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Tag Archives: Lisbon

Europeans Explore and Settle Other Lands


Visitors to the Portuguese city of Lisbon, on a certain day in 1499, would have found the people in a holiday mood. Groups of townsmen who gathered here and there talked excitedly about the arrival of two ships and there was good reason. In the two years since these vessels had sailed down the river and slipped out of sight, they had completed the first trip from Europe around Africa to India and back. Such an event indeed deserved to be celebrated. Not only had the fearless captain of this expedition, Vasco da Gama, performed a great feat of navigation, but he had brought back spices and other goods worth 60 times the cost of his voyage. No wonder the people shouted. No wonder King John of Portugal rubbed his hands with glee and heaped honours on da Gama. For here, reasoned King John, lay the key to power and prosperity. Suppose each Portuguese ship returned laden with goods worth 60 times the cost of its voyage. Portugal quickly would become rich and powerful. How much better off he was, the king thought, than if he had listened to Columbus! That man had pestered him for years to provide the ships, money and men to sail westward across the Atlantic to India. To be sure, Columbus had finally obtained backing from the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella. What had he accomplished? For the most part, all he had found was a tropical wilderness peopled with savages and he had brought back little to compare with the rich cargoes in the holds of da Gama’s vessels. Yes, in 1499 it looked as if little Portugal would get ahead of all other European countries in the race for wealth and power. Several years passed before other voyages across the Atlantic proved …

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The Crusades 1096-1260


ON A COLD NOVEMBER DAY IN 1096, a great crowd of people gathered in a field at the town of Clermont in France. They had come from miles around and near them were pitched the tents they had put up for shelter. For some days, Pope Urban II had been holding a great council of cardinals, bishops and princes. Today he was to speak to the people and so many wanted to hear that no building was large enough to hold them all. A platform had been built in the center of the field and as Pope Urban stepped up on it a hush fell over the crowd. Pope Urban was a Frenchman and he spoke to the people around him as fellow Frenchmen. “Oh, race of Franks,” he said, “race beloved and chosen by God . . . set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honour which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed. . . .” “From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. . .” The people knew what he meant. He was speaking of the Holy Land, that lay on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Here were the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and Damascus. Here Jesus Christ had lived and preached and had been crucified; here Christianity had begun. Here were many sacred shrines and during the Middle Ages thousands of Europeans …

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The Coming of the Europeans A.D. 1498-1707


MORE than two centuries before Aurungzeb’s death and even before the coming of Babur, a new kind of invader had appeared in India. Instead of thundering down on horseback from the Himalayan passes, he arrived on the coast by ship. Instead of plunder, he sought trade. Instead of wanting to conquer the subcontinent, he wanted to conquer the seas around it. This invader’s name was Vasco da Gama. He had sailed his small fleet all the way around Africa from his homeland of Portugal in southwest Europe. In 1498, just six years after Columbus discovered America, he landed at the South Indian port of Calicut. “Why have you come?” someone asked him. “For Christians and spices,” he replied. The captain’s brief answer summed up a great deal of history. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe had depended on the East for Silk, precious stones and spices‚ such as cloves and — most prized of all — pepper. Supplies had come from India across Moslem territory. Deliveries had always been uncertain, but after the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, they became even more so. The Turks held up shipments and demanded money to let them pass. If this toll was paid, the price of the goods had to be raised. If it was not paid, the Turks would not allow the shipment to go through. Eastern goods became scarce in Europe and this sent the price still higher. It soon became plain that anyone who could bring the products of Asia directly to Europe would make a fortune. The Portuguese, as the foremost seafarers of Europe, were the first people to try to get around the Turkish blockade by setting up a sea route to India. There were other reasons, too, behind da Gama’s voyage. The pope and the European kings feared …

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