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The Portuguese Reach the REAL India *

The King of Portugal has chosen Vasco da Gama to sail to India to set up merchant connections and establish a colony. By the time Vasco rounds the African cape, his crew is dying of scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. The Portuguese know the cure is to eat citrus fruits so they have been planting trees along their coastal route but there are no Portuguese ports along the east coast of Africa yet. They stop for a month in Mozambique for repairs and to recover from illness. They offer gifts to the local sultan but the gifts are not well received. The Muslim merchants realize that some real competition has arrived. The sultan chases them out but by the time they reach Kenya, they find a pilot that can lead them to India. They had left Lisbon on July 8th, 1497 and arrive at Calicut, India on May 20th, 1498 which is just short of 11 months. With better coastal support they can shorten that trip considerably. In a few years, Mozambique will become a major Portuguese trading port just as the Muslim merchants feared. With this voyage, the Portuguese have turned the old land-route trading relationships on their heads, creating a new route to Europe and colonizing the coasts of Africa, India, China and the East Indies. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It's difficult to know why Vasco da Gama was chosen for this voyage other than he distinguished himself in a recent battle. He seemed to lack the talent for negotiating trade deals though he managed it anyway. This may speak more to the entrepreneurial intuition of the merchants of India and the east African coast than to Vasco's persuasiveness. In any case, his journey will also open up the East Indies to the Americas. In the years to come, merchant sailors will realize that China is anxious for silver too. With this new route and some simple bookkeeping, these merchant sailors (sometimes known as pirates but let's not be crass) can deliver silver from the Americas into the hands of the Chinese. Their European masters will be none the wiser.

The First Italian War Ends with a Crack

King Charles the Affable of France is ugly and he knows it. He has a head too big for his body and as he walks through his palace, his massive noggin slams into a doorway lintel... ending his dreams of a Great Crusade at the age of 27. All of his children had died in infancy so without a male heir, he will be succeeded by his cousin, King Louis the 12th. King Louis will continue the fight in Naples for his claim to the throne there. He will be known as "The Father of the People." [4] [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
There was a controversy over the marriage between King Louis and Queen Joan. King Louis the 12th believed that marrying the late king's widow, Anne of Brittany, would bring him more political and strategic power so he asks the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Queen Joan. Normally one needs a good reason for an annulment but the King has no grounds, so he claims that Queen Joan has a deformity that prevents him from... well... you know. Queen Joan brings witnesses to testify that the King boasted of mounting his wife three or four times a night. Normally Queen Joan would have won her case but due to the war in Naples, the Pope needed better relations with the King of France... so Joan got the boot. She received permission from the Pope to start a new religious order dedicated to the Virgin Mary and publicly committed herself to it. She was sainted by the Church in 1950. [8] [9]

Christopher Columbus's 3rd Voyage Goes Badly

Christopher Columbus sets off on his 3rd voyage to the New World. He will reach Trinidad and kiss the South American coast. He knows he has hit something big like a continent by observing the amounts of fresh water pouring from the rivers. Columbus is still convinced that he has reached the East Indies but his health has deteriorated so he turns his ships toward Hispaniola. By the time he gets there, the colonists are in rebellion. They have found no easy riches but only hard work. He hangs several of his crew and puts down the rebellion ruthlessly. When he returns to Spain, those who return with him will take him to court for his tyrannic rule. He and his brothers will be arrested and languish in jail for a few weeks until the King and Queen release them. Christopher Columbus will be relieved of his governorship, but Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand will finance one final voyage of Columbus. [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Amerigo Vespucci set off before Columbus's 3rd voyage and was already exploring the coast of North America. (Some historians believe this data is shaky.) The Portuguese have already reached India going south and east. By the time the Portuguese reach China and the East Indies, no one will believe Columbus any more. Fortunately, for Columbus, will be dead by then. He caught a debilitating parasite from bad water that he drank at his poorly located Spanish colony on Hispaniola. He died as a rich man but a discredited one. [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1498, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Vasco da Gama: First Voyage. biography.com (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015. “By early April, the fleet reached what is now Kenya, before setting sail on a 23-day run that would take them across the Indian Ocean. They reached Calicut, India, on May 20. But da Gama's own ignorance of the region, as well as his presumption that the residents were Christians, led to some confusion. The residents of Calicut were actually Hindu, a fact that was lost on da Gama and his crew, as they had not heard of the religion.”
  2. (1909) "Vasco da Gama", The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. “Menaced by the Arabs in Mozambique (2 March) and Mombasa (7 April), who feared for their commerce, and, on the contrary, received in a friendly manner at Melinda, East Africa (14 April), they reached under the guidance of a pilot on 20 May, their journey's end, the harbour of Calicut, India, which, from the fourteenth century, had been the principal market for trade in spices, precious stones, and pearls.” 
  3. Mozambique - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015.
  4. Boot, Max. War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History. Gotham. ISBN 9781592402229. 
  5. Louis XII of France - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015.
  6. Charles VIII of France - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 11 January 2015.
  7. lintel - definition of lintel by The Free Dictionary. thefreedictionary.com (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015. “(Architecture) a horizontal beam, as over a door or window”
  8. Joan of France, Duchess of Berry - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015.
  9. Anne of Brittany - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015.
  10. Christopher Columbus: Accusations of Tyranny - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 12 January 2015.
  11. Alex Shrugged notes: I've not provided a lot of references here. I'm writing based on the reading I've done recently. I just don't want to look them all up again.

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