A History of Spain and Portugal
Volume 1
Stanley G. Payne

Chapter Twelve
Sixteenth-Century Portugal

[224] The expansion first began to have noticeable domestic effects on Portuguese during the reign of Joâo II, when the gold from the Guinea coasts and profits from other trade and enterprise produced a wave of prosperity among the minority involved in overseas activity. If the Portuguese expansion was less dependent on foreign assistance and investment than was that of Castile, it was also less "popular," in that Portuguese activity and commerce were stringently regulated by the crown, functioning under the monopolies of the Casa da Guiné and the subsequent Casa da India established for the eastern trade. Given the small amount of capital in Portugal, opportunities for participation were inevitably limited. Unlike their counterparts in Castile, many Portuguese aristocrats were not at all reluctant to involve themselves in commerce as well as piracy. Portuguese maritime expansion was to a large degree led by aristocrats. Those of the middle-class who achieved success were in turn co-opted into the nobility, and the whole process remained largely under the economic control of crown and aristocracy. Consequently the prosperity of Portuguese enterprise in the late-fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had comparatively little effect on the structure of Portuguese society. Monopoly military commerce overseas did not develop an independent bourgeoisie but enriched the elite of a still quasi-medieval society.

[225] Restoration of Strong Central Authority under Joâo II (1477/1481-1495)

Joâo II, "the perfect prince," raised the power of the Portuguese throne to a new height. He was the Portuguese equivalent of the late fifteenth-century "new monarchs," paralleled by such rulers as Henry Tudor, Louis XI of France, and Fernando II of Aragón. After the slack reign of his father, Joâo II lost no time in reasserting the sovereignty of royal law and administration, which was ratified by the Cortes. The practice of appointing royal corregedores to supervise affairs in towns and larger districts was extended, and the broader administrative positions (adiantados) held by aristocrats in the south were taken over by royal ouvidores (judges). Joâo II broke the power of the duke of Bragança, whose house held sovereignty over fifty towns and who controlled a strong private army. After numerous intrigues with the Castilians to compromise the Portuguese crown, Bragança was brought to trial and beheaded in Evora. A similar fate befell the duke of Viseu, first cousin to the king, who was dispatched by Joâo himself. The growth of royal sovereignty and the cowing of the high aristocracy was greeted with general approval by urban leaders and the lower classes. Joâo II made no effort to reduce the social and economic status of the aristocracy, however. His concern was simply to subordinate it politically and juridically to the crown.
Joâo II carried on an active diplomacy with the west European powers, designed to keep Portugal out of European wars and assure its monopoly over west African trade and exploration. This policy was completely successful, and it was during his reign that the foundations of the sixteenth-century thalassocracy, as explained in chapter 10, began to be clearly laid.

Manuel I the Fortunate (1495-1521)

D. Manuel inherited the strong royal position built by his cousin and predecessor, Joâo II, who had left no direct heirs. During his reign all the fruits of a century of trading, exploration, planning, and hardship were harvested, and before his death the boundaries of the thalassocracy had been extended beyond the east coast of Asia. Manuel I was less hard and cunning than Joâo II, but he had many fewer obstacles to face. By 1470, the barren adventures and aristocratic favoritism of Afonso V had reduced the royal income to a level lower than at the beginning of the century, but the thrift and initiative of Joâo II, combined with the Guinea trade, had increased the royal income greatly. Expanded gold trade with Guinea made Manuel, in the [226] words of envious Venetian merchants, "the king of gold," and his wealth was compounded in the second half of his reign by profits from the eastern spice trade. Thus Manuel was able to be much more generous than Joâo II, but he did not altogether abandon the positive aspects of the latter's domestic policy.
Dom Manuel's attitude toward the nobility was lenient. He completed the systematization of the social categories of the aristocracy and turned many of its leading families into a dependent court nobility rather than into a separate military landed aristocracy, as was done in later times by centralizing rulers elsewhere. Nevertheless he also resumed the policy of alienating large amounts of income to favored nobles. The number of aristocrats in the royal household increased greatly during the reigns of Manuel I and his son Joâo III, as table 2 illustrates.

Table 2.
Number of Nobles in the Royal Household, Afonso V to Joâo III
Afonso V 1,092
Joâo II 264
Manuel I 894
Joâo III 2,493
Source: Dicionario de História de Portugal (Lisbon, 1963-71), 3:153.

The efforts of the crown to unify the administrative and fiscal structure of the kingdom reached a climax under Manuel I. Revision of all the local foral charters, begun under the regent D. Pedro and speeded up under Joâo II, was completed in 1498, eliminating many special local privileges and bringing tax obligations up to date. A revised compilation of Portuguese law, with a revision of town and council charters, was eventually completed in the Ordenaçoes Manuelinas of 1521.
Through profit from trade and through improved tax collection, Manuel was able to greatly increase the royal income without levying new taxes. The royal monopoly of overseas trade was tightened, and the bureaucracy expanded considerably. Portugal achieved, in the functioning of the royal Casa dos Contos, a more centralized financial system than Castile, and introduced a system of double-entry bookkeeping sooner. In Portugal as in Castile, the crown took over the masterships of the military crusading orders, with their large landed wealth. Royal centralization increased still more in 1506 when the municipal council of Lisbon, the Casa dos Vintecuatro, composed of representatives of guilds, was suppressed after an anti-Jewish outburst.
Manuel was a sober king, usually diligent, though given to occasional displays of vanity and caprice. He continued his predecessor's [227] policy of avoiding involvement in European struggles. The second half of his reign was the most prosperous period in Portuguese history. During this time, Portuguese art and architecture reached their apex; the style of the early sixteenth century has subsequently been dubbed Manueline by art historians. Though expressed in painting and goldworking, its principal channel was architecture. Manueline form was a post-Gothic blend of solid construction and robust, elaborate decoration with polycentric roofs and octagonal arches that foreshadowed the baroque.
Decline of the Portuguese Cortes

Table 3.
Periodicity of the Portuguese Cortes, 1383-1557

Ruler Years reigned Cortes summoned
Joâo I (1383-1433) 50 25
Duarte (1433-1438) 5 4
Afonso V (1438-1481) 43 22
Joâo II (1481-1495) 14 4
Manuel I (1495-1521) 26 4
Joâo III (1521-1557) 36 3

The growth of royal power and income at the end of the fifteenth century made it possible to dispense with frequent meetings of the Portuguese Cortes, which on the average had convened biennially during most of the fifteenth century. The increase in other sources of income and the regularization of tax collection under Joâo II and Manuel I gave the crown increasing independence. Moreover, the growing institutionalization and bureaucratization of a central government made the crown more politically self-sufficient. Since the reign of Joâo I, there had been a formal royal council for policy discussion and by the end of the fifteenth century there were professional administrators and officers to deal with or advise upon most of the problems of state. The increasing rarity of Cortes meetings is shown graphically in table 3. In 1525, Manuel's son and successor, Joâo III, informed the Cortes that henceforth they would be summoned only once every ten years.

