26 May 2023

What is the Treaty of Tordesillas? – Explanation, causes and consequences

By Donald

He Treaty of Tordesillas It represented a very important agreement for the political establishment of the Spanish and Portuguese in America, so this article explains what this treaty is and what it meant for the Latin American peoples. In the same way, a summary of the investigation carried out by Spain and Portugal to determine the maritime border in the Atlantic Ocean is made, which affected the position of Brazil.

What is the Treaty of Tordesillas?

The monarchy in Spain represented a great world power when they held the title of Spanish Empire, because that is how they managed to conquer several territories. In this sense, the rise of the crown occurred with the marriage union of the so-called Catholic kings, that is, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. These characters carried out the unification of the crown of Spain, the formation of the kingdom in the country and the ‘discovery’ of America thanks to the Treaty of Tordesillas.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was a document written as part of an agreement between the crown of Spain and the Kingdom of Portugal, which was signed in the Province of Valladolid, in Tordesillas. This pact reflected the way in which they would be distributed the lands ‘discovered’ by Christopher Columbus and his company between the two kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, it is a very important document, since it was there that the domain of the Kingdom of Spain over the Antilles and other Latin American territories was established.

What was the objective of the Treaty of Tordesillas?

The Treaty of Tordesillas was discussed and signed by representatives of both the Kingdom of Portugal and Spain on June 7, 1494, the main objective of this agreement was set navigation routes that the fleets of both kingdoms would have to the south and west of the Canary Islands. In this sense, there was a conflict of interest when plying the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to the plans of conquest on the so-called ‘The new World’that is, the continent of America.

Thus, this treaty sought to mark a line so that the ships of both fleets would not cross and threaten the armies of their neighbors. So, the objective was to draw this line some 370 leagues to the west of the Cape Verde Islands, leaving the passage free for the ships of Juan II of Portugal to arrive without problems. to the Cape of Good Hope. On the other hand, the Spaniards would have control of the western waters towards the Antilles.

What were the causes of the Treaty of Tordesillas?

This maritime agreement finds its first precedent in the Alcáçovas Treaty of 1479, where Isabella I and Fernando II reached peace with the Kingdom of Portugal. It must be remembered that in the years prior to this signing, Spain and Portugal were immersed in armed conflicts due to the War of the Castilian Successionbut with the pact peace was reached, in addition, with said treaty Spain obtained command over the Canary Islands, while Portugal received recognition over Madeira, the Azores islands, Cape Verde, Guinea and other conquered territories.

However, the main cause that led to the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas was the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the lands of the American continent. In this sense, in 1492, the Catholic kings They were the ones who authorized the voyage of Columbus bound for Spice Island in India. However, the sailors were guided by the measurements of Claudius Ptolemy, who erroneously described the earth’s circumference as 28,350 km.

With these data, it is theorized that Columbus intended to pass through Asia following the course of the west, since in Europe it was not known that another continent existed in that course. This is how Christopher Columbus and his company landed on the Guanahani Island, then they went to present-day Cuba and then they arrived at Hispaniola Island (where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located today).

On the return in January 1493, the ship named as the pint commanded by Vicente Pinzón arrived in Galicia, but The girl Columbus took longer. The reason for this delay was that the navigator made a stopover in Santa María, an island in Portugal, and then headed for Lisbon. There, King John II questioned Columbus about his findingsso when he found out the information he claimed all the lands based on the Treaty of Alcáçovas.

Isabel de Castilla and Fernando de Aragón refused to give the ‘New World’ as a gift to the Kingdom of Portugal, for which they claimed that the navigation was always made west and not south of the Canary Islands. The same way, They requested help from Pope Alexander VI, who was a close friend of the kings due to religion. So the pope created a set of papal bulls where he ruled that the lands that were 100 leagues from Cape Verde and the Azores belonged to Spain. He also ordered the excommunication of all Christians who crossed the border without consulting the Spanish crown and requested the promulgation of the faith in the New World.

What are the consequences of the Treaty of Tordesillas?

After the return of Columbus, the King of Portugal carried out some investigative movements to verify the veracity of the location of the ‘new lands’, since he was not very satisfied with the explanation reflected in the papal bull. However, he later agreed to negotiate with the Catholic kings to set new frontiers on the shipping lane in the Atlantic. The main consequence of the Treaty of Tordesillas was that a new dividing line was established based on the two geographic poles.

Thus, the document established that the border line that the ships should not cross should pass 370 leagues to the west of Cape Verde, this new margin had a very important difference with respect to what was established by the Pope. In that sense, the border was further west and covered the eastern end of the continent, consequently, what is Brazil was within the territory that the Portuguese could explore and conquer. The latter was what gave Pedro Álvarez Cabral legal validity to arrive on the coasts of Brazil in the year 1500 to submit said territory under Portuguese rule.

The Spanish historian Ramón Menéndez Pidal described this pact as the first modern treaty between two powers in the history of Europe, moreover. Similarly, it was the first time in an agreement between countries there were two experts to investigate the coordinates or location of the border, thus advising those who conducted the negotiations and would write the summary. It is important to highlight that in 2007 Unesco declared this treaty as ‘World Heritage’ in the category of ‘Memory of the world’.