From humble beginnings, in the course of three centuries the Portuguese built the world's first truly global empire, stretching from modern Brazil to sub-Saharan Africa and from India to the East Indies (Indonesia). Portugal had established its present-day borders by 1300 and the following century saw extensive warfare that confirmed Portugal's independence and allowed it to aspire to maritime expansion, sponsored by monarchs such as Prince Henry the Navigator.
Intent on finding a sea route to the source of the lucrative spice trade, the Portuguese discovered a route down Africa's western coast, employing the innovative caravel, a vessel that could be sailed closer to the wind than any other in use at the time. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope and ten years later Vasco da Gama reached India. In 1500 Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and the Portuguese began to exploit the fabulous natural wealth of the Americas.
Victory over the Mamluks at the Battle of Diu (1509) handed the Portuguese control over the Indian Ocean and allowed them to capture a succession of key ports such as Ceylon, Goa and Malacca. Portuguese sailors continued to explore the coasts and islands of East Asia, and by 1580 a network of outposts linked Lisbon to a vast trading empire that stretched as far as Japan. The period closed with Portugal and its empire passing to Spanish control for 60 years from 1580.
During this nearly 300-year period, the Portuguese fought alongside other Iberian forces against the Moors of Andalusia; with English help successfully repelled a Castilian invasion (1385); and fought the Moors in Morocco, Africans, the Ottoman Turks, and the Spanish in colonial competition. The colourful and exotic Portuguese forces that prevailed in these battles on land and sea are the subject of this book.
The Portuguese in the Age of Discovery 1300-1580 by David Nicolle