Portuguese Humanism

Portuguese intellectuals contributed in only minor ways to the revival of classical literary and philological studies in the fifteenth and sixteenth [228] centuries. Given the small size and cultural backwardness of the country, this marginal participation is not surprising. Since Portuguese schools were at best second-rate, most Portuguese humanists were educated abroad. Altogether some eight hundred Portuguese students attended the University of Salamanca during the first half of the sixteenth century, though qualitatively the influence of the University of Paris was perhaps even more significant. The surplus wealth of Portugal was concentrated on overseas expeditions and aristocratic consumption, and there were neither the funds for nor the interest in humanist studies found in most west European countries. Hence only a few outstanding scholars, such as Damiao de Gois and the Gouveia brothers, emerged in Portugal. Among Portuguese humanist scholars as among medieval theologians, a number of the most important developed their careers almost entirely in foreign countries and their work was never published in Portugal.
The publishing industry developed fairly steadily in sixteenth-century Portugal, and the largest annual rate of book publication was reached in the 1560s. By the 1570s, however, Portuguese education, scholarship, and publishing had all entered a phase of decline. The cultural flowering of Portugal never equalled that of contemporary Castile, and it began to fade much earlier.
Portugal's main contribution to western renascence culture lay in the applied sciences, particularly in navigation, in contributions to geographical knowledge, and in the study of foreign cultures. A significant number of works published in Portuguese during the sixteenth century transmitted the first knowledge Europe had of sub-Saharan Africa and of southern and eastern Asia.


Portuguese Catholicism had in general been affected by the same influences for reform and renewed spirituality that were felt in Castile during the late Middle Ages. From the fourteenth century the Franciscans, particularly, had won a following with their emphasis on a more personal and even mystical experience of religion. The new cult of the Holy Spirit stressed the spiritual, rather than the institutional or intellectual, qualities of religious life.
Nevertheless, such reformist influences were not felt as intensively as in Castile and did not lead to a Catholic pre-reformation equalling that of the larger Hispanic kingdom. Perhaps the principal new theological influence in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Portugal was hyper-orthodox Llullism. Similarly, less reform of clerical practices [229] and behavior was attempted, while a growing tendency to legalize bastards and common-law marriages in lay society during the fifteenth century has been argued to indicate less concern for churchly standards among the people as a whole.

However much practice may have fallen short of the ideal, there is no doubt that sixteenth-century Portugal felt a national sense of Catholic mission almost as keen as that of Castile. Charged by the papacy with the task of carrying Christendom to the other side of the world, the Portuguese conceived their national expansion as creating for them the role of Alferes da Fé-"Standardbearer of the Faith." The prosperity of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries made possible the foundation of new schools, lay and secular, raising the educational level of the clergy somewhat. During the sixteenth century, the last major compendia of scholastic theology were developed at Salamanca and Coimbra. Hundreds of Portuguese priests and monks served as missionaries in the thalassocracy, in most cases losing their lives in the process. Theirs was the outstanding effort of sixteenth-century Portuguese Catholicism, laying the basis for a narrow but enduring Catholic society in the Portuguese colonies. The practices of the clergy at home were improved little, however, and by the middle of the century complaints of corruption, immorality, and ignorance began to increase once more. The Portuguese church was comparatively less democratic than Castile's, and its upper ranks more completely dominated by the nobility and attendant favoritism.

