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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator

The Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) launched the first great European voyages of exploration. He sought new lands and sources of revenue for his kingdom and dynasty and searched for eastern Christian allies against Islam.

Born at Oporto on March 4, 1394, Henry was the third son of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster. He grew to maturity at a time when John I was bringing to a close a confused period of civil strife and war with Castile and securing Portugal's independence. The conflicts of this period had left the nobility decimated and impoverished and the monarchy's revenues greatly depreciated. Thus the ruling families began to look abroad for new worlds of wealth, land, and honors to conquer.

John and his sons became involved in a threefold movement of Portuguese expansion, comprising the campaign to conquer Moorish North Africa; the movement to explore and conquer the Atlantic island groups to the west and south; and the exploring, trading, and slaving expeditions down the West African coast. These ventures were united not by geographical curiosity but by Henry's overreaching desire to continue abroad the traditional Portuguese crusade against Moors and Berbers in the peninsula itself. He hoped also to catch Islam in a gigantic pincers movement by joining forces with the mythical "Indies" Christian kingdom of Prester John, the wealthy and powerful priest-king of medieval legend. The Prester's domains had been variously located in present-day India and in East Africa (Ethiopia).

North Africa and the Atlantic Islands

King John wished to satisfy the avarice and lust for battle of his warriors; Prince Henry and his brothers wanted to prove their manhood and strike a blow for the faith on the battlefield. A campaign launched in July 1415 during a civil war in North Africa left the port of Ceuta stripped of its navy. Henry was knighted and made Duke of Viseu. With the fall of Ceuta the Portuguese learned of the long-established gold trade with black Africa conducted by caravan across the Sahara. Gold hunger had been growing in late medieval Europe in response to the growth of commerce, but Portugal had lacked gold coinage since 1383. Prince Henry may thus have sought to tap the supply at its source by venturing down the West African coast.

Henry's first sponsored voyages of exploration were to the Atlantic islands of Madeira and Porto Santo (1418-1419); colonization followed. These islands, as well as the Azores and Canaries, had been known to the earlier Middle Ages; they were now rediscovered and exploited by the Portuguese (the Azores ca. 1439), except the Canaries, which fell under the control of Castile. The Cape Verde Islands, much farther to the south, were discovered and settled in 1455-1460. Colonization of these islands was important for the entire subsequent history of Iberian expansion: they provided bases for voyages to the New World and for the development of practices used later in American colonization. More immediately, they brought in returns on capital loans extended by Prince Henry to island settlers.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese involvement in North Africa was proving to be a costly and dangerous undertaking. During Henry's disastrous attempt in 1437 to conquer Tangier, the Moslems roundly defeated the Portuguese and took Prince Henry's younger brother, Fernando, as a hostage against the return of Ceuta. Over the objections of Henry and his eldest brother, Duarte (then king), the royal council refused to make the trade, and Fernando lived out the rest of his days in a dungeon at Fez.

African Voyages

The repeated probes made down the West African coast at Henry's behest constitute the most significant achievement of his career. Only the most important of these expeditions will be mentioned here.

After many unsuccessful attempts Gil Eannes in 1434 rounded Cape Bojador on the North African coast. This point was the southernmost limit of previous European exploration, and Eannes's feat in sailing beyond it—and returning—constitutes the most important navigational achievement of the early Portuguese maritime enterprise. Further voyages under Nuno Tristão led to the rounding of Cape Blanco (1442), the occupation of Arguin Island (1443), and the discovery of the mouths of the Senegal (1444) and Gambia (1446) rivers. Cape Verde was attained by Dinas Dias in 1444, and the islands of that name were first visited by Alvise da Cadamosto in 1555. The mouths of the Geba and Casamance rivers were discovered by Diogo Gomes in 1456, and in 1460 Pedro da Sintra reached Sierra Leone. A total of about 1,500 miles of African coast had been explored by these expeditions.

The economic and political consequences of African "discovery" were momentous. The Portuguese obtained an ever-increasing flow of gold through trade with inhabitants of the coastal regions and in 1457 resumed minting gold coins. With a coarse African red pepper (malagueta) the Portuguese made their first incursion into the Italian monopoly of the spice trade. However, the most important long-range economic development was the beginnings of the African slave trade, which became significant after 1442. The Portuguese obtained slaves through raids on coastal villages and trade with the inhabitants of Gambia and Upper Guinea. In this way the Portuguese, at the very beginning of Europe's overseas expansion, provided the "woeful solution" for the problem of colonial labor power.

