Are Spaniards and Portuguese people of color

A little history of mankind


background information

At the end of the 15th century, European sailors discovered America and the sea route to India. Both in America and in the Indian Ocean, the explorers were followed by looters who did not shrink from massacres. Spaniards and Portuguese built huge colonial empires; French, Dutch and English also rushed to the lucrative business. Africa was depopulated for the slave trade; Siberia was colonized in Eurasia, and New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean.

Conquest of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire, by Hernán Cortés. Painting by Emanuel
Leutze from 1848.

The earth is round - Europe is discovering a new world

The travelogues of Marco Polo and the - almost entirely invented, but very popular - of Jean de Mandeville had popularized the idea of ​​great fortunes in distant lands; the Latin translation of Ptolemy's eight-volume was made in 1406 Geographica further fueled the desire to discover. A son of the Portuguese king, Henry the Navigator, started a program as governor of the Algarve in 1418 to discover a sea route to India and finally to wrest the Arabs of their monopoly in the spice trade. Portuguese sailors ventured further and further out into the Atlantic and discovered Madeira in 1419, the Azores in 1427 and the Cape Verde Islands in 1445. Madeira was suitable for the cultivation of sugar cane, which the Europeans had got to know from the Arabs and which promised high profits.

When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and the Islamic world now controlled all trade routes between Asia and Europe, the Portuguese intensified their search for a sea route to India that had to go around Africa - which the Europeans did not know how far south it was and its Atlantic coast offered hardly any harbors, but unfavorable winds. But the Portuguese were now familiar with the currents and winds of the Atlantic and were also able to determine the latitude more precisely than others with the Jacob's staff; they sailed far west, almost as far as Brazil (which they knew nothing about), and then used the Falkland Current and the westerly winds of the Horse-Widths to reach the African coast. Already in 1434 Gil Eanes conquered Cape Bojador, which until then had been considered the end of the navigable world. (In order to prove to his sailors that the water was not boiling there, as the legend claimed, he took it on board in a wine barrel and stuck his hand into it - an example of how practical perception began on the threshold of modern times, the superstition of Middle Ages.) The west coast of Africa provided the first riches - gold, ivory and slaves; and was therefore explored further and further after Heinrich's death in 1460: in 1471 the Portuguese crossed the equator; In 1482 the first trading post was opened in São Jorge da Mina (Elmina in present-day Ghana). Reached 1488 Bartolomeu Dias the southern tip of Africa; the way to India was thus open to the Portuguese.

Another navigator, an Italian in Portuguese service since 1482 Christoph Columbus, Portugal had rejected it in 1485: the latter wanted to sail west to reach the Chinese coast. The Portuguese realized that, based on Ptolemy's map, Columbus significantly underestimated the route to India. In 1487 Portugal sent the Flemish Ferdinand van Olmen to the west with two ships, he never returned. But Columbus did not give up, turned to the kings of Castile, to his hometown Genoa, to Venice, to England and a second time to Portugal. Although he had meanwhile found out that Bartolomeu Dias had found the sea route to India, he tried further and went back to Castile. This time he was lucky: after the Castillian kings had finally defeated the Muslims on European soil with the surrender of Granada in 1492, Columbus was able to win over Queen Isabella for his plan to sail west to India. He started at the beginning of August 1492, and in October he reached an island that was "called Guanahani in the Indian language" (from his on-board diary): Indian language - Columbus believed for three more voyages and until his death that the islands belonged to Asia. In fact, he landed in what is now the Bahamas (and the Caribbean islands are still called the "West Indies"). He sailed on to Cuba and Hispaniola, but was disappointed as there was no gold there: nothing would have convinced the Spanish kings of his travels anymore. But since he was certain that he had reached Marco Polo's Far East, he promised enormous fortunes for his next trip after his return in the spring of 1493. At the end of the year it started again, this time with 17 ships and 1200 settlers and soldiers. In search of riches, he destroyed almost the entire population of the islands through forced labor in mines, torture and fatal punishments as well as diseases brought by the Europeans - the Dominican Bartolomé de las Casas, who himself came to Hispaniola as a settler in 1502 , but became the accuser of the local genocide, wrote that Hispaniola's population fell from more than three million to 60,000 in 1508.

What Columbus never recognized, quickly became clear to other seafarers after the first exploratory voyages: Columbus had discovered a new, unknown continent (which was eventually named "America" ​​after one of these seafarers, Amerigo Vespucci). But Columbus realized that the islands were suitable for the cultivation of sugar cane, which he knew from the Canaries and Madeira, and that is how it should come. The captured population was replaced by slaves from Africa. The discoveries of the Portuguese and the Spaniards also stimulated others: England also sought the East Indies in the west. In 1497 the Venetian Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) across the Atlantic on an English assignment and became the first European to set foot on the North American mainland - he too thought it was China. On his second voyage in 1498 he wanted to take five ships along the coast of “China” to Japan, where he suspected the origin of the spices - only one ship returned, that of Cabot was lost.

