The colonial empires of Spain and Portugal
It is generally believed that the first colony occupied by a Western country in modern times was Ceuta, which was occupied by Portugal in 1415. The port was originally owned by Morocco. In order to put out the local pirates and control the import of West African gold and ivory via Ceuta, Portugal occupied the port of Ceuta after a thorough plan. Later, in order to establish direct contact with the gold producing African black Empire, Portugal went south along the African coast and occupied Madeira, Cape Verde and other West African coastal islands.
As the Renaissance grew in Europe, there was a thirst for commercial capital and wealth. At that time, Europe’s main trade object was the East, especially the silk, precious stones, spices, porcelain and other luxury goods from China, India and the islands of the South Ocean. As trade with the East was monopolized by the Mediterranean commercial republics of Venice and Genoa, Western European countries decided to explore new routes to the East themselves. Portugal and Spain were the first to explore the Eastern route. In 1498 Da Gama reached India by way of the Cape of Good Hope. To ensure that trade with India would not be disrupted by the Mughal Empire, Oman, and the various kingdoms along the Indian Ocean, Portugal established its first colony in Goa, India, in 1510. It built fortresses and armed troops to protect the Portuguese merchants. At the same time, it occupied some islands and coastal points off the coast of Africa as stopover points on its way to India.
Since the shipping route to the east via the Cape of Good Hope was monopolized by Portugal, Spain had to look west for a new route to the East. After Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, Spain launched a campaign of conquest and colonization of the Americas. In a very short period of time, the various empires established by the Indians were destroyed and the vast colonies were established. In 1494, Portugal acquired a large colony east of 50 degrees West longitude in the Americas, which became the future Brazil.
Due to the rich gold and silver in the areas conquered by Spain, large quantities of precious metals flowed into Europe through Spain, stimulating price changes and industrial and commercial development in the rest of Europe. At the same time, the introduction of new consumer goods, such as coffee, cocoa, tea, tobacco, sugar, potatoes, and so on, greatly changed the eating habits of Europeans and led to the growth of demand for these consumer goods, which encouraged Spain and Portugal to vigorously develop the cultivation of tropical cash crops in the vast areas of the newly conquered America.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Britain and France captured the Caribbean islands from the Spanish, and the Netherlands captured the Natal region on Brazil’s northeast coast from Portugal. The introduction of the black slave plantation system, pioneered by the Portuguese in Madeira and Cape Verde Islands in Africa, to the areas controlled by Britain, France and the Netherlands led to a sharp increase in the demand for labor in these colonies. Because of the brutal slaughter of the Native Indians by the colonists, especially the Spanish, the number of Indians dropped from 50 million in the late 15th century to 4 million in the 17th century, so the European colonists had to look to Africa for a new source of labor.
The Portuguese sold Berbers as slaves (in Portugal itself) from 1442, and the Spanish began shipping black Africans into America from 1502. The demand for the slave trade prompted both countries and the newly capitalist nations of Britain, the Netherlands, France and Denmark to build a number of trading stations along the coast of West Africa, selling slaves, ivory, gold and chili (then known as the “seeds of heaven”). The largest slave trade transit point, Ivory Coast (now known as Cote d ‘Ivoire), was also known as the Seed Coast. But the lack of good ports and the inaccessibility of the West African coast, coupled with the inhospitable landscape and climate, limited European colonization of Africa to a handful of coastal sites for centuries to come. The names given by European countries to these colonies — Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, Slave Coast — show that the colonies in West Africa were basically resource-grabbing colonies.
The colonial empires of Spain and Portugal