Equally important for future patterns of colonization were developments in economic, religious, and political policy. At this time the papacy commenced to issue its long series of bulls defining the rights of the colonizing powers. The Portuguese crown was awarded an exclusive monopoly over both present and future exploration, commerce, and conquest all the way to South Africa and the "Indies," as well as a spiritual monopoly over these same regions.

Henry supported and defined the missions of his captains and patronized map makers and others who could make practical contributions to the progress of discovery. But he sponsored no "school" of pure science and mathematics, and his reputation as a patron of learning has been grossly inflated. Henry died at Vila do Infante near Sagres on Nov. 13, 1460.

Further Reading

There are several biographies of Prince Henry, of which one of the best is C. Raymond Beazley, Prince Henry the Navigator: The Hero of Portugal and of Modern Discovery, 1394-1460 A.D. (1895; new ed. 1923). The standard work on Portuguese expansion in the 15th century is Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers (1933), but this should now be supplemented with C.R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (1969). The history of Portugal in this period is best conveyed by H. V. Livermore, A New History of Portugal (1947). The history of European expansion overseas from the 15th through the 17th century is considered in Boies Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance, 1420-1620 (1952), and J. H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaissance (1963).

Additional Sources

Age of exploration and discovery: Prince Henry and the Portuguese navigators (1394-1498), Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1969.

Chubb, Thomas Caldecot, Prince Henry the Navigator and the highways of the sea, New York, Viking Press 1970.

Fisher, Leonard Everett, Prince Henry the Navigator, New York: Macmillan; London: Collier Macmillan, 1990.

Jacobs, William Jay, Prince Henry, the Navigator, New York, F. Watts, 1973. □

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Henry the Navigator (1394–1460)

Henry the Navigator (13941460)

Prince of the ruling Aviz dynasty of Portugal, the third son of King John I, and leader of Portuguese exploration of the African coasts. In the early fifteenth century, Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula were the scene of frequent attacks by pirates based in North African ports. To thwart these attacks, in 1415, Henry planned and took part in the conquest of Ceuta, on the North African coast. There the Portuguese encountered the lucrative trade in gold and slaves across the Sahara Desert. Inspired by the possibilities of joining this trade, and by the legend of a Christian king known as Prester John, said to rule somewhere in Africa, Henry sponsored voyages of exploration down the Atlantic coast of Africa.

In 1419, Henry was named as the governor of Algarve, the southernmost province of Portugal. From his headquarters on the Sagres Peninsula, at the southwestern limit of Europe, Henry planned explorations into unknown reaches of the Atlantic Ocean and helped develop a new kind of ship, known as the caravel, that was lighter and nimbler than the heavy ships used as freighters by the Portuguese in the Mediterranean. Henry paid for the explorations he sponsored through his appointment as governor of the Order of Christ, a religious order holding estates and benefices throughout the kingdom, and through his right to one-fifth of all the trading profits from lands he discovered.

Leaving from the port of Lagos, the Portuguese fleets set out to rescue and ransom Portuguese prisoners of the Barbary Coast pirates. The small caravels sailed down the coast of Mauretania and returned with slaves, thus beginning the era of European slave trading. Henry's fleets discovered Madeira and, in 1427, the Azores Islands, which were soon colonized by Portugal. In 1434 Gil Eannes rounded Cape Bojador, up to that time the southernmost limit of European exploration. An expedition led in 1437 by Henry to Tangier, however, ended in failure when the Portuguese were defeated by the Moors and Henry's brother Fernando was made a prisoner.

Portuguese ships later reached Cape Blanco, the mouth of the Senegal River, and Cape Vert, eventually reaching the sub-Saharan coasts that lay beyond the limits of Muslim-held Africa. The trade in African gold greatly enriched the kingdom of Portugal, which began minting the famous gold coins known as cruzeiros in 1457. In addition, the establishment of bases closer to the prevailing westerly trade winds greatly eased the task of navigating across the Atlantic to the Americas. Eventually Portuguese navigators would push well beyond Africato Brazil in South America as well as the Indian Ocean and the Spice Islands.

