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he was greeted :D When Vasco da Gama arrived in Lisbon in the fall of 1499, after going all the way to India and back again, he had good news for Portugal's King Manoel. The port cities of India were busy marketplaces for Asian products such as spices, gems, and medicinal herbs. The prince of the city of Calicut had reluctantly agreed to sell these products to the Portuguese, as well as to the Arab merchants with whom he usually did business.

Immediately King Manoel put together a trading expedition. The weary da Gama declined the honor of commanding it. In his place, the king chose a young nobleman, Pedro Alvares Cabral. On March 9, 1500, Cabral set sail from Lisbon with a fleet of thirteen ships manned by 1,500 sailors. One of his captains was Bartolomeu Dias, the veteran explorer who had been the first to go around the Cape of Good Hope. On board as special advisor was Gaspar of India, the master mariner whom da Gama had captured on his trip. [See the articles on Dias, da Gama, and Gaspar.]

Following the advice of da Gama and Dias, Cabralheaded in a wide curve toward the west, intending to come back eastward toward Africa when he was closer to the Cape of Good Hope. This maneuver was intended to help the expedition take advantage of the strongest winds. At the widest point of the curve, the sailors sighted land, to which Cabral gave the name Island of the True Cross. In fact, it was no island, but the coast of South America, where Brazil is now.

The Portuguese set up a cross and said a Mass before an audience of uncomprehending but friendly tribespeople. When they set sail again, they left behind two convicts who were assigned to learn the local language and convert as many people as they could. They were probably eaten instead, for these tribes practiced cannibalism.

No one knows for sure whether Cabral came to Brazil by mistake or by intention. Previous sailors had sighted land in that area, and the Portuguese had an agreement with Spain that gave Portugal all the land east of an imaginary line drawn at 46 degrees 37 minutes of longitude. Cabral may have had secret orders from King Manoel to see what he could find.

Cabral sent a ship back to the king with news of the discovery, and he and his fleet went on toward the Cape of Good Hope. This was the place that Bartolomeu Dias had wanted to call "Cabo Tormentoso," the Stormy Cape. As they approached it, they were hit by a hurricane that capsized four of the ships. Bartholomeu Dias was among the dead. One of the surviving ships was blown far to the east and eventually landed on the island of Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, where no Europeans had ever been seen before. The other ships found their way around the Cape of Good Hope and were reunited some months later in Mozambique. They continued northwards along the east coast of Africa, headed for the city of Malindi (in present-day Kenya), whose ruler had given Vasco da Gama a promise of help for the Portuguese.

King Manoel had instructed Cabral to capture Muslim ships and take their cargoes. Cabral now began to carry out this part of his mission. The first two ships he captured he had to give back; they were owned by one of the cousins of the king of Malindi. To the king himself Cabralsent expensive gifts, and in exchange the king gave the crew fresh food. By mid-September the expedition had crossed the Indian ocean and arrived in Calicut.

Da Gama's old adversary, the Hindu prince of Calicut known as the Zamorin, seemed to be interested in Cabral's offer of trade. He gave the Portuguese a warehouse and a residence in the town. The group of merchants who had come with Cabral went ashore to live there, together with three Catholic missionaries. The Arab merchants who had been trading in Calicut for years were not pleased at the new competition. On the night of December 16, they came in a mob several thousand strong, attacked the Portuguese living ashore, and killed most of them.

The furious Cabral ordered his sailors to capture ten Muslim ships from the harbor, confiscate their cargoes, burn them, and kill the 500 men who were aboard them. On one vessel were three elephants, which the Portuguese slaughtered and ate. Then they bombarded Calicut with cannon fire. With Gaspar of India steering the flagship, they sailed to the city of Cochin, burning two more Muslim ships along the way.

The king of Cochin was an old enemy of the Zamorin. He was happy to help Cabral stuff his ships with valuable goods--cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves, camphor, amber, opium, and myrrh, as well as pearls, rubies, diamonds, perfume, and fine cloth. The Portuguese sailed for home just as a fleet of warships arrived from Calicut to take revenge.

