The Portuguese in the Age of Discovery 1300-1580

The Portuguese in the Age of Discovery 1300-1580


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The Portuguese in the Age of Discovery 1300-1580 by David Nicolle, Gerry Embleton

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781849088480
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 11/20/2012
Series: Men-at-Arms Series
Pages: 48
Product dimensions: 7.28(w) x 9.74(h) x 0.17(d)

About the Author

David Nicolle, born in 1944, worked in the BBC's Arabic service for a number of years before gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He has written numerous books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Portugal, Spain and the 13th-century Reconquista

the Islamic maritime legacy

the 14th-century English alliance

African and Muslim trading networks

15th-century circumnavigation of Africa and trade with the Indies

16th-century dominance

defeat in Morocco

17th-century Spanish rule

the Dutch wars

Chronology 6

Portuguese Armies Before the Hundred Years' War 10

A new aristocracy

English and French influences

reforms of Fernando I

centralization under the Aviz dynasty

Organization & Recruitment, c.1400-1560 12

From feudal to professional armies

the Military Orders

the fidalgos


conscription for the colonies

maritime recruitment

weak strength and organization of colonial garrisons

Mercenaries & Colonial Forces 17


foreign volunteers

enlisted prisoners

colonial and native troops

Motivation, Training & Morale 20


the crusading tradition






eagerness for combat

Strategy & Tactics 33

'Armed trading'

the networks of coastal enclaves and forts

Tactics: 'amphibious' infantry and naval gunfire support

reinforcement expeditions

Warships, Equipment & Weapons 37

Galleys, caravels and carracks

crews and naval guns

the ordeal of ocean voyages

Arms and armour




Select Bibliography 42

Plate Commentaries 44

Index 48

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