See Also: Aviz, House of; Camoes, Luis Vaz de; exploration

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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator, 1394–1460, prince of Portugal, patron of exploration. Because he fought with extraordinary valor in the Portuguese conquest of Ceuta (1415), he was created duke of Viseu by his father, John I, king of Portugal. The Moroccan campaign inspired Henry with a desire to extend his knowledge of Africa. In 1416 he established at Sagres in SW Portugal a base for explorations, later adding a naval arsenal and an observatory and a school for the study of geography and navigation. The nearby port of Lagos provided a convenient harbor. One of his navigators rediscovered the Madeira Islands (1418–20), and by degrees the west coast of Africa was explored. Cape Bojador was reached in 1434, Cape Blanco was passed in 1441, and the Bay of Arguim was discovered in 1443. When Henry's captains returned with slaves and gold, African exploration, long derided, became very popular; from 1444 to 1446 between 30 and 40 vessels sailed for the W African coast under the prince's authority. His navigators discovered the Senegal River and rounded Cape Verde (1444) and finally (1460) reached a point near the present Sierra Leone. The abuses of the slave trade caused Henry to forbid the kidnapping of blacks in 1455. Henry played an important political role in the minority of Alfonso V, establishing his brother Pedro as regent. His position as grand master of the wealthy and powerful Order of Christ (Portuguese successor to the Knights Templars) increased his influence, and much of the revenue for his ventures was derived from his ecclesiastical tithes. His military reputation, dimmed by a disastrous expedition (1437) against Tangier, was recovered by a subsequent Moroccan campaign (1458), and he was offered the command of several foreign armies. Henry's chief importance, however, lay in his notable contributions to the art of navigation and to the progress of exploration, which provided the groundwork for the development of Portugal's colonial empire and for the country's rise to international prominence in the 16th cent.

See biographies by E. D. S. Bradford (1960), R. H. Major (1967), C. R. Beazley (1895, repr. 1968), and E. Sanceau (1969).

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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) Portuguese prince. A son of John I, he sponsored Portuguese voyages of discovery to the Atlantic coast of Africa, which later led to the discovery of the route to India via the Cape of Good Hope.

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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator
1394–1460

Prince Henry (1394–1460), properly Infante Dom Henrique, was the third surviving son of Portugal's King João I and Philippa of Lancaster. Though labeled "the Navigator" by nineteenth-century Europeans looking approvingly on the roots of Western expansion, he was in fact neither seaman nor shipbuilder, but rather an avid religious crusader and patron of early Atlantic exploration.

Fate and upbringing helped point Henry toward his achievements. At his birth, astrologers saw in his zodiac a destiny to make "great and noble conquests" and uncover "secrets previously hidden from men," and Henry's parents selected as his patron saint the French crusader-king St. Louis. Personal ambition joined these portents to make crusading and exploration—along with acquiring fame and wealth—his life interests.

Henry's efforts need to be viewed in the context of his time and place. Since the expulsion of the Moors from Portugal in 1249, Portuguese seamen had been expanding their commercial range. Once it was apparent that Venice controlled the eastern Mediterranean and Muslims blocked access to products from sub-Saharan Africa, sailors, merchants, and bankers from Genoa and Florence brought their skills to Spain and Portugal, hoping to find support for their plan to outflank Venetians and Muslims and thus gain access to Asian spices and African gold. Henry, who had gone crusading in 1415 and had helped capture Ceuta, the Muslim stronghold in Morocco, gained control of funds for "worthy ventures" in 1420 when the pope appointed him administrator of the military Order of Christ. From then on, he would use his own and the order's wealth primarily to organize and sponsor exploration and colonization.

An expedition Henry sent in 1424 to colonize Grand Canary failed, but mariners he sponsored discovered the uninhabited Madeiras, and colonization of these islands paid off in production of wheat, grapes, and sugar. Henry also oversaw colonization of the Azores, due west of Portugal, in the 1440s, but the Atlantic, leading south down Africa's western edge, was the main focus of his attention. He sponsored Gil Eannes to pass Cape Bojador, eight hundred miles south of Portugal and previously a psychological barrier to travel, in 1434, and subsequent mariners he sent reached Cape Verde, Africa's westernmost point, in 1445. At Henry's death in 1460, Portuguese-financed sailors were approaching Sierra Leone, 2,000 miles from Europe. The move down the Atlantic coast did not end with Henry, of course: in 1497 Vasco da Gama would sail around Africa's southern tip and reach India, opening East Africa and the Indian Ocean to Portuguese imperial designs.

Henry, thus, was not an explorer himself, but the major patron of the early fifteenth-century Atlantic explorers and colonizers who showed how newfound lands could be exploited, and who brought back information to help subsequent European mariners. Henry's greatest importance may be in sponsoring those who answered the age-old question of how to return to Europe after sailing down West Africa's Atlantic coast: by making a long westward tack to pick up prevailing winds. This permitted European sailing into the south Atlantic and, soon, all the seas of the world.

see also Empire, Portuguese.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Boxer, Charles. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825. New York: Random House, 1969.

