Monday, March 7, 2016


The subtitle of this book by Roger Crowley is How Portugal seized the Indian Ocean and forged the first Global Empire. The story begins in 1415 when a fleet of Portuguese ships captured the Muslim port of Ceuta in Morocco. This was the commencement of the Portuguese expansion along the coast of Africa and eventually finding the sea route to India and the islands beyond.

The focal point of the book is the period 1495 to 1515 encompassing the three voyages of Vasco da Gama as he travelled around the coast of South Africa, part way up the east coast of Africa to Mombassa and then across the sea to India. Others also followed the path in the same way that the voyage of Vasco da Gama was only made possible by the excursions of previous Portuguese sailors and navigators.The prize was access to the lucrative spice trade plus access to other riches from this region.

The arrival of the Portuguese in the region was not always greeted with enthusiasm by the locals, especially as Vasco da Gama could never be considered as a diplomatic ambassador for Portugal. As he and other Portuguese explorers set out to obtain a foot hold for Portugal in the region a number of battles ensued as they furthered their exploration to the Malay Peninsula and even to part of Japan. Portugal now rivalled Spain and shortly afterwards the Dutch and England also began to colonise the region. While sailing west to avoid unfavourable winds in the Atlantic Ocean the Portuguese also arrived at Brazil which later became a Portuguese colony.

This is an interesting account of how in a short time frame Portugal became a world power.