Magellan, Ferdinand 1480?–1521

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Ferdinand Magellan

A Portuguese and Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan organized and led the first circumnavigation of the globe, and named the Pacific Ocean. His daring voyage did little to aid the goals of his benefactor, King Charles I of Spain (1550–1558), but it opened the future of Pacific trade between the Americas and the East. Born into the Portuguese nobility, Magellan travelled to India in 1505. After his return, Magellan fell out of favor with King Manuel I (1469–1521) due to an escalating series of personal conflicts, and unfounded accusations that Magellan had traded illegally with Moroccan Moors. Magellan renounced his Portuguese citizenship and proposed a voyage from Spain, across the Atlantic, around the southern point of South America, and onward to Asia. Magellan intended to prove that the rich Moluccas, claimed by Portugal, were situated in territory guaranteed to the Spanish under the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). Charles and his financiers, Jakob Fugger (1459–1525) and Cristóbal de Haro (c. 1455–1538), further hoped that Magellan's westward route into the Eastern spice trade would supersede the Portuguese-controlled route around the southern cape of Africa. After crossing the Pacific, Magellan died in battle in the Philippines. Of the five ships and approximately 270 people that left Spain in September 1519, only the Victoria and 18 original crew returned to Seville in September 1522.

SEE ALSO Empire, Portuguese; India;Morocco;Portugal;Seville;Ships and Shipping;Spain.


Bergreen, Laurence. Over the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe. New York: William Morrow, 2003.

Joyner, Tim. Magellan. Camden, ME: International Marine, 1992.

Parr, Charles McKew. So Noble a Captain: The Life and Times of Ferdinand Magellan. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1953.

Jonathan Eacott

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Magellan, Ferdinand 1480?–1521

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