Russell, Peter. Prince Henry "the Navigator": A Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator

1394-1460

Prince of portugal

Sources

Henry, the Duke of Viseu, is best known for the somewhat inaccurate name Henry the Navigator.The title Navigator was added to Prince Henry of Portugal's name in the nineteenth century by an admiring English scholar. This title has stuck despite the fact that Henry himself was not a famous navigator. He is credited with gathering navigators, scholars, and cartographers around him at Sagres, on the peninsula of St. Vincent overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He used his wealth and influence to sponsor Portuguese voyages to the West Coast of Africa between 1419 and 1460. On these voyages the Portuguese made significant advances in navigation, and they began to sail a type of ship called the caravel. Caravels were perfected during Henry's lifetime in order to combat head winds and contrary currents on the return voyage of Portuguese ships from Guinea. Sailors learned to sail the caravels west-northwest into the open sea until they spotted the Azores and then turned east to Portugual. Henry did not invent the caravels, but his sponsorship moved them into the forefront of open-sea sailing on the eve of the famous voyages of Bartholomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan.

Motives. Prince Henry was the third son of King John I, a successful and long-ruling monarch. As a young man, Henry participated in the 1415 Portuguese defeat of the Moors at Ceuta (on the African Coast to the south of Gibraltar). The mixture of commercial and religious motives are evident in most of Henry's undertakings. Con-temporaries of Prince Henry emphasized his personal piety and fascination with the idea of crusading, while also acknowledging his quest for financial gain. Gomes Eanes de Zurara, the best-known contemporary chronicler of Prince Henry, offers a long list of motives behind the exploration of the Western coast of Africa. Zurara starts with basic curiosity but emphasizes that commercial factors were evident. He suggests a basic medieval formula of serving God and growing rich, but he also claims that the strongest motive was Henry's aspiration of fulfilling the predictions of his horoscope.

Commercial Gain. Modern historians debate the degree to which Henry the Navigator was motivated by attempts to combat Muslims and convert heathens to Christianity, but virtually all concede that Henry had monetary aspirations. Henry maintained commercial control over all terri-tories claimed by early Portuguese voyages. He used the Atlantic islands along the coast of Africa to establish monopolies on fishing, soap making, and dye making. Unlike royal patrons of later voyages, Henry was not interested in claiming vast amounts of ungovernable territory. He focused instead on the strategic and pragmatic monopolization of trade at key ports and islands. Portuguese cartography from his era provided functional records of Henry's trade network that stand in sharp contrast to the grandiose and distorted maps created for the sixteenth-century royal patrons of exploration and cartography.

Impact. Henry has been credited with establishing Portugal's maritime empire and transforming Portugal into a world power. Contemporary chroniclers certainly contributed to this reputation, as did Portuguese nationalists. More recent assessments suggest a complex man who has been given more credit than he deserves. Henry did not establish a “school of navigation,” and there is no evidence that he read the main Arabic and classical works on geography. He certainly did not lead any expeditions, something that a man of his status would never have done in the fifteenth century. His support of expeditions along the African coast were more likely motivated by the value of slaves than in idealistic pursuit of navigation. Henry frequently led Portugal into nearly ruinous wars in his many attempts to claim the Canary Islands. Yet, he was also a man of sincere religious faith and deep loyalty to those who supported him. After his death, the Crown was willing to encourage exploration but was unwilling to invest in it. Henry had been eager to take financial risks, as well as to motivate others to take personal risks sailing on Portuguese caravels.

Sources

Jerry Brotton, Trading Territories: Mapping in the Early Modern World (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1998).

Peter Russell, Prince Henry “the Navigator”: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

Geoffrey Vaughan Scammell, The First Imperial Age: European Overseas Expansion, c.1400-1715 (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989).

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Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator

Born 1394

Died 1460

Portuguese prince, supporter of exploration

A s a supporter of some of the first European voyages of exploration, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal added immeasurably to Westerners' knowledge of other lands—yet he never actually took part in any voyages. Committed to spreading the Christian faith to other lands, he was very much a man of the Middle Ages, yet he helped bring about changes that would usher in the modern era.

A prophecy at his birth

Henry's father, John I, was the first king in the house of Aviz, which would rule Portugal for nearly two centuries beginning in 1385. A year later, Portugal signed a treaty with England, and to seal the agreement, Philippa of Lancaster, an English noblewoman, was married to King John. The couple had several sons, and the third one to survive—death in infancy or childhood was common in the Middle Ages—was Henry.

Medieval people placed great store by astrology, the belief that a person's fate is influenced by the position of the stars and planets at the time of their birth. Though there is no scientific basis for astrology, it is interesting to note that at his birth, Henry's astrological chart or horoscope predicted that the young prince would "be engaged in important and propitious [favorable] conquests in lands which were hidden from other men." It was a prophecy that would later come true.

