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Treaty of Tordesillas (W2:D4) – On Columbus’s return from his first voyage, he stopped by Lisbon, Portugal, to report to King John II that there were more islands west of the Canary Islands. Portugal had no idea Columbus was traveling west and this set off the King, because the treaty they were currently under, he felt, was not being followed with Columbus’s new journey. The Treaty of Alcáçovas, signed in 1479 between Portugal and Castille (Spain), had ended their war and allowed Portugal to conduct all sea-based exploration over the Atlantic. King John II sent an angry letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to denounce what they had done, and to warn them that he was sending an Armada to take the land.

The Spanish fleet was much smaller than Portugal's, so they sought a diplomatic resolution and asked Pope Alexander for a solution, as both countries were Roman Catholic ruled. On May 4, 1493, the Pope decreed, in the Treaty of Tordesillas, that all newly discovered land west of the Canary Islands, if they were made Christian lands, would be safe from any attacks by Portugal, and would give Spain the ability to explore. This created a latitudinal line down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, dividing the non-European world between Spain and Portugal. John II was not happy, as he believed it gave Spain more land to explore, but since everyone believed Columbus had found a few islands, it was not enough to go to war.

In 1500, during the Portuguese search for another route to India, Pedro Álvares Cabral sailed straight into Brazil and sent word to Manuel I, King of Portugal, that there was land inside the line. The king swiftly sent ships to conquer the land. This would later become the country of Brazil, which now speaks Portuguese as their official language, instead of Spanish.

Note: This separation did not apply when the two kingdoms of Portugal and Spain were joined under one crown, in 1580, until 1640. Afterwards, the lands were redivided under this previous treaty. The French, English, Dutch, and Swedes did not recognize this ownership of North and South America and continued to take unclaimed - and even Spanish claimed - lands.

Activity: Exploration Lines - How would you have divided exploration of the globe? In this activity, you are to divide the world into two areas, one part for a classmate or family member, and one for you. What would be fair? Next, ask them if that was a fair divide? Negotiate with them to come to an agreement that is acceptable to both, and draw it on the map below.


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