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Indian History began in the late 14th century when everyone was trying to invade India. When asked which nation contributed the most to sea exploration in the fifteenth century, the obvious answer is Spain. What if there were another nation, a nation whose contributions were far more than landing one continent? What if there was a nation that in only 100 years managed to sail in every ocean, every major sea, touched every continent except Antarctica and possibly Australia, and were the first Europeans to land in China, Korea, New Guinea, the Azores, Cape Verde and numerous other places. Well, there was such a nation, and it is Portugal. Portugal was the country that lead the greatest expansion of the known world in the history of the world. In only one hundred years they managed to be the first Europeans in nearly one half the globe, as well as be the first to push south. The accomplishments of the rest of Europe paled by comparison. The Portuguese exploration and expansion at this time is a huge subject. Here will be discussed only one of their voyages, that of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India, as he was the first European to sail to there. Prince Henry the Navigator was most definitely a driving force in this venture, while the King during the voyage, Manuel, was the one who ordered it. Bartolmeu Dias was the first to round the Cape of Good Hope, in his 1487-88 voyage, proving that it could be done, and breaking ground for da Gama.

Born in 1394, the Infante Enriques, known to the world as Prince Henry the Navigator, became the man who was most responsible for the maritime expansion of Portugal and of general marine science, as well, both of which led to the voyage to India. As a boy he was infatuated with accounts of the wild beasts, wild people, and vast riches that existed in Africa.(Hart 6) At a young age, he began to study everything he could on trade, maps, scientific charts, and anything else he could find that pertained to Africa. Eventually, as an adult he devoted most of his resources toward finding a sea route to Guinea. Why? There are probably five reasons. First, he wanted simply to know what lay beyond the Canaries and Cape Bojador, beyond which no one had yet dared to travel. Next, and certainly no less important was that he wanted to establish trade with any lands that lay out there, especially if they were Christian lands,and it was assumed that India was Christian. Thirdly, he wanted a Christian ally in its wars against the infidels. Fourth, he wanted to know exactly how far into Africa the influence of these same infidels extended. The fifth, in typical Christian fashion of the time, was to send out missionaries “to bring to him all the souls that should be saved.”(Hart 7)


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