Explorer Bios: Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama
Da Gama (Source).
  • Vasco da Gama (c. 1460 – 1524) was a Portuguese explorer who led the first European expedition to navigate from Europe to India by sea, arriving at Calicut (Kozhikode) in 1498. He sailed to "discover" and begin taking control of key points around the Indian Ocean trade routes that had long carried spices and other exotic goods to Europe from the East. Da Gama is often cited primarily for the feat of reaching India, yet his brutal treatment of peoples along the way set a horrific example that subsequent Portuguese expeditions to the region would follow. Da Gama launched Portugal's complete, often bloody disruption—and seizure—of maritime world trade that had flourished over the past century, since the Chinese trade fleets of Zheng He in the early 1400s. The result gave Portugal a sudden monopoly on spices and medicines that people across Europe craved, at the expense of Italian and Egyptian merchants who had previously fostered trade across the Mediterranean, as well as merchants and port towns from Africa to Arabia to India and beyond.

This is the latest short bio in a series for our Resources section—more coming soon.

By EnriqueOfMalacca.com.

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Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation
Map of Enrique of Malacca's circumnavigation: Malacca, Lisbon, Seville,
Rio de Janeiro, Puerto San Julián, Guam, Limasawa, Cebu.[1]

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his own language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he was taken as a slave by Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands. More about Enrique of Malacca.

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