Educated in Christian principles

Henry grew up with an education typical of a young prince, but because he had older brothers, he was not expected to rule. His mother was a devout Christian, and therefore he was taught on the one hand extensively from the Bible, in particular Christian principles of morality, or right and wrong. On the other hand, because kingdoms had to be defended through war, he received what was called "bodily training," or an education in how to fight and lead battles. Henry grew up to be tall, and though his complexion was naturally light, the time he spent outdoors gave him a tan. It was said that people who did know him thought he had a fierce expression, but in fact he was gentle by nature.

As a result of his education, young Henry had three strong aims in mind: to expand Portugal's commercial interests, to increase scientific knowledge, and to spread the Christian faith to other lands. Much of neighboring Spain remained in the hands of the rival Islamic or Muslim faith, as did North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea. Henry believed strongly in the spirit that had fueled the Crusades, wars of religious conquest to win lands from the Muslims and place them under the control of Christian Europe.

The crusade for Ceuta

In the summer of 1415, when Henry was twenty-one years old, his mother died, and on her deathbed, she gave each of her three sons a piece of what was believed to be the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Though it is doubtful that anyone knew the location of the "true cross," medieval Europeans believed strongly in such relics, or objects with religious significance; and furthermore, Henry was deeply moved by the loss of his mother. This no doubt inspired him to undertake the first significant act of his adult life, a crusade to take Ceuta (THAY-ü-tah), a city in Morocco.

In August 1415, Henry helped lead the campaign for Ceuta, which turned out to be successful. This won him considerable honors, and put him a long way toward his life's mission, which was to learn more about the African continent and outlying islands. A year later, he sent the explorer Gonzalo Velho to the Canary Islands, off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the beginning of his involvement in commercial quests to expand Portugal's empire.

Establishes "school" at Sagres

Perhaps to get away from his family and make a life for himself independent of their influence, in 1420 Henry moved to Lagos (LAH-gohs), on the southern coast of Portugal. He tried unsuccessfully to conquer the highly important city of Gibraltar (ji-BRAWL-tur), then controlled by the Moors, or Muslims from North Africa. Failing this, he turned his attention to gaining as much knowledge as he could about the "country" of Guinea (GI-nee).

Today there is a nation known as Guinea, but when Europeans of Henry's time used the term, they applied it broadly to the western coast of Africa. Henry had a lifelong interest in the region, and began gathering around him explorers and men of science who would help him gather knowledge about it. To this end, he established an informal "school" in the Portuguese city of Sagres (SAH-greesh), on the extreme southwestern tip of Portugal.

Successes and failures

The first major expedition launched by Henry's school took place from 1418 to 1420, and resulted in the establishment of Portugal's first overseas colony at Porto Santo on the Madeira (mah-DEER-uh) Islands to the northwest of the Canaries. Ships also began sailing south to explore the coast of Guinea, and as each expedition returned, Henry's cartographers (kar-TAHG-ruh-furz), or mapmakers, developed new maps incorporating the knowledge added by the returning explorers.

Despite the fact that Henry's expeditions had the potential to add greatly to Portugal's wealth, he had many critics. Furthermore, he invested a great deal of his own money in the voyages, and for nearly fifteen years, his captains made little progress in finding a sea route to Guinea.

In September 1433, Henry's father died, and this forced him to turn his attention to family matters. His brother Edward I took the throne, but his reign was short and troubled, ending in his death in 1438. The new king, Afonso V, was Henry's nephew—but he was only five years old, and Henry had to assist in ruling the country as regent.

Cheng Ho

Like Henry the Navigator, Admiral Cheng Ho (jung-HOH; c. 1371–c. 1433) is a memorable figure in the history of exploration, but unlike Henry, Cheng actually led the voyages for which he is famous. Over the course of more than a quarter-century, he commanded a Chinese fleet that sailed to Southeast Asia, India, Persia, Arabia, and even Africa.

The son of Muslims in southern China, Cheng was born Ma Sanpao (MAH sahn-POW), and when he was twelve years old, he went to serve in the court of Prince Yan, the future emperor Yung-lo of China's Ming dynasty. When Yung-lo took power, he gave Ma Sanpao the new family name of Cheng, a sign of honor. At some point, Cheng was castrated and made a eunuch (YOO-nuk). When and why this happened is not known, though Chinese emperors often relied on eunuchs because they believed they could trust them around their many wives and concubines.

Initially the emperor put Cheng Ho to work building palaces in his capital city, but in 1405 he commissioned him as an admiral, a high-ranking naval officer equivalent to a general in the army. Yung-lo sent him on his first voyage, which lasted two years and involved some 27,000 men on more than sixty ships. They traveled to ports in Southeast Asia, as well as the islands of what is now western Indonesia, before reaching Ceylon and finally Calicut, in southern India.

