Vasco da Gama and the Route to India

Vasco da Gama
(1469 – 1524)

On December 24, 1524, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, passed away. He was one of the most successful explorers in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India.

Vasco da Gama was born into a family of noblemen, his father belonged to the Order of Santiago and was occupied with several administrative tasks. When Vasco da Gama joined the Order as well, he was given many assignments concerning trade and Portugal’s problems with pirates at the West-African coasts. Da Gama earned himself a great reputation during this year and was soon promoted and nominated to travel to India.

Da Gama and his crew left the port of Lissabon on July 8, 1497 with the 120t ship São Gabriel, and two other boats, the São Rafael, and Bérrio. The crew was highly experienced with the weather and sea conditions of the south Atlantic-Ocean and on November 4, they reached the westcoast of South Africa. They traveled to Mombasa in April of the next year, and to Malindi, where the travelers took a helping navigator on board. On May 20, 1498, the Portugese sailors finally reached India’s Malabar Coast as the first European Ships of all times. There, da Gama was to trade important spices and resources, unfortunately only with moderate success. The crew’s first ship reached Lissabon in the early Summer of 1499 while Vasco da Gama’s ship stayed a few weeks longer at the Azores due to the serious illness of his brother who was the commander of the second ship of the fleet. But when he reached Portugal in September of the same year with many goods and spices, he was cordially received with a great procession.

The second journey to India by Vasco da Gama followed in 1502, but this time with heavily armored ships. When the fleet arrived India, attacking their trade monopoly, a state of war evolved instantly. The Portugese were able to succeed against the Indian fleet and was then able to built the first fort, strengthening Portugals position in India. Through suspicious trade agreements and Portugals permanent presence in the Indian Ocean they were able to develop a monopoly for foreign spices in Europe.

During his third and last journey to India, da Gama suffered from an infection and passed away on Christmas Eve in Kochi. Until this day, Vasco da Gama counts as one of the most important discoverers of all times and was honored around the globe for his achievements.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture by Dr. Jim Bennett about ‘The Age of Discovery‘.

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