The major religious issue of the period was the question of Portuguese Jewry. During the late Middle Ages, the Jewish community of Portugal had played somewhat the same role as had that of Castile, though it was proportionately smaller. Jewish merchants and financiers held much the same crucial economic positions and Jewish artisans were very important in the limited manufactures of the kingdom. As elsewhere, the Jews were quite unpopular but received special protection from the crown, which was frequently in need of their financial assistance.
At the time the Castilian Inquisition was established there was very little pressure for a similar institution in Portugal. After the edict of expulsion in 1492, some 60,000 Castilian Jews crossed into Portugal, where they were accepted on liberal terms by Manuel I, though they swelled the Jewish proportion of the Portuguese population to possibly as much as 5 percent. Four years later, however, D. Manuel negotiated an important marriage alliance with the Catholic Kings. One of their chief terms for the marriage of a Spanish princess with the Portuguese monarch was that Portugal complement their ethno-religious policy by expelling all Jews and Muslims who refused Christian [230] baptism. The comparatively tolerant Manuel, however, had little interest in enforcing this edict. Only a minority of the 80,000 or more Jews in Portugal left the kingdom, a large group departing after a massacre of Jews in Lisbon in 1506. Most accepted a vague, nominal conversion, becoming cristâos-novos (new Christians), and all legal discrimination against them was abolished in 1507.
Some three decades passed before the crown developed the determination to press the issue of minority heterodoxy. The reasons for the founding of the Inquisition in Portugal are less clear and apparently even more complicated than in the case of Castile. At least four factors were involved. 1) There was a climate of religious compulsion, paranoia, and ethnocentrism brought on by the struggles of the Protestant Reformation and the example of Castile, as well as by the expanded warfare with renascent Muslim forces in Morocco and elsewhere. 2) The nominal cristâo-novo minority was large, proportionately larger than in Castile. Many accepted Catholicism sincerely, but others remained Jews. 3) The cristâos-novos comprised the bulk of the Portuguese middle classes and remained the principal financiers, entrepreneurs, and craftsmen in the kingdom. They were virtually the only social and economic competition to the dominant elite, the military landed aristocracy, whose preeminence was otherwise uncontested. Hence it has been argued that the Portuguese Inquisition, more directly than that of Castile, was founded to eliminate the wealth and socioeconomic influence of the only non-aristocratic elite in the kingdom. 4) The Portuguese Inquisition was meant to give the crown greater control over the hierarchy and clergy of the church, establishing a degree of supervision over the church seigneuries and providing an instrument to attempt the reform of the clergy, some of whom in Portugal remained dissolute and corrupt.
The papacy issued the first bull for the establishment of a Portuguese inquisition in 1531, but wealthy cristâos-novos intervened to win temporary pardon from Rome for alleged crypto-Judaizers. A second bull was obtained by the crown in 1536, but its powers were temporarily revoked by the papacy in 1544 after evidence of gross abuse, and it was not fully reestablished until 1547. During the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Portuguese Inquisition showed itself to be more zealous than its Spanish counterpart. According to the best investigation of its records, 1,379 people were burned between 1543 and 1684. This was more than the Spanish total for the same period, which was considerably less than a thousand, and was much higher in proportion to the population. In Portugal, however, the Inquisition was even more exclusively directed against cristâos-novos than in Spain, for in Portugal there were no Protestants [231] at all, not even the handful to be found in Castile and Catalonia. The animus against cristaos-novos was if anything more intense, perhaps because in Portugal they were proportionately more numerous as a result of the Spanish immigration.
In the process, the Catholic orthodoxy of Portugal was reinforced, the social and economic dominance of the aristocracy solidified, and the prospects for the development of a prosperous and independent middle class in Portugal greatly retarded. Persecution of the cristâos-novos reduced Portuguese economic resources at a time when the country was facing increased difficulty meeting the military and economic challenges of empire. The cristâo-novo population of Portugal was by no means eradicated, however. Though a rash of limpeza de sangue ("purity of blood") regulations were passed in Portugal, as in Castile, to exclude descendents of Jews from all major positions, "new Christian" money was more than acceptable to a steadily impoverished aristocracy. Intermarriage proceeded at a rapid rate, and by the seventeenth century probably most families of social or economic prominence in Portugal counted some Jewish ancestry.
Despite the unquestioning religious orthodoxy of the Portuguese, political and financial relations between the Portuguese crown and the papacy were occasionally strained. Ever since the inquirioes that had been conducted three hundred years earlier, the crown had endeavored, often without success, to gain greater control over appointments to the church hierarchy. From the mid-fourteenth century, the crown had held the beneplácito regio, the right to confirm and ratify official proclamations of the church leadership, but even in the sixteenth century it did not gain the full control of patronage achieved by the Spanish crown. Taxation of church rents remained a major bone of contention. In the sixteenth century, church income in Portugal was about 50 percent greater than the domestic income of the crown, but much of it was not regularly taxable. In addition, the crown was interested in gaining power to regulate the clergy. During the sixteenth century, more and more able-bodied men in Portugal without real religious vocation or training entered the clergy to achieve a bureaucratic niche and avoid military or naval service. D. Manuel's heir, Joâo III, was eager also to take steps to reduce the immorality of the clergy.
During the subsequent reign of D. Sebastiao (1557-1578), coinciding with the flowering of the Counter-Reformation, the most important new religious influence was the Jesuit order. Jesuits achieved a strong position, especially in education, and Portuguese Jesuits opened a second university at Evora in 1558 and remained the major single influence in Portuguese education for the next two centuries.