Though their purpose was peaceful, and they brought with them gifts for the princes they met, Yung-lo also intended for his fleet to demonstrate Chinese power in other lands. In any case, Cheng often became involved in conflicts, as on the first voyage, when a pirate attacked his fleet and killed some five thousand of his men. Cheng captured the pirate and brought him back in chains to China, where he was executed.

On a later voyage, the king of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) tried to double-cross Cheng and attacked his ships while the Chinese were away in the Ceylonese capital. Learning of this, Cheng reasoned that the king had dispatched all his troops to the harbor and thus had left the city undefended, so he attacked the city. Victorious, he brought the king of Ceylon back to China, where he was treated with kindness, but was replaced with a ruler more favorable to Chinese interests.

Later voyages took Cheng and his fleet to Persia and Arabia, and even—on the fourth expedition (1413–15)—to Africa. The fleet returned from this voyage bringing with them a giraffe, which they presented to the emperor's court. After Yung-lo died in 1424, Cheng's future was uncertain, but finally in 1430, he and his fleet were allowed to embark on a seventh—and, as it turned out, last—voyage. They went as far as Hormuz in Persia, but Cheng himself died in Calicut. With him died a golden age of Chinese exploration, never to be repeated.

Later other counselors took over Henry's duties in the capital, and he was able to return to his primary interests. In 1437, he and his brother Ferdinand launched a campaign to take the city of Tangier (tan-JEER) in Morocco. This turned out to be a massive failure, with the Moors capturing Ferdinand, who died in prison five years later.

A turning point

Devastated by the loss of Ferdinand and his failure in Tangier, Henry again concentrated on voyages along the African coast. He wanted to learn not just about the coastal regions, but about the interior, and encouraged his sea captains to use the continent's river systems as a means of reaching farther inland. Therefore he ordered the construction of an outpost at Arguin (ar-GWEEN) Island, off the coast of what is today the nation of Mauritania. This too led to a setback, as one of the captains he hired managed to steal part of the money Henry invested in the voyages.

Despite his many frustrations—and the fact that he was continuing to lose money—Henry was also starting to see some successes, particularly with his sailors' exploration of the Azores (uh-ZOHRZ), an island group west of Portugal. In 1454, the pope officially recognized the possessions gained by Henry's voyagers, and since all of Western Europe looked to the pope's spiritual leadership, this was an important victory. By the late 1440s and 1450s, Henry's interests had shifted from voyages for purely scientific purposes toward expeditions specifically intended to expand Portugal's commercial interests.

A Christian warrior to the end

One of those commercial interests was slavery, and in particular the traffic in human beings captured from Africa. Slavery had long before ceased to exist in Europe, but a new chapter in the history of the slave trade began in 1441, when one of Henry's captains presented him with fourteen slaves as a "gift." Many Portuguese favored the slave trade, which would grow in coming years, but Henry rejected it for both moral and practical reasons. On a practical level, he saw slavery as an unprofitable business, and on a moral level, he knew that it was not likely to produce many converts to Christianity.

During the 1450s, Henry's sailors continued to gather information about Africa while Henry himself became increasingly withdrawn from public contact. Yet he remained a crusader to the end, and his passions were stirred when in 1453 he learned that the Muslim Turks had conquered the Christian city of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), thus bringing an end to the Byzantine Empire. In 1458, the sixty-four-year-old Henry took part in a crusade, along with Afonso V, to take a town in Morocco held by the Muslims. Though the Portuguese were victorious in the battle, the tide of events was against them, and Morocco remained in the hands of the Muslims.

Henry knew he was dying, so he returned to Sagres in 1460 and made out his will. Unmarried, he had no children, and in any case, he left behind not a fortune but a considerable debt brought on by his years of investment without noticeable returns. Yet through his efforts, he opened up the world to European explorers, and helped launch the Age of Discovery that was just then beginning to dawn.

For More Information

Books

Fisher, Leonard Everett. Prince Henry the Navigator. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Hale, John R. Age of Exploration. New York: Time-Life Books, 1974.

Levathes, Louise. When China Ruled the Seas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Simon, Charnan. Henry the Navigator. Chicago: Children's Press, 1993.

Web Sites

"Chinese Mariner Cheng Ho." [Online] Available http://www.chinapage.org/chengho.html (last accessed July 26, 2000).

"Discoverers Web: Henry the Navigator." [Online] Available http://www.win.tue.nl/~engels/discovery/henry.html (last accessed July 26,2000).

"European Voyages of Exploration: Prince Henry the Navigator." [Online] Available http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/HIST/tutor/eurvoya/henry1.html (last accessed July 26, 2000).