For the Portuguese, the news of Spain's discovery of America came as a shock. Portugal feared for the fruits of its discoveries to be brought; and in order to avoid a conflict between the Catholic powers Spain and Portugal, the Pope divided the world in 1493: one half went to Spain, the other half to Portugal. In 1494 the border was moved again in the Treaty of Tordesillas, so Brazil later fell to the Portuguese. In 1497, in order to finally secure India Vasco da Gama at sea, circled the southern tip of Africa and sailed as far as India. There he landed on the Malabar coast, near today's Kalikut. This coast was a hub of the spice trade, here Chinese junks and Arab dhows met. After more than two years, da Gama came back and reported on the spice prices in India: They promised huge profits. (And he had also noticed that the Arab and Chinese ships were unarmed - so the armed Portuguese ships had a good chance of securing their share.) Another fleet of 13 ships and da Gama's helmsmen were dispatched but sailed in the Finding the right currents and winds too far west: discovered on Easter Tuesday in 1500 Pedro Álvarez Cabral the coast Brazil and took possession of the land for Portugal. In 1507 Portuguese ships reached Mauritius, and in 1511 the Spice Islands (now the Indonesian Moluccas) for the first time. The Spaniard followed in 1513 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa Rumors of a sea in the west, struggled through the jungle of the Isthmus of Panama and was the first European to see the Pacific. 1519 became the Portuguese captain in the service of Spain Ferdinand Magellan sent out to find a western passage to China. Magellan circled the southern tip of South America on the Strait of Magellan, which was later named after him, and sailed the Pacific. He was killed by locals in the Philippines, which he discovered for the Europeans in 1521, but in 1522 one of the five ships launched (with 18 of the former 270 crew members) came under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano back: he had circumnavigated the world. This proved that Columbus had actually discovered a new continent - and the earth was actually round.

For the next 90 years, European navigators mapped a large part of the world's coasts; This exploration was only completed 200 years later with the voyages of James Cook and the mapping of the American Pacific coast in 1794 by George Vancouver. Both were on the road on behalf of the British - no coincidence, because the center of world political events had meanwhile shifted to northwestern Europe.

Spain's El Dorado

The Spaniards explored the mainland coast from the Caribbean to the north and south; and finally met Indians on the coast of Yucatan who lived in stone cities: the Aztecs. In 1519, Hernán Cortés reached the capital Tenochtitlán with his 500-strong troop, and could hardly believe his eyes: the market square alone held 60,000 people, and finally there was gold and silver in abundance. The Aztecs received the Spaniards friendly at first; they were unsure whether the arrival of the white-skinned strangers was not the promised return of the god Quetzalcoatl. But when the Spaniards began to steal their treasures, they decided to fight and Cortés had to flee. The following year he returned with reinforcements and captured and destroyed Tenochtitlán. The Spaniards, who were far outnumbered, could only achieve this victory because, on the one hand, they were able to win numerous indigenous peoples oppressed by the Aztecs as allies, and on the other hand they had rifles, iron armor and horses at their disposal: all new to the Aztecs and alone suitable to cause panic among them . In addition, Cortés's reinforcements had brought with them a malicious ally: smallpox virus. The effect on the Aztecs, who were first exposed to this disease, was devastating; In 1522 the Aztec Empire was destroyed. The Spaniards took their place as rulers of the country. Measles were introduced in 1530/31, and typhus in 1546. The population of Mexico shrank from 25 million to 1 to 2 million in the century after the arrival of the Spaniards, mainly as a result of the diseases that the Spaniards brought with them. (In South America as a whole - the numbers are controversial - between 40 and 90 percent of the population died from introduced diseases.)

Ten years after the destruction of the Aztec Empire, the Spanish heard of an even richer people in South America, and indeed found coastal villages that seemed to be swimming in gold. The rest is history: In 1533 Francisco Pizarro asked the Inca ruler Atahualpa for a talk, captured him in the middle of his residence city of Cajamarca and asked the Incas to fill a room with gold if they wanted him back alive. The Incas brought the gold; Pizarro killed the Inca ruler anyway. The Inca fought against the Spaniards for another 40 years, until 1572, but here, too, the diseases brought with them by the Europeans, their superior weapons and equipment ultimately tipped the balance. Having defeated a strong state gave the Spaniards an advantage: they could continue to use the existing system. This is how they use the mita called labor of the Inca to recruit workers for the silver mines. Silver mining began in central Mexico in 1530, and further deposits were found in Bolivia (Potosí) and Mexico (Zacatecas) in the 1540s. Above all, the rich silver mines of Potosí seemed to have made the promise of "El Dorado" (albeit in silver) a reality. The Maya, on the other hand, whose state had long since disintegrated, were much more difficult to subjugate - this has not yet been completely achieved. The administration of the new areas was subject to the viceroyalty of New Spain from 1535, and in 1542 the viceroyalty of New Castile was added (mainly for the Inca areas) (830). From America, the Spaniards also explored the Pacific in the footsteps of Magellan: in 1565 they made the Philippines a (new) Spanish colony.