[232] The Thalassocracy

The golden age of the spice trade from the Portuguese thalassocracy was the three decades 1510-1540. The royal mercantile consulate, the Casa da India, which was established about 1503 to regulate the eastern trade, maintained a royal monopoly on the trade in pepper, cloves, and cinnamon, and levied a nominal 30 percent tax on the profits of regulated trade in other articles. For about thirty years, from 1503 to 1535, the Portuguese breakthrough to the east substantially reduced the volume of Venice's Levantine trade, hitherto the main source of oriental spices for Europe. By 1510, the crown was gaining a million cruzados per year from the spice trade alone, and it was this profit which led François I of France to dub Manuel le rol épicier-"the grocer king." The second major source of overseas wealth, the gold trade with the Guinea coast, fell into decline after 1521, however, because of renewed competition in northwest Africa, especially from a resurgent Morocco. Furthermore, after a decade or so the volume of Portuguese spice exports was so great that it began to depress the spice market in western Europe, forcing prices downward. Finally, after about 1535, Venice began to rebuild its own trade as east Mediterranean middleman for oriental products, and competition became more severe.
Ultimately, Portugal lacked the resources to maintain and develop its military and commercial position. The costs of the thalassocracy were enormous, and rose yearly, as military pressure in the East became heavier. The Portuguese maritime expansion did not rest upon a broad, expansive domestic economy capable of accumulating and investing large amounts of capital. It was more in the nature of a series of royal military expeditions. The most lucrative commerce was monopolized by the crown and did not serve to foster the growth of a large and productive middle class. Profits were absorbed primarily by the court and aristocracy, which occupied the best positions in the thalassocracy, and hence income was drained off by consumption, leaving little to reinvest to meet the mounting costs of warfare, trade, and competition. By the 1530s it was becoming increasingly difficult to raise loans, even for the crown. Portuguese merchants lacked the resources to distribute their imports on a large scale, and much was sold wholesale at a reduced profit to Italian and German merchants. By the middle of the century the quantity of spices being sold through the traditional Middle Eastern channels to Italian merchants was almost as large as before the Portuguese breakthrough, and after that time Portuguese profits were considerably reduced.
The cost in material and manpower of the carreira da India (passage to India) was enormous. It is doubtful that Portuguese naval [233] resources numbered more than 300 vessels at any one time, but it has been calculated that altogether, during the half-century 1500-1549, approximately 472 ships left for the east, carrying possibly as many as 180,000 men during that time span. By the time huge four-deck carracks were constructed, it was feasible to carry as many as 500 to 600 men on an outward-bound voyage though the voyage might last eight or nine months. Sanitary conditions on the long voyages were abominable, and it was no novelty to lose at least half the crew on a round trip.
The best estimates have been that an annual average of some 2,400 Portuguese left the home country for overseas during the course of the sixteenth century, making a total of nearly a quarter million. By contrast, the kingdom of Castile, with five times Portugal's population, sent only some 1,500 a year to its American colonies during that period. Few of the Portuguese who shipped out ever returned in good health; many did not even survive long enough to take up a career in Asia. Much of the Spanish American population was concentrated in temperate regions where the climate was reasonably salubrious, but the Portuguese were stationed in pestiferous tropical posts with inordinate mortality rates. Though the Portuguese emigration, almost exclusively of healthy young men, drained the vitality of the home population, it was scarcely sufficient to compensate for the extremely high death rate in the thalassocracy. whose strongholds were always thinly held.
A contemporary source in 1600 listed Portuguese in Asian ports as numbering 16,000, half of them soldiers and half casados (married men, meaning civilian traders and settlers). This figure may well have been too high; certainly the number of Portuguese in Asia during most of the sixteenth century was not so large. It is probable that there were rarely more than 10,000 Portuguese in the most important area, from Ormuz to Ceylon. By 1515, the fighting strength had increased to 4,000 men, but there was always a tendency for soldiers to drift away either as well-paid mercenaries in the employ of Asian princes, who prized them highly, or as semi-independent merchants or freebooters. In later years, there were rarely more than 5,000 soldiers in the East, though nearly all able-bodied civilians served in a militia in times of emergency. About 2,000 Portuguese lived in southeast Asia during the late sixteenth century (the East Indies, Malacca, and Macau), but nearly all of them were engaged in purely commercial activity.
Portuguese society in the East, as later in Brazil, was built largely on the basis of mestiçagem (miscegenation), together with the incorporation of a certain number of native Christian converts. It has been calculated that by the end of the sixteenth century the Portuguese [234] could augment their forces in the East with militia units of 4,000 lascarios or peôes (native mercenaries), 10,000 armed slaves, and 20,000 cristâos da terra (converts and half-castes).
Living conditions in the tropics brought an even higher death rate than the constant fighting in which the Portuguese were involved. Nevertheless, the Portuguese imagination was captivated by dreams of fame and wealth, especially wealth, and for several decades there were often more aspirants for extremely hazardous voyages to the Indies than could be accommodated. At first, crewmen had come especially from the Algarve, but after the beginning of the sixteenth century, when large numbers of men were needed, the main source of soldiers and sailors was the heavily populated Minho district.
During the second half of the century, those directing Portuguese activity in the East became even more obsessed with commercial profit. which brought sounder business activity but often led to profligate maritime practices. Huge carracks were constructed, ranging up to a thousand tons, becoming the largest merchant vessels in the world at that time. The degree of overloading on homeward-bound ships reached fantastic proportions. Deck space was crammed with boxes and crates, other goods were tied over the sides, and many ships were so heavily laden that they were almost under water before they left port.
Though the search for Christians as well as spices was given in the chronicles as the original motive for the Portuguese presence in India, for several decades little was done by the Portuguese to evangelize the East; they were too busy establishing their military and commercial position. The first major effort was made by the Jesuits, beginning in 1542. and from that time proselytizing monks became increasingly active and influential in the major Portuguese ports. During the second half of the century the most numerous were the Franciscans, and at times as many as five hundred members of this order, from Portugal and elsewhere, were laboring in the East. The only lasting conversions, however, were made in the enclaves of Portuguese civil and military domination, and the statistics for converts given by the Spanish Basque St. Francis Xavier and others cannot be taken at face value. In Brazil the main attempt was made by the Jesuits, who dispatched some twenty-eight missions to Portuguese America between 1549 and 1604.
The Portuguese cannot be said to have shown much respect, in the beginning, for native society and religion in the East. Hindu temples in the Goa district were closed in 1540 and the Portuguese Inquisition was introduced twenty years later. After the Synod of Damper in 1599, the native Nestorian variant of Christianity adhered to by small groups on the west coast of India was proscribed in the Portuguese [235] enclaves and driven underground. In other areas, however, when the local balance of power dictated, the Portuguese followed a more prudent course.
The basis of Portuguese strength in the East was sea power and the disunity of the native states. During the course of the sixteenth century, the power balance in India shifted greatly in favor of the Muslim forces, always the strongest foes of the Portuguese. The rise of the great Moghul empire exerted heavy pressure after mid-century, but the Moghul rulers did not develop naval forces to match the Portuguese, and the long siege of Goa (1565-1571) was withstood successfully.
Despite the size of the Portuguese bureaucracy in the sixteenth century, administrative control over the thalassocracy was never well developed, and the office of viceroy of India never functioned as effectively for Portugal as similar posts in America did for Castile. The Castilian institution of the audiencia was unknown, and the degree of corruption was probably greater in the Portuguese empire than in that of Castile. Distances involved were longer, and there was less administrative experience and skill to draw upon in the Portuguese elite. The situation was compounded after mid-century by a general crisis of leadership in Portuguese society as a whole. Throughout this period, discipline among the Portuguese in the East was poor, and the thalassocracy never operated as a single coordinated organism. Portuguese adventurers and entrepreneurs became increasingly autonomous in their small enclaves, and had to rely on the local half-caste society they were engendering and on their armed slaves. During the second half of the century, local intra-Asian trade became more and more important for the Portuguese in the East. A variety of subsidiary channels were opened, especially for Indian textiles. Though the commerce with China and Japan flourished for only fifty years or so, Portuguese local trade in south Asia was solidly established by the close of the century and had indeed become the major source of income for Portuguese in this part of the world.
In contrast, though its volume continued to increase, the eastern trade became proportionately less significant for metropolitan Portugal during the second half of the century. It had never done much to stimulate Portuguese production and exports at home; outbound Portuguese vessels were often deadheaded, loaded mainly with ballast and men, since Portuguese goods had little value in the East. Spices and other imports were paid for by bullion at first derived partly from Portuguese Africa but later mainly from Spanish America, or the imports were exchanged for other Asian goods.
The thalassocracy became increasingly costly to Portuguese society as the century wore on. Not only was the loss of life on the naval [236] routes and in the Moroccan conflicts very great, but it resulted in a process of inverse selection. The sturdiest, most daring men left in large numbers and comparatively few of them returned. Despite the importance of naval enterprise to Portugal, ordinary seamen were treated with contempt, and almost nothing was done to guarantee their training. The shortage of trained sailors in the second half of the century became severe and was reflected in growing shipping losses. The loss rate on the eastern voyages between 1500 and 1550 was close to 12 percent but rose to between 16 and 18 percent in the years from 1550 to 1650. Losses were due in part to competition from other European powers: French piracy had become a problem from the l490s, and by the end of the sixteenth century conflict with Holland and England caused heavy losses. The situation was aggravated by the scarcity or high price of good materials in domestic ship construction, declining quality of workmanship, and poorer leadership.
Toward the end of the century. naval production in both Spain and Portugal was increasingly handicapped by lack of materials. Wood and other naval stores had more and more to be imported from northern Europe, giving Holland and England a natural advantage, for their vessels could sometimes be constructed for about one-third the cost to Hispanic naval yards. Ships were built in Portuguese India as early as 1510. Teak, a superior wood, was available there, and labor was plentiful and of a reasonably high quality, but other supplies were lacking and qualified engineers were in short supply, especially after the close of the century. Even so, a certain number of large ships of reasonably good quality continued to be built in Portuguese Asia until about the middle of the eighteenth century.
An equally grave handicap to Portugal was the failure of its social framework to adjust to the increasingly rigorous demands of maritime activity during the second half of the sixteenth century. The dominance of the aristocracy did not lessen but grew more complete. The political and social patterns of Portugal and Castile still required that leadership normally be given to noblemen rather than to better-qualified professionals. This situation was not limited to Castile and Portugal, but it was being overcome by the foremost maritime power of the late sixteenth century, Holland. Command and performance in Dutch naval enterprise were increasingly dominated by strictly technical considerations.
After the middle decades of the century, the Portuguese enclaves in Asia were left increasingly on their own, and the flow of manpower diminished. Later, in the seventeenth century, most of the men sent out would be jailbirds and rabble rather than the sturdy and ambitious adventurers of the first generations. As time passed, surprisingly little echo of the carreira da india would be found in Portuguese folk [237] literature and culture. In one way, the impact of Portugal on Asia was greater than that of Asia on Portugal, for a sort of pidgin Portuguese became the commercial lingua franca of the south Asian seas for the next two centuries.
The Atlantic islands -- Madeira, the Azores, and Cape Verdes --  were more important to Portuguese life, for they became authentic extensions of metropolitan Portugal, incorporated politically and economically into the affairs of the mother country. Madeira proved to be one of the most profitable of all Portuguese possessions, though later surpassed in importance by the larger island chains. The introduction of American corn was eventually important in making possible the full settlement of the Cape Verdes, where cultivation was more difficult. The outstanding quality of Portuguese society in the Atlantic islands was that it became the most successfully interbred society of white and black people anywhere in the world. Negro slaves, at first imported from Angola, were freed over the course of three centuries, many of them intermarrying with peasant immigrants from Portugal. Only in the Cape Verde Islands was this carried to the point of almost complete mixing and equality, more so than in Madeira and the Azores. In general, however, the racial history of the Atlantic islands developed at variance with the pattern in all other parts of the Portuguese thalassocracy, where a strict policy of white racial supremacy was the rule.
In the late sixteenth century, it became increasingly clear that the real future of Portuguese commerce and colonialism lay not in the Indian Ocean and Asia but in the Atlantic Ocean and Brazil. The colonization of Brazil had begun slowly in 1531. The first economic attraction, Brazilian wood, gave way, as in Madeira, to sugar production, which began to achieve significant proportions after about 1570.
The rise of Brazil in turn led to intensified Portuguese activity on the Angolan coast of southwest Africa, where Portuguese penetration began in earnest in 1575. Though the Portuguese also sought silver deposits, their main interest was in slaves for Brazilian plantations, and later for Spanish America as well. The demand was great enough to encourage the shipping of some five thousand slaves a year to the western hemisphere by the 1570s, and the slave trade spread to the Moçambique coast of southeast Africa as well as expanding in Guinea. Most slaves were not captured by the Portuguese but simply bought from native slavers and enemy tribes. The death rate on the Portuguese African slave trade was high, not merely among slaves but also among crewmen on the unsanitary slave trips, but the profits to owners and slavemasters were great, making the slave trade one of the most lucrative of Portuguese oceanic commerce. Portuguese slavers had a head start in this deadly business, and traders from other [238] western countries did not provide major competition until the seventeenth century.

