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Azores, an archipelago consisting of nine islands (Flores, Corvo, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Fayal, Graciosa, São Miguel, and Santa María) and several islets in the North Atlantic, 800 miles off the coast of Portugal. First mentioned by the Arab geographer, Edisi in the twelfth century, the Azores were discovered by the Portuguese in 1427 during their voyages of discovery. These expeditions were financed by the military order of Christ, which was headed by Prince Henry the Navigator. Initially the explorers visited the central islands and, to the east, Santa María and São Miguel. Twenty-five years later the western Azores were discovered by Diogo de Teive, a Madeiran sugar merchant and navigator.

The Azores played an important role in the exploration of and, later, the trade with the New World. Columbus's ship, the Niña, visited Santa María in 1493 on its return from his first voyage to America. His crew was briefly detained by the islanders until Columbus could negotiate their release. Later, the Azores served as a post between Europe and the Americas where Portuguese ships would stop in order to pick up fresh food and water before continuing their journey across the Atlantic.

Woad, a dyestuff planted by the Flemish, who had established settlements there in the fifteenth century, was an important export until it was replaced by indigo from Brazil.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Spanish America .


T. Bentley Duncan, Atlantic Islands (1972).

Additional Bibliography

Brown, A. Samler. Guía de Madeira, las Canarias y las Azores. Gran Canaria: Departamento de Ediciones, 1999.

Moniz, Miguel. Azores: World Bibliographical Series. Santa Barbara, CA., 1999.

Symington, Martin. Portugal with Madeira and the Azores. New York: D.K. Pub., 1997.

                                     Sheila L. Hooker

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Azores (əzôrz´, ā´zôrz), Port. Açores [Port.,=hawks], islands (1991 pop. 241,592), 905 sq mi (2,344 sq km), and autonomous region of Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean, c.900 mi (1,448 km) W of mainland Portugal. The nine main islands are São Miguel (the largest) and Santa Maria in the southeast; Terceira, Pico, Faial, São Jorge, and Graciosa in the center; and Flores and Corvo in the northwest. Ponta Delgada is the largest city. The fertile soil yields many crops and supports vineyards. The islands are also a resort area, although there is volcanic activity. The United States maintains a NATO air base in the islands.

The Azores may have been known to the ancients and were included on a map in 1351. Portuguese sailors reached them in 1427 or 1431, but colonization did not begin until 1445 under Diogo de Sevilha or Gonçalo Velho Cabral (who may have been there in 1431). During the colonial period, the Azores were a stopover point for treasure fleets returning from the New World, and many ships were lost there due to hurricanes or pirates. The islands were used as a place of exile and were also the site of naval battles between the English and the Spanish. In the 19th cent. they were used by supporters of Maria II against Dom Miguel. In the 20th cent., there has been a large outmigration to the United States.

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AZORES , archipelago in the N. Atlantic; Portuguese possession. *New Christians from Portugal presumably settled in the Azores in the 16th and 17th centuries, but there is no consistent record of them. The first known settlement of Jews in the islands began in 1818 with the arrival of five merchants from Morocco. By 1848 the Jews in the Azores numbered 250; several small communities had been established, the most important being in Ponta Delgada (founded in 1836) where there were 150 Jews. Among the founders were several members of the *Bensaude family, whose descendants became influential in international commerce, banking, and philanthropy. The number of Jews in the islands has dwindled steadily in recent years.


Amzalak, in: Revista de Estudios Hebraícos, 1 (1928), 239–40. add. bibliography: I. Da R. Pereira, in: Arquipélago 1 (1979), 181–201; 2 (1980), 143–87; 3 (1981), 167–85; A.M. Mendes, in: Boletim (Instituto Histórico da Ilha Terceira), 40 (1982), 673–92.

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Azores Portuguese island group in the n Atlantic Ocean, 1290km (800mi) w of Portugal. The capital and chief port is Ponta Delgada (on São Miguel). Although they were known to early explorers, such as the Phoenicians and the Norsemen, they were first settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The Azores served as military bases in both World Wars. Volcanic in origin, they consist of nine main islands, divided into three groups. They export a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fish. The islands' economy, dependent on small-scale farming and fishing, improved with the development of tourism. Since 1976, the islands form an autonomous region of Portugal. Pico Alto at 2351m (7713ft) is Portugal's highest mountain. Area: 2247sq km (868sq mi). Pop. (2000) 243,895.

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