Cabral's fleet, minus two ships that had foundered on the way back, entered Lisbon in July 1501 with more good news for King Manoel. In addition to Cochin, the cities of Carangolos and Cannanore were willing to do business with him. If Portugal invested enough money and manpower, it might become as prosperous as Venice, which for centuries had controlled most of the trade between Europe and India. Cabral himself went back to his estate in eastern Portugal and lived there until his death in 1520.


Pedro Álvares Cabral (ca. 1467-1520) was a Portuguese navigator who discovered Brazil on a voyage to India. Born on the family estate in Belmonte, Pedro Álvares Cabral grew up close to the Portuguese court. As a nobleman, he served in the council of King Manuel I and received the habit of the Order of Christ. Little is known of his activities before 1499, when Manuel appointed him the chief captain of a fleet being prepared to sail to India to follow the maritime route to the East charted by Vasco da Gama on his historical voyage of 1497-1499. Amid colorful pageantry 13 ships with 1,200 men sailed from the Tagus River on March 8, 1500, en route to India. On April 22 the fleet unexpectedly sighted land in the west at 17° South latitude. Cabral explored the coast and claimed the new land for his sovereign. He christened it Ilha de Vera Cruz. Merchants, quickly attracted to its plentiful stands of brazilwood, the source of an excellent red dye, called it Terra do Brasil, and the name Brazil gained popular acceptance. Cabral's discovery has raised a series of historical questions which have never been properly answered. Was he the first to reach Brazil or had the Spanish or French made prior visits? Had Portugal previously discovered Brazil and protected that discovery with secrecy? Did Cabral--who was far off the prescribed course to India--discover Brazil accidentally or intentionally? There is room for much speculation on each of these questions, but lack of documentary evidence to the contrary leads to the conclusion that Cabral was the first to discover Brazil and that he did so accidentally. The first cartographic notification of Cabral's discovery was the Cantino chart, finished no later than 1502. After dispatching news of his discovery to King Manuel, Cabral proceeded to India, where he established a trading post at Cochin. He then returned to Lisbon laden with the coveted spices of the East. He helped to prepare the next fleet for India, which sailed under the command of Vasco da Gama. Cabral then apparently retired to his estate at Jardim, near Santarém, where he died about 1520. * The most complete information on Cabral and his voyage to the East is the translation, with an introduction and notes, by William Brooks Greenlee of The Voyage of Pedro Álvares Cabral to Brazil and India: From Contemporary Documents and Narratives(1938). See also Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers(1933); Charles David Ley, ed., Portuguese Voyages, 1498-1663 (1947); and Gilbert Renault, Caravels of Christ (1959). "Pedro Álvares Cabral." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.

Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. Pedro Alvares Cabral was born in the village of Belmonte, in the center of Portugal near the Spanish border, in 1467. At the age of 17 he was sent to serve at the Portuguese court and seems to have risen rapidly in the esteem of the two monarchs he served. It was during Cabral's years at court that the Portuguese were making the great discoveries that were to open up the ocean routes between Europe and Asia. Bartolomeu Dias had rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa in 1488, and Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498. On da Gama's return to Portugal in September 1498, the Portuguese king decided to send out another expedition immediately to India to take advantage of the new trading opportunities that had been opened up. Although da Gama would have been the logical choice to lead such a venture, he apparently still needed to recover from his recent voyage and, perhaps at his suggestion, Cabral was chosen instead. Cabral left Lisbon on March 9, 1500 at the head of a fleet of 13 ships, much large than that of da Gama. They reached the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa on March 22. On da Gama's advice Cabral then sailed farther westward to avoid doldrums and contrary currents that had plagued the earlier expedition. As a result, on April 22, the Wednesday before Easter, he sighted land--Brazil. On the day after this landfall Cabral sent a boat ashore, and the Portuguese took possession of what was to become the major colony of their empire and one of the world's great nations. Because of this, Cabral is generally credited with the discovery of Brazil in spite of the fact that the Spanish explorers Alonso de Ojeda, Amerigo Vespucci, and Vicente Yañez Pinzón had sighted land along what is now the north coast of the Republic of Brazil. Cabral's claim depends on the fact that he sighted land in what was to become the center of the country (in the present-day state of Bahia), that it was not an extension of the northern coast already visited by several explorers, and that he and his men actually went ashore. What is much less certain is whether Cabral was surprised to find land where he did. In fact, the land he found had already been given to Portugal. Shortly after the return of Christopher Columbus, Spain and Portugal had signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in June 1494 that divided the new discoveries they were making between them. It split the world in half: Portugal essentially got Africa and Asia, and Spain took the Americas. But the dividing line was set at a point 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands. Because of the hump that Brazil makes, it was actually in the Portuguese sphere. Did the Portuguese already know that? Had Cabral been sent to find land that the Portuguese already knew existed? There is no definitive answer, but the consensus seems to be that his discovery was accidental. Cabral stayed on the coast of Brazil from April 22, 1500 to May 2. The ceremony taking possession actually took place on May 1, and Cabral named the land Vera Cruz, the land of the True Cross. It quickly became known as Brazil because its earliest export was brazilwood, a forest product that was used to make red dye. When Cabral left on May 2, he left behind two Portuguese convicts who were supposed to stay and report on the land and the people. They were never heard of again. After Cabral left Brazil, his fleet was hit by a storm on May 24 in the South Atlantic that sank four of his ships, including one captained by Bartolomeu Dias. The rest were separated and sailed for 20 days in stormy weather, unable to raise their sails. Cabral sailed south of the Cape of Good Hope and finally touched land at Sofala, in Mozambique with only two other ships remaining in his fleet. They met up with three more on July 20 at the port of Mozambique. They then sailed up the east coast of Africa, stopping at the trading ports of Kilwa on July 26, 1500 (where they were treated like pirates) and Malindi on August 2 (where they were welcomed). From Malindi the Portuguese fleet sailed across the Indian Ocean to the small island of Anjediva on the southwest coast of India. They reached there on August 22 and stayed for 15 days, resting and repairing their ships. They then headed south for the great trading center of Calicut (Kozhikode), where they arrived on September 13. The merchants of Calicut were not at all pleased at the arrival of the Portuguese, because the new trade route threatened the monopoly they had on the spice trade with Europe. After the Portuguese built a trading post on land, it was attacked and 50 men were killed. Cabral then seized 10 Arab ships and bombarded the city with his guns. Since he had still not traded for the goods he wanted, he sailed south to the port of Cochin (present-day Kozhikode). Cochin was an enemy of Calicut, so its inhabitants were happy to receive the Portuguese traders. They were able to fill up their ships with merchandise and left the town in early January 1501. On the return voyage, one of Cabral's ships was lost off the coast of Africa, and they met up with another ship that had been separated during the Atlantic storm. The ships in Cabral's expedition drifted back into Lisbon harbor during June and July 1501. The merchandise they brought back was extremely valuable, and the expedition had proved that there was a way to trade with Asia via the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The king sent out another expedition in February 1502, this time once again under the command of Vasco da Gama. Cabral retired to manage a small estate near the Portuguese city of Santarém. He married in 1503 and had six children. He died, probably in 1519, and was buried in a monastery in Santarém. * The documentary records of Cabral's voyage have been published in W.B. Greenlee, ed. The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India(London: Hakluyt Society, 1937). * The American historian of the early maritime exploration of the Americas, Samuel Eliot Morison, discusses Cabral in Portuguese Voyages to America in the Fifteenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1940). Other books about the early Portuguese voyages to India naturally include chapters on Cabral: Edgar Prestage, The Portuguese Pioneers (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1933; reprinted 1966); G.R. Crone, The Discovery of the East (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972); Christopher Bell, Portugal and the Quest for the Indies (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

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Q: What did Pedro Alvares Cabral do when he got to India?
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