Portugal under Joâo III (1521-1557)

Joâo III ascended the throne at the height of Portuguese power, but before the end of his reign this power had already noticeably begun to decline. Like his father Manuel, Joâo III "the Pious" was a serious and diligent prince. He took personal responsibility for directing affairs of state and lent them much attention, but he lacked the imagination--and also the advisers--to institute the major policy changes that might have maintained Portugal's position. In domestic affairs he continued to expand the scope of royal administration. By this time the nobles posed no threat to royal sovereignty, but their social and economic position was if anything further enhanced during the reign. Much of the profit from overseas enterprise was spent in conspicuous consumption at court and in aristocratic luxuries rather than in the investments needed to meet the multiple responsibilities of empire. Joâo III was a Maecenas, and Portuguese culture reached its height in the work of such humanists and writers as Gois, Gil Vicente, and Luis de Camoens.
The domestic economy, however, entered a phase of relative stagnation. Certain domestic export products, such as wine, olive oil, and fruit, maintained their volume, but cultivation of the key staple, wheat, declined as land was taken out of use. This was due to partial depopulation in some rural areas in central Portugal, as a combination of low wages, seigneurial oppression, and the lure of an easier life drew peasants to the larger cities or the empire. The food problem was made worse by intermittent bad harvests and several severe plagues during the reign, requiring food imports that weighed heavily on the exchange balance. The population of Portugal, which had expanded to possibly as many as 1,400,000 early in the century, ceased to increase and for the rest of the century was in danger of declining.

