Biography of Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator is a great traveler, Portuguese prince and son of King Joao I, explorer, colonizer, warrior-crusader, organizer of sea expeditions to the shores of Africa.

Early years

Henry was born on March 4, 1394 in the city of Porto, Portugal.

As a child, he was fond of fencing, horseback riding, studying natural sciences and religion. But most of all he was attracted to military affairs and mastering a spear. This occupation also predetermined the further life of Henry.

First trips and discoveries

In 1415, a military campaign was undertaken and the capture of the fortress of Ceuta on the coast of Africa. Control over the conquered outpost the king entrusted to Henry. At that time, Henry found out about caravans walking in the desert and carrying gold from Guinea. He began to search for sea routes to the gold-bearing lands. Since 1418, Henry organized a number of marine expeditions, which resulted in the discovery of several islands on

the north-western coast of Africa and the Azores). It is interesting that the organizer himself went to sea expeditions no more than three times.

Madeira Island was the first colony of Portugal. In Portugal, black slaves began to be sent for the first time. Thus, the beginning of the slave trade, on which Henry introduced the state monopoly, was laid. After the discovery of the Azores, they also began to colonize. In the conquered territories, the Portuguese grew grapes and sugar cane, mined valuable timber and sent to their homeland.

One of the important destinations for Portugal was the search for a sea route to India – a country of spices – around the African continent. Located far from the main trade routes, Portugal could not effectively participate in trade. Eastern goods were very expensive for the poor at that time of the country, and exports to other countries were not large. Therefore, Henry paid much attention to sea trips to the north-west coast of Africa in order to find the eastern route to India.

In 1438, Henry founded an observatory and seaworthy school, called “Villa-do-Infante”.

It became the first center of science in Europe, the best European scientists, astronomers and cartographers of that time gathered here.

Last years

Last years, Prince Henry spent alone, surrounded by the students of his nautical school. The great Seafarer died on November 13, 1460 in Sagres, Portugal.

After his death, Portuguese explorers managed to reach the shores of modern Sierra Leone and open the Cape Verde Islands. The case of Henry on the search for sea routes to India and to the Far East was continued by such great travelers as: Fernand Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias.

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Biography of Henry the Navigator