CONTACTS WITH EUROPE
The coming of Portuguese
The Portuguese became interested in controlling the Indian Ocean trade in the 15th
century due to the commercial capitalism in Europe. At the time there was great demand for gold, silver silk and spices especially among the kings and wealthy, people, gold and silver were used to make coins and expensive ornaments.
At that time Portugal was a poor country with a small population, it was greatly overshadowed by its larger neighbor Spain. At the beginning of 15th
century Portugal had begun to exceed in one area; Navigation. Portugal Price Henry the navigator set up a navigation school in the country and encouraged exploration voyages. By sailing to Africa, The Portuguese hoped to control trade and enrich the country.
In the 1470’s The Portuguese landed on the Gold coast of West Africa. They built a port which they called Elmina. From this fort they controlled the gold trade between Africa and Europe.
In 1487, Bartholomew Diaz, a Portuguese explorer reached the Southern cape of Africa and called it the Cape of Good Hope.
March 1498, Vasco da Gama reached Malindi on the East African Coast. The same year he arrived in Calicut, India and became the first European to sail directly from Europe to India.
PORTUGUESE MOTIVES IN AFRICA
The Portuguese had social and economic motives for coming to Africa, their main motives are as follows;
- ECONOMIC MOTIVES
- Finding sea route to India, in the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks had occupied a large part of the Middle East, blocking the overland trade route between India and Europe. Therefore Europeans could not get much valued silk, spices and Gold from Asia. The Portuguese came to Africa as they attempted to find a sea route through which they could trade with India.
- Trade, The Portuguese wanted to trade with Africans and replace the Arab middlemen who took African goods to Europe. Portuguese traders got valuable items such as ivory, gold and gum from Africa and sold them profitably in Europe. In exchange they brought European cloth, copper and brass items to the Africans. This trade helped to strengthen the Portuguese economy in the 15th century.
- Creating Portuguese Trade Empire, Portugal wanted to dominate the trade between Asia, Africa and Europe and creating a trading empire. To achieve this the Portuguese had to overcome the Arab traders who dominated the trade. In addition it was necessary to prevent other European nations from colonizing the African coast because the world interfere with Portuguese trading interests.
- Exploiting of African resources, Portugal was a poor country, so Portuguese were in search of resources that could bring them wealth and recognition in Europe. So they established settlements and plantations on the Islands of Sao tome and Principle and they used African labor to grow sugar cane there. The produced products were exported to Europe and America.
- Establishment of strategic ports, Along the East African coast there were many natural harbors that could serve as stop over point for Portuguese ships. The sailors could rest and restock their supplies at those harbors. Portuguese built forts at some of those harbor in order to protect their trade from Arabs and other European competitors. For example of such forts are Elimina Castle in Modern days Ghana and Fort Jesus in Mombasa Kenya.
- SOCIAL MOTIVES
- Adventure, Some Portuguese explorers visited Africa in search of Adventure, through their advanced ships building and Navigation skills enabled them to travel far and wide in search of new land to explore. These voyages were supported by the leader in Portugal especially Prince Henry The navigator.
- Spreading Christianity, The Portuguese felt that it was their duty to spread the Christian faith and reduce the influence of Islam along the coast of Africa.
- Search for the King Prester John, There was a rumors that this Christian King named Prester John whose Kingdom was believed to be somewhere around Ethiopia in North East Africa. The Portuguese wanted to find this King and form alliance with him against the Muslim.