By contrast, Lisbon grew enormously. It became the mecca of Portuguese society for both the wealthy and the poor or ambitious who wanted to attach themselves to the center of wealth in the kingdom. The royal monopoly system concentrated trade disproportionately in Lisbon, leading to hypertrophy of the chief port and a decline of most of the small coastal cities. By 1550, Lisbon had reached a population of 100,000 (10,000 of them African slaves), making it the largest city in the peninsula. (Seville did not equal that figure until the l580s.) By 1620, Lisbon had grown to approximately 165,000; it was the third largest city in western Europe, after Paris [239] and Naples. Leisured wealth, a flowering of the arts, the presence of exotic articles from Africa and the East, and its African servant class made it perhaps the most colorful city in Europe. Lisbon more and more became a parasite on the Portuguese economy and empire, for rather than being a center for new enterprise, it was increasingly a center for consumption of profits.

At one of the increasingly rare meetings of the Portuguese Cortes, in 1525, there were strong protests about the waste incurred by court parasites, the increasing appointment of nobles to well-paying sinecures, and similar abuses. Corruption in administration was rampant, and the crown made only feeble efforts to restrain it. Measures of economic reform were halting and intermittent. There were some modest attempts to restrict the powers of aristocratic and church seigneuries and bring more land back under cultivation. On several occasions during times of famine in the countryside the excise taxes on food were suspended, and a series of sumptuary decrees tried to restrict conspicuous consumption and encourage productive labor, but had little effect.

As early as 1506 some 65 percent of the state income was derived from taxes on overseas activity. After 1540 the total income began to decline, though the proportion derived from overseas revenue dropped only slightly. The main problems did not come from the costs of maintaining the eastern trade but from exorbitant and futile expenses in Morocco combined with waste at home. The failure to develop a competent entrepreneurial bourgeoisie was accompanied by lack of productive investment and an inadequate commercial substructure, leaving Portugal unable to derive full profit from its overseas trade. During the reign of Joâo III only about one-third of Portuguese commercial enterprise was actually financed by foreigners, but foreign merchants and financiers received a higher proportion of the profits and disposed of a much higher proportion of goods. In 1549 the Portuguese trade center in Antwerp had to be closed because of bankruptcy. By the l550s the crown was desperate to cover its obligations and relied increasingly on foreign finance. By about 1560 the Casa da India, clearing house for the Asian trade, was no longer able to make payments, and by that time the Portuguese monarchy had become, in Garrett Mattingly's phrase, proprietor of "a bankrupt wholesale grocery business."

The Portuguese in Morocco

Throughout this period the major center of Portuguese activity was Morocco, where the main phase of Portuguese expansion had begun in 1471. After the conquest of Ceuta, the chief Portuguese target was [240] the other important coastal city of northern Morocco, Tangier. The expedition of 1437 had ended in disaster, but Alcácer Ceguer, east of Tangier, was taken in 1458, and after Arzila to the southwest was seized in 1471, Tangier was abandoned to the Portuguese, leaving all the northwest coastal region of Morocco under Portuguese control. Subsequently three of the ports on the southern Moroccan coast, only loosely associated with the Moroccan sultanate, accepted Portuguese suzerainty.
During the exciting decade of 1505-1514, at the same time that the thalassocracy was being established in the Indian Ocean, seven new coastal fortresses were built or occupied, and the port of Safim as well, drawing almost the entire coastline of Morocco under Portuguese control. Safim also brought Portugal the commerce of the Suz district of southwest Morocco. Three Catholic bishoprics were established for the Portuguese ports, and a local Moroccan administration functioned under the Portuguese in the Doukkala coastal district west of Marrakesh. One cultural product of Portuguese military and commercial control was the use of aljamia, Portuguese written with Arabic characters. But Portuguese dominion in Morocco rested on slippery ground, for in most port and fortress districts it extended only a few miles inland, without any real foothold in Morocco itself. In general, the Portuguese coastal hegemony cost more than it produced, but was attractive as an outlet for the military aristocracy, imbued with the hybrid crusading ideology made popular by late medieval Hispanic chivalry. There was little manpower and money to divert to Morocco, and most Portuguese posts were poorly manned. They had increasingly to rely on Castilian mercenaries and native Moroccan auxiliaries.
Had the Portuguese dominion concentrated on commercial relations, it might have survived longer, but it remained oriented towards military raiding. The most proficient leader in this was Nuno de Ataide, military governor of the Safim district from 1510 to 1516, who ranged far and wide on raids inland, with the assistance of local Moroccan auxiliaries. The sultan in Marrakesh preferred peace, but Ataide was bent on conquest. This, plus the reaction to the slave trade and slave-raiding based at Agadir, eventually called forth a Muslim counter-crusade. There was strong resistance in the Chaouia district west of Fez, where in 1515 the Portuguese lost 4,000 men in trying to establish themselves at the coastal fortress of Mamora. After many exploits, Ataide himself was killed in 1516 while leading a raid far inland past Marrakesh.
A major Moroccan resurgence began in 1524 when the Sadid dynasty, sweeping in from the Sahara, established itself at Marrakesh. By the l530s, Portuguese fortresses on the central and southern coast [241] were under heavy pressure. In 1534, Joâo III called a royal conference to consider strategic withdrawals and a concentration of Portuguese resources, but the Africanists had their way and the crown continued to try to defend all its far-flung coastal fortresses. After Agadir fell in 1542, however, Safim had to be abandoned the next year, and after five more years only the fortress of Mazago was left to Portugal on the southern coast of Morocco. The new Moroccan dynasty incorporated the Fez district in 1549 and placed heavy pressure on the Portuguese possessions along the northern stretches of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, so that after 1550 only Ceuta, Tangier, and Mazagao remained.

D. Sebastiâo (1557-1578) and the Disaster of Alcázarquivir

At the time of Joâo III's death in 1557, Portuguese resources were sorely taxed. The heir to the throne, D. Sebastiâo, was only three years old. For five years government was directed by the prince's grandmother, D. Catarina, widow of Joâo III. In 1562, a regency council was established under his great-uncle, the Cardinal D. Henrique, and it governed until Sebastiâo was declared of age at fifteen in 1568.
The boy king was poorly educated and of no more than mediocre intelligence, with two passions, war and religion. Though of uncertain health, Sebastiâo was given to violent sports, mainly riding and hunting. He showed no interest in women, even when older, and spurned numerous offers of marriage alliance. Completely impulsive, he was bored by affairs of state and administration and refused to heed any sort of disagreeable counsel. He had no interest in the people and affairs of Portugal and no program for their government and wellbeing. The obsession of his life was the idea of a grand crusade against the infidels, perhaps to India or the Near East, or at the very least through Morocco. The fate of this incompetent, emotionally unbalanced prince has been seen by some historians as a not inappropriate symbolic climax to the history of sixteenth-century Portugal: a nation whose elite had forged far beyond their resources to build a thalassocracy around half the world, lacking the means, policy, or interest to use their resources rationally, wastefully diverting much of their income to conspicuous consumption, yet presuming all the while to maintain society and empire unaltered, bolstered by the ideological assumption that their place in the world was the result of their devotion to "the crusade."
Efforts were made to strengthen the armament of Portuguese merchant vessels, especially after French pirates sacked and held Madeira [242] for two months in 1566. Decrees were issued requiring the movement of Portuguese goods in Portuguese ships whenever possible, to stimulate shipping. In 1570, the system of royal monopolies in the African and Eastern trade was relaxed, though not the general system of regulation.
All the while, D. Sebastiâo was attempting to prepare an invasion of Morocco, but for ten years the steady decline of Portuguese resources made it impossible for him to mount an expedition. His opportunity increased after 1574 when the sultan of Morocco, Muley Muhammed, was deposed by his uncle Muley Abd al-Malik, with some slight help from Turkish forces. In 1577 the port of Arzila, near Tangier, surrendered to Portuguese protection, and Muley Muhammed sought Portuguese assistance to regain his throne. Dom Sebastiâo in turn tried to gain support from both the papacy and Castile against the "Turkish menace" in Morocco, while Muley Abd al-Malik endeavored to buy peace by offering to return the port of Larache to the Portuguese. D. Sebastiâo ignored this offer, in order not to complicate his own invasion plans.
In 1578, with financial assistance from the church, he managed to assemble an expedition of perhaps 14,000 men, including many aristocrats. Hiding his true aim, which was an all-out battle with the Moroccans, he led this force inland from Arzila and on August 4 was met near the town of Alcázarquivir by Muley Abd al-Malik's whole force, which may have numbered as many as 40,000. The Portuguese expedition and its foreign mercenary allies had little chance in a desperate fight. Most were slaughtered, but many of the important nobles of Portugal were taken prisoner. In this "battle of the three kings" all three sovereigns died: the young ruler of Portugal, the elderly sultan, and his deposed nephew. (1)

The Portuguese Succession Crisis and the Union of the Crowns

The death of the king and the slaughter or capture of the flower of the aristocracy threw Portugal into crisis, and there followed two years of confusion and growing economic distress. Collection of a huge ransom to gain the freedom of the captives in Morocco completed the exhaustion of financial resources; jewels, plate, and silverware had to [243] be pawned on a large scale to raise the funds. Domestic leadership had failed, and a power vacuum existed within the kingdom. The late king's sixty-six-year-old great-uncle, Cardinal D. Henrique, was left regent but lived only a year and a half. The strongest claimant to the throne was Felipe II of Spain, for he was the uncle of Sebastiâo and his first wife had been a Portuguese princess. The lower classes were depressed and resentful, and many of the upper classes feared social revolt if strong government were not restored. Thus most of the aristocracy and church hierarchy quickly accepted the candidacy of Felipe II, whose agents distributed large bribes in 1580. He was recognized as king by a meeting of the Portuguese Cortes--the first in nearly three decades--in 1581. The introduction of Habsburg sovereignty was made easier because the Portuguese elite had not lost a sense of broader Hispanic identity. Manuel I had protested when Pope Alexander VI granted Fernando el Católico the title King of Spain on the grounds that Portugal was also part of Spain (the entire peninsula) and Fernando was ruler of only Castile and Aragón. Cultural Castilianization reached extremes in sixteenth-century Portugal, where every educated man was either bilingual or could at least read Castilian, and Camoens had affirmed that "we are all Spaniards."
he Spanish monarchy sought incorporation of the Portuguese crown not only to consummate the long-desired dynastic unification of the peninsula, but because by 1580 Spanish policy was turning strongly toward the Atlantic and western Europe. Despite the economic and military decline of Portugal, the kingdom still had an ocean-going fleet of some consequence. Lisbon was the peninsula's leading city, and Felipe II established his government there for two years, 1581 to 1583. During the preceding half-century, the Portuguese and Castilian economies had become increasingly interconnected and complementary. Silver from Spanish America was indispensable to the balance of Portugal's eastern trade. The Algarve had become so involved in the commerce and shipping of southern Castile that it functioned as a sort of economic colony or appendage of Andalusia.
There was never any question of the institutional incorporation of Portugal into the Castilian system of government. The union of crowns was carried out strictly on the basis of the system that prevailed in the Spanish Habsburg empire, the Aragonese federative system of separate principalities. Felipe II swore not to interfere in the laws, customs, or system of government of Portugal and not to appoint Spaniards to Portuguese offices. This pledge was largely respected during the reigns of Felipe II and Felipe III, and even afterward under Felipe IV, so that the kingdom and its overseas [244] empire remained completely separate and essentially autonomous under the Hispanic crown.
For nearly half a century, this system was fully accepted by the Portuguese upper classes. The only native pretender who continued to seek the throne was a bastard of a younger son of Manuel I who had taken holy orders, Antonio. the prior of Crato. Dom Antonio had the sympathy of the lower classes, who preferred a Portuguese king, but he was easily routed by Spanish troops in 1580. He made two major attempts to gain a foothold in Portugal, once with French help in the Azores in 1582 and later with an English expedition near Lisbon in 1589, but was beaten off both times.


Many in the Portuguese lower classes responded to the loss of independence, and their own economic decline, with the development of a messianic faith that their young king was not dead but would return to lead them. Alternately, in later generations, it was hoped that a new savior, the "desired" or "hidden" king, would restore his people to greatness and prosperity. These messianic hopes have been termed Sebastianism, and they lingered on in various forms into the early nineteenth century, with echoes in Portuguese literature almost to the present day. The first and strongest wave of Sebastianism, from 1580 to about 1600, was influenced by three factors: a) dismay among the lower classes over the loss of independence; b) the influence of the cristâos-novos among the lower middle classes and their great fear that Felipe II would intensify the already rigorous Inquisition in Portugal (though he never did). This led to a rebirth of Jewish-derived messianism centering on the Portuguese, anti-Castilian (and less inquisitorial) savior; and c) the depression of the peasants, squeezed by inflation and seigneurial pressure, with little hope for alleviation of their plight. Their situation was typical of most of the peninsula, and indeed of most of the Mediterranean basin and eastern Europe, by the end of the sixteenth century. In Portugal, the dominance of the seigneurial system was merely ratified by the Castilian hegemony.
Sebastianism may also have been a reflection of the level of popular culture. The Portuguese peasantry were among the most ignorant of the peninsula, and indeed of western Europe. Little benefited by the wealth of empire, which was drained off by the upper classes, they remained extremely superstitious well into the twentieth century. Mythic fixation on the symbol of an intemperate prince was an expression of the saudade (sadness, longing, nostalgia) of a depressed people who had once accomplished great deeds but whose culture, [245] social structure, and natural resources frustrated their transition to a more modern way of life.

The Continuity of Portuguese History under the Habsburg Crown

Sixty years of nominal Habsburg rule provided an era of recuperation for Portugal. The spice trade had begun to decline in mid-century, and the revenue from the eastern empire dropped at least one-third in the years after 1587 but temporarily recovered at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Portugal's position in Brazil expanded steadily. The domestic economy began to grow once more. Exports of domestic wine, olive oil, fruit, and salt mounted, and the growth of the population, temporarily halted or at least slowed after mid-century, resumed. By the middle of the seventeenth century the Portuguese numbered nearly two million.
In the Habsburg period cultural Castilianization reached its height; Castilian was the language of the majority of literary works published in Portugal during these decades. The Habsburg crown actively fostered a new pro-Habsburg high nobility, expanding the number of titled houses in Portugal from about twenty-five in 1580 to sixty-nine by 1640.

None of this, however, had the effect of blurring Portuguese political identity or the sense of Portuguese interests. Autonomy for domestic government and for the Portuguese empire maintained steady continuity of basic Portuguese institutions, and the occasional Habsburg attempts at interference provoked sharp discontent. In the late sixteenth century association with the Habsburg crown seemed to benefit Portugal's primary interests. When that ceased to be the case a half century later, national spirit came to the fore and seized the first good opportunity to end the dynastic association.

Bibliography for Chapter 12

[346] There is no good general study of Portugal or its thalassocracy in the sixteenth century. Joâo Lucio d'Azevedo, Epocas de Portugal económico (Lisbon, 1929), was a pioneering study of phases of Portuguese economic history. On the last Aviz rulers, see Alfredo Pimenta, D. Joâo III (Porto, 1936), and J. M. de Queiroz Velloso, D. Sebastiâo (Lisbon, 1943), and O reinado do Cardenal D. Henrique (Lisbon, 1946). E. W. Bovill, The Battle of Alcazas (London, 1952), narrates the disaster of 1578. The principal student of the Spanish succession is A. Danvila, Felipe II y el rey D. Sebastián (Madrid, 1954), and Felipe II y la sucesión de Portugal (Madrid, 1956). On Sebastianism, see Lucio d'Azevedo, A evoluçao do Sebastianismo (Lisbon, 1916). For social and economic affairs, in addition to the works cited in bibliography 6. see Virginia Rau, Estudos de história económica (Lisbon, 1961).
Sixteenth-century Portuguese Catholicism is treated in J. S. da Silva Dias, Correntes de sentimento religioso em Portugal, 2 vols. (Coimbra, 1960). The major account of the Portuguese Inquisition is by Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho; the American edition is entitled History of the Origins and Establishment of the Portuguese Inquisition (Stanford, 1926). See also A. J. Saraiva's A Inquisiçio portuguesa, rev. ed. (Lisbon, 1963). J. Mendes dos Remedios, Os judeus em Portugal (Coimbra, 1895), concentrates on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The principal study of the Cristâos novos is Lucio d'Azevedo's Historia dos Christâos novos portugueses (Lisbon, 1921).
On Portuguese culture of this period, see Marcel Bataillon, Etudes sur le Portugal au temps de la humanisme (Coimbra, 1952); Joaquim de Carvalho, Estudos sobre a cultura portuguesa do século XVI, 2 vols. (Coimbra, 1947-48); Cardinal Cerejeira, O renascimento em Portugal (Coimbra, 1949); and F. A. Costa Cabral, D. Joâo III a renascença portuguesa (Lisbon, 1914). Robert C. Smith, The Art of Portugal, 1500-1800 (New York, 1968), is an excellent treatment of early modern Portuguese art.
James Duffy, Shipwreck and Empire (Cambridge, 1955), illuminates the carreira da India. Charles R. Boxer has written key works on the Portuguese in the East: The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (Berkeley, 1951); Fidalgos in the Far East, 1550-1770 (The Hague, 1948); and also Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire 1415-1825 (Oxford, 1963). For the early establishment of Portuguese missions, see Antonio da Silva Rego, História das Missoes do Padroado português do Oriente, vol. 1, India, 1500-1542 (Lisbon, 1949). The use of Portuguese as lingua franca in the East is sporadically studied by David Lopes, A expansbo da Língua portuguesa no Oriente durante os séculos XVI, XVII e XVIII (Barcelos, 1936).

Note for Chapter 12

1. It also marked the end of Portuguese expansion in Morocco. Of the four remaining Portuguese towns, Arzila was relinquished by Felipe II in 1589, Ceuta remained with the Spanish crown after the restoration of Portuguese independence in 1640 (and remains Spanish to this day), Tangier was included in the marriage dowry given England's Charles II in 1661, and the last, Mazagâo, was evacuated under siege a century later in 1769.