Today, we look at another major historical figure – Vasco da Gama!
Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, (c. 1460s – 1524) was a Portuguese explorer. He was the first European to reach India by sea, linking Europe and Asia for the first time by ocean route, as well as the Atlantic and the Indian oceans entirely, connecting the West and the Orient. This was accomplished on his first voyage to India (1497–1499).
Da Gama’s discovery was significant and opened the way for an age of global imperialism and for the Portuguese to establish a long-lasting colonial empire in Asia. The route meant that the Portuguese would not need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabian Peninsula, and that the whole voyage would be made by sea. The sum of the distances covered in the outward and return voyages made this expedition the longest ocean voyage ever made until then!
After decades of sailors trying to reach the Indies with thousands of lives and dozens of vessels lost in shipwrecks and attacks, da Gama landed in Calicut on 20 May 1498. Reaching the legendary Indian spice routes unopposed helped the Portuguese Empire improve its economy that, until da Gama’s discovery, was based mainly on trading along northern and coastal West Africa. The spices obtained were mostly pepper and cinnamon at first, but soon included other products, all new to Europe and leading to a commercial monopoly for several decades.
Da Gama led two of the armadas destined for India, the first and the fourth, which was the largest and made only four years after his return from the first one. For his contributions he was appointed the Governor of India in 1524, under the title of Viceroy, and given the newly created County of Vidigueira in 1519. Vasco da Gama remains a leading figure in the history of exploration to this day. His first trip to India is widely considered a milestone in world history as it marked the beginning of the first wave of global multiculturalism.
Were you aware of Vasco da Gama’s achievements?
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