Thursday, April 04, 2013

A-Z Blog Challenge - D = Discovery

The Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon.
That's Henry the Navigator at the front. Each
figure held some place in history (his mum's behind him)
Portugal might be a teeny country right on the western edge of mainland Europe (I said mainland oh you Irish who might want to lynch me right now), and right on the edge of bankruptcy (who said that?), but the country had an enormous influence on our world as it is today.

Did you know:

1. Portugal is Britain's oldest ally? Ratified by the Treaty of Windsor in 1386. The Portuguese, in general, are pretty proud of this; the Brits, in general, are pretty ignorant of the fact.

2. Portugal introduced tea into Britain. Catherine of Braganza brought it with her when she married Charles II of England. She didn't bring it with milk though.

3. It is said that Christopher Columbus first tried the King of Portugal about his theory that he could reach the east Indies by sailing west but was refused because Portugal already had its wealthy Indian routes established. It is also said (allegedly, check it out) that Columbus married a Portuguese noblewoman (daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo, who had a hand in discovering Madeira Island) and lived for a time on Madeira's teeny sister island, Porto Santo.

4. The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 divided up the newly discovered lands between Spain and Portugal and excluded any other European nation. That's the reason the language of Brazil is Portuguese and the two countries have a very close rapport even today.

5. Over 240 million people across the globe speak Portuguese. (240 million and one - because I do too).

6. Prince Henry the Navigator never went to sea - he directed the great Age of Discoveries from land.

7. The great Age of Discoveries probably started in the 13th century but it was really the 15th and 16th centuries that saw the greatest movement when such famous names as Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Fernão de Magalhaes and so many others formed important trade routes and colonies, creating incredible wealth from the East (see: Wikipedia if you're interested).

8. The problem with Portugal, though, was its size. Tiny but full of people with a pioneering spirit (as they still are today). With a population of around a million at the time, more than half set off to battle writhing sea monsters, huge whirlpools and a boiling sun until they could land in their minute caravels in distant, exotic lands. And the result? Hardly anyone was left in Portugal to take care of the place. And thus started its downward economic trend...

If you'd like to read more, try this site