middle of the 15th century, ca. 1452, the illegitimate son of Álvaro Fernandes or Gonçalves Cão, fidalgo of the Royal Household, himself the illegitimate son of Gonçalo Cão. He married and had four children: Pedro Cão, Manuel Cão, André Afonso Cão, and Isabel Cão.


The Padrão bearing the arms of Portugal erected by Cão at Cape St. Mary
Stone of Ielala, with the inscriptions of Diogo Cão
He was the first European known to sight and enter the Congo River and to explore the West African coast between Cape St. Catherine and Cape Cross, almost from the equator to Walvis Bay in Namibia.

First voyage

When King John II of Portugal revived the work of Henry the Navigator, he sent out Cão (about midsummer (?) 1482) to open up the African coast still further beyond the equator. The mouth and estuary of the Congo was now discovered (perhaps in August 1482), and marked by a Padrão, or stone pillar (still existing, but only in fragments) erected on Shark Point, attesting the sovereignty of Portugal; the great river was also ascended for a short distance, and intercourse was opened with the natives of the Bakongo kingdom. Cão then coasted down along the present Angola (Portuguese West Africa), and erected a second pillar, probably marking the termination of this voyage, at Cape Santa Maria (the Monte Negro of these first visitors). He certainly returned to Lisbon by the beginning of April 1484, when John II ennobled him, made him a cavaleiro (knight) of his household (he was already an escudeiro or esquire in the same), and granted him an annuity and a coat of arms (April 8, 1484 and April 14, 1484). In the return he discovered the Island of Annobón.

Second voyage

That Cão, on his second voyage of 1484-1486, was accompanied by Martin Behaim (as alleged on the latter's Nuremberg globe of 1492) is very doubtful. But it is known that the explorer revisited the Congo and erected two more pillars beyond the furthest of his previous voyage. The first was at another Monte Negro, the second at Cape Cross. The Cape Cross pillar probably marked the end of his progress southward, some 1,400 kilometers. Cão ascended the Congo River (which he thought led towards the realm of Prester John), up to the neighborhood of the site of Matadi. There, in October or November, 1485, near the falls of Ielala, he left an inscription engraved on the stone which testifies of its passage and that of his men : "Aqui chegaram os navios do esclarecido rei D.João II de Portugal - Diogo Cão, Pero Anes, Pero da Costa." ("Here arrived the ships of king John II of Portugal – Diogo Cão, Pero Anes, Pero da Costa”.

4th Portuguese India Armada (Gama, 1502)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 The Fourth India Armada was assembled in 1502 on the order of King Manuel I of Portugal and placed under the command of D. Vasco da Gama. It was Gama's second trip to India. It was designed as a punitive expedition, targeting Calicut, to avenge the travails of the 2nd Armada and the massacre of the Portuguese factory in 1500.
Along the way, in East Africa, the 4th Armada established a Portuguese factory in Mozambique, made contact and opened trade with the gold entrepot of Sofala and exorted tribute from Kilwa. Once in India, the armada set about attacking Calicut shipping and disrupting trade along much of the Malabar Coast. But the ruling Zamorin of Calicut refused to accede to Portuguese demands, arguing that the violent exactions of the armada exceeded any claims they might have for compensation. The 4th Armada left without bringing the Zamorin to terms and leaving matters unresolved. Before departing, the armada established a crown factory in Cannanore and left behind a small patrol under Vicente Sodré, the first permanent Portuguese fleet in the Indian Ocean.

Vasco da Gama

Sodre squadron of 1502 Armada (Livro das Armadas).jpg

4th Armada of 1502 (from Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu)