• John H. Parry
Part of the Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


Between 1420 and 1460 Madeira and the Azores were settled by Portuguese adventurers, and a series of Portuguese expeditions explored the West African coast as far south as Sierra Leone. Most of these expeditions—at least those of which record remains—were undertaken by the command, or with the encouragement, of Prince Henry of Portugal, the “Navigator,” most famous of the precursors and inspirers of the Reconnaissance. The waters between Cape St. Vincent, the Canaries, and the northwest coast of Morocco were already known in his day to adventurous Portuguese fishermen. Prince Henry placed gentlemen of his own household in command of the ships, and set them definite geo-graphical objects to be reached and passed. Thus from the habit of making fishing and casual trading voyages along a relatively short stretch of coast, there developed a program of progressive, though intermittent, exploration much further south. In the extract quoted here, Azurara, the contemporary chronicler of Prince Henry’s achievements, lists the motives which impelled the Prince to support these enterprises. They were the traditional motives of an orthodox medieval prince. Even the last—Prince Henry’s desire to fulfill the predictions of his horoscope—was a conventional late medieval attitude, and a reminder that in his day astronomical knowledge was still more commonly applied to fortune-telling than to navigation. Azurara, it is true, wrote as a panegyrist in Prince Henry’s lifetime; but that is all the more reason for supposing that he emphasized traits in which Henry himself took pride—his rigid piety, his personal asceticism, his obsession with the idea of the Crusade.


Woollen Cloth Cape Verde Island Guinea Coast West AFRICA West African Coast 
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List of Works Cited

  1. Gomes Eannes de Azurara, ed. Charles Raymond Beazley and Edgar Prestage. The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea, 2 vols., London, 1896.Google Scholar
  2. G. R. Crone, ed.: The Voyages of Cadamosto, London, 1937.Google Scholar
  3. Duarte Pacheco Pereira, ed. and trans. George H. T. Kimble: Esmeraldo de situ orbis, London, 1937.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Parry

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