"Henry the Navigator." [Online] Available http://www.thornr.demon.co.uk/kchrist/phenry.html (last accessed July 26, 2000).

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Henry the Navigator (1394–1460)

Henry the Navigator (1394–1460)

Henry the Navigator (b. 4 March 1394; d. 13 November 1460), Portuguese prince noted for promoting the voyages of discovery that led to Portugal's creation of an overseas empire. Third son of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt of England, Prince Henry (Infante Dom Henrique) was duke of Viseu, governor of the city of Ceuta (captured in 1415 by the Portuguese from the Moroccans in an expedition in which Henry played a key role), the governor of the Algarve, Portugal's southernmost province, where Henry established his own court at Sagres in 1419.

Prince Henry is one of the most controversial figures in Portuguese historiography, for historians differ widely in their assessments of the extent and motives of his leadership role in Portugal's voyages of discovery. In the Crónica da Guiné, Gomes Eanes de Azurara, a contemporary chronicler of the discoveries, portrays Prince Henry as a model crusader: a tireless fighter, a pious man, and a chaste saint who never married. Azurara's portrait does not, however, match other evidence concerning Henry's character, which suggests that he was a skilled politician with an acute sense of raison d'état, that he was a crafty courtier who knew how to employ court intrigue for his own advantage; or that he was a practical man of affairs whose preoccupation with overseas expansion reflected his purpose of serving both God and Mammon.

On several occasions Henry's actions put the lives of his own brothers or half brothers in peril. For example, his unsuccessful expedition to Tangiers in 1437 resulted in the capture of his younger brother, Dom Fernando, by the Moors. The Moors demanded the return of Ceuta as the price of Fernando's release. Hardliners in the Portuguese court, including Henry, opposed giving up Ceuta, and as a result Fernando died in captivity in Fez in 1443. Henry also supported the war against Dom Afonso, duke of Bragança, and his half brother, who was involved in a power struggle with Dom Pedro, his older brother. At the battle of Alfarrobeira in 1449 Dom Pedro was killed. Many Portuguese historians blame Dom Pedro's death on Henry's intrigues.

Concerning his role in overseas expansion, Azurar notes that Joâo de Alenquer, the vedor da fazenda, had convinced Prince Henry of the economic advantages of capturing Ceuta, then believed to be a bridgehead to the gold-producing lands south of the Sahara. Similarly, Diogo Gomes, one of the sea captains Henry supported, confided to Martin Behaim of Nürnburg that Prince Henry had been told about Saharan gold by the Moors of Ceuta and that he had vowed to find it by land or sea. This view of Henry's thirst for gold has been developed by a school of Portuguese historians led by Alexandre Herculano and presently is reflected in the writings of Vitorino Magalhães Godinho and others, who contend that the economic motive and maintaining the security of Portugal were the main reasons for the overseas expansion.

Nevertheless, in 1960 the Portuguese marked the five-hundred-year anniversary of Prince Henry's death by honoring him as the "saint of the Promontory of Sagres," a heroic visionary who initiated Portugal's overseas discoveries and was the fountainhead of its empire.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Brazil; Portuguese Empire.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire (1969).

Gervase Clarence-Smith, The Third Portuguese Empire, 1825–1975 (1985).

A. H. De Carvalho E Araujo Herculano, "Cogitações soltas de um homem obscuro," in Opusculos, vol. 6 (1897).

A. H. De Oliveira Marques, História de Portugal, 3 vols. (1981–1983).

Joaquim Pedro De Oliveira Martins, Os filhos de D. João I (1936).

Bailey W. Diffie and George D. Winius, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire: Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion (1972).

Duarte Leite, História dos descobrimentos, edited by Vitorino Magalhães Godinho (1960).

Vitorino Magalhães Godinho, Os descobrimentos e a economia mundial, 2 vols. (1965–1968).

Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão, História de Portugal, 12 vols. (1978–1990).

Additional Bibliography

Russell, P. E. Prince Henry the Navigator: A Life. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

                                  TomÉ N. Mbuia JoÃo

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Henry the Navigator (1394–1460)

Henry the Navigator (1394–1460)

Henry the Navigator (1394–1460), Portuguese prince. Henry launched the first great European voyages of exploration. He sought new lands and sources of revenue for his kingdom and dynasty and searched for eastern Christian allies against Islam.

Born at Oporto on March 4, 1394, Henry was the third son of John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster. He grew to maturity at a time when John I was bringing to a close a confused period of civil strife and war with Castile and securing Portugal's independence. The conflicts of this period had left the nobility decimated and impoverished and the monarchy's revenues greatly depreciated. Thus the ruling families began to look abroad for new worlds of wealth, land, and honors to conquer.

John and his sons became involved in a three-fold movement of Portuguese expansion, comprising the campaign to conquer Moorish North Africa; the movement to explore and conquer the Atlantic island groups to the west and south; and the exploring, trading, and slaving expeditions down the West African coast. These ventures were united not by geographical curiosity but by Henry's overreaching desire to continue abroad the traditional Portuguese crusade against Moors and Berbers in the peninsula itself. He hoped also to catch Islam in a gigantic pincers movement by joining forces with the mythical "Indies" Christian kingdom of Prester John, the wealthy and powerful priest-king of medieval legend. The Prester's domains had been variously located in present-day India and in East Africa (Ethiopia).


North Africa and the Atlantic Islands. King John wished to satisfy the avarice and lust for battle of his warriors; Prince Henry and his brothers wanted to prove their manhood and strike a blow for the faith on the battlefield. A campaign launched in July 1415 during a civil war in North Africa left the port of Ceuta stripped of its navy. Henry was knighted and made Duke of Viseu. With the fall of Ceuta the Portuguese learned of the long-established gold trade with black Africa conducted by caravan across the Sahara. Gold hunger had been growing in late medieval Europe in response to the growth of commerce, but Portugal had lacked gold coinage since 1383. Prince Henry may thus have sought to tap the supply at its source by venturing down the West African coast.

Henry's first sponsored voyages of exploration were to the Atlantic islands of Madeira and Porto Santo (1418–1419); colonization followed. These islands, as well as the Azores and Canaries, had been known to the earlier Middle Ages; they were now rediscovered and exploited by the Portuguese (the Azores ca. 1439), except the Canaries, which fell under the control of Castile. The Cape Verde Islands, much farther to the south, were discovered and settled in 1455–1460. Colonization of these islands was important for the entire subsequent history of Iberian expansion: they provided bases for voyages to the New World and for the development of practices used later in American colonization. More immediately, they brought in returns on capital loans extended by Prince Henry to island settlers.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese involvement in North Africa was proving to be a costly and dangerous undertaking. During Henry's disastrous attempt in 1437 to conquer Tangier, the Moslems roundly defeated the Portuguese and took Prince Henry's younger brother, Fernando, as a hostage against the return of Ceuta. Over the objections of Henry and his eldest brother, Duarte (then king), the royal council refused to make the trade, and Fernando lived out the rest of his days in a dungeon at Fez.


African Voyages. The repeated probes made down the West African coast at Henry's behest constitute the most significant achievement of his career. Only the most important of these expeditions will be mentioned here.

After many unsuccessful attempts Gil Eannes in 1434 rounded Cape Bojador on the North African coast. This point was the southernmost limit of previous European exploration, and Eannes's feat in sailing beyond it—and returning—constitutes the most important navigational achievement of the early Portuguese maritime enterprise. Further voyages under Nuno Tristão led to the rounding of Cape Blanco (1442), the occupation of Arguin Island (1443), and the discovery of the mouths of the Senegal (1444) and Gambia (1446) rivers. Cape Verde was attained by Dinas Dias in 1444, and the islands of that name were first visited by Alvise da Cadamosto in 1555. The mouths of the Geba and Casamance rivers were discovered by Diogo Gomes in 1456, and in 1460 Pedro da Sintra reached Sierra Leone. A total of about 1,500 miles of African coast had been explored by these expeditions.

The economic and political consequences of African "discovery" were momentous. The Portuguese obtained an ever-increasing flow of gold through trade with inhabitants of the coastal regions and in 1457 resumed minting gold coins. With a coarse African red pepper (malagueta) the Portuguese made their first incursion into the Italian monopoly of the spice trade. However, the most important long-range economic development was the beginnings of the African slave trade, which became significant after 1442. The Portuguese obtained slaves through raids on coastal villages and trade with the inhabitants of Gambia and Upper Guinea. In this way the Portuguese, at the very beginning of Europe's overseas expansion, provided the "woeful solution" for the problem of colonial labor power.

Equally important for future patterns of colonization were developments in economic, religious, and political policy. At this time the papacy commenced to issue its long series of bulls defining the rights of the colonizing powers. The Portuguese crown was awarded an exclusive monopoly over both present and future exploration, commerce, and conquest all the way to South Africa and the "Indies," as well as a spiritual monopoly over these same regions.

Henry supported and defined the missions of his captains and patronized map makers and others who could make practical contributions to the progress of discovery. But he sponsored no "school" of pure science and mathematics, and his reputation as a patron of learning has been grossly inflated. Henry died at Vila do Infante near Sagres on Nov. 13, 1460.

EWB

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