Portugal's empire in the east

While the Spaniards destroyed native cultures in America and the Caribbean, Europeans had to come to terms with native cultures in vast, tropical and distant Asia. The Portuguese succeeded in bringing selected bases in the Indian Ocean into their hands by force: Mombasa, Malindi and Kilwa on the African east coast, Ormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Goa (their most important base, a main hub for pepper), Malacca ( access to the Spice Islands) and Macao (from here they dominated the trade with Japan, which was forbidden by the Minghof for the Chinese and therefore lucrative). However, the Portuguese never succeeded in completely preventing trade with Arab, Persian and Indian ships. In the best of times, however, about 40 percent of the spice trade ran through Portuguese hands; there was also trade in silk from China and diamonds from Golconda, India. When their share of trade declined, the Portuguese tried to keep themselves harmless by selling trade licenses for the intra-Asian exchange of goods: in other words, they became “robber barons of the Indian Ocean” (according to economic historian David Landes).

When Spain and Portugal were united in personal union in 1580, the Dutch merchants who had sold Portuguese spices in Northern Europe lost their monopoly (the Netherlands and England were at war with Spain); and the Dutch East India Company (see box) began to set up its own trading posts in the Far East (1603 in Java); In 1605 they were able to take the Moluccas and in 1611 they settled their headquarters in Batavia (today's Jakarta). The English pirates, who were increasingly being driven out of the Caribbean, recognized the region as a worthwhile hunting ground. Over the next century Portugal lost most of its bases; the great days of the small country were over. The role of the Portuguese in the spice trade was largely to be taken over by the East India Company, whose empire was later taken over by the government of the Netherlands and became the core of Indonesia after World War II.

The rise of capitalism

Even the voyages of discovery and conquest of the Spaniards and Portuguese were often co-financed by merchants in the hope of new procurement and sales markets. The discovery of America diminished the importance of the Mediterranean for trade and strengthened that of the Atlantic. Several national bankruptcies (e.g. Spain in 1557 and 1575) also led to a decline in the importance of southern Europe, so that ultimately north-western Europe became the center of emerging world trade. In order to cover the enormous financial needs of the risky but profitable trips on the newly discovered trade routes, corporations with numerous partners were established here: in London in 1599 the East India Company founded; in Amsterdam 1602 the East India Company. Both wanted to earn money from the lucrative spice trade. The East India Company consisted of investors who gave the “fellow shipowners” (in order to belong to the company, one had to prove ownership interests in a ship) money for their business, the profits were to be shared. This made it a forerunner of today's limited partnership. She succeeded in driving the Portuguese from the Moluccas and taking over the carnation trade. The company was very successful (in 1610 it paid 75 percent dividends), and so in 1621 became its sister, the West India Company founded to trade with the Caribbean and the New World - they made their profits in gold and slaves. Sweden, France and others also founded their own trading companies. The first to trade in shares in these companies were established in Antwerp in 1531, in Amsterdam in 1611/12 and in London in 1698 Exchanges. The shares made it possible for larger parts of the population to participate in the profits and losses of long-distance trade.

The growing importance of trading companies was to lead to capitalism reshaping the world of work: the companies promoted the cultivation of sugar for export in Brazil and the Caribbean, and the cultivation of tobacco in South Carolina and Virginia. The cultivation took place largely in the plantation system, for which millions of slaves were sold to America. In Eastern Europe, too, where more and more grain was being grown for export to Western Europe, the increasing trade orientation led to a "peasant laying": unfree peasants increasingly had to do slave labor - the system was in many ways similar to the slave economy. In the Netherlands and England, which are less influenced by feudal traditions, there was the emergence of large farms based on free wage labor (which is less revolutionary in the Netherlands due to regulations on the protection of farmers). This, too, was at the expense of smaller farmers, but led to more productive cultivation methods than in the east. The laid-off workers migrated mainly in England, where common land was also privatized, to the cities and looked for work in the trade there.

The merchants also increasingly invested in trade: from the 15th century onwards in ore mining (which helped the Fuggers to gain wealth in Germany), and later in "pre-industrial" home work. "Publishers" placed orders and advanced the raw materials, and this is how the first centers for textile and metal goods production emerged. Central workshops have already been set up in these, for example for bleaching, dyeing or printing the fabrics, in which the craftsmen were directly supervised by the trading companies. But the homeworkers were also increasingly dependent on the whims of the markets (but also enjoyed the "colonial goods" they brought in) - and they got used to disciplined, "rational" work. The penetration of capitalism into industry, especially in England (the Netherlands continued to focus on trade and finance capitalism), led to capitalism shaping the world of work - and ultimately the industrial revolution that began there.

Next: Capitalism, Industrialization and Marxism

In 1652 the East India Company was also supposed to set up a refreshment station in a bay on the Cape of Good Hope, as the Portuguese had called the southern tip of Africa - the Cape town. In 1657 some of the employees became free citizens and the station became a real colony. To ensure the cultivation, the farmers (Boers) first used slaves, but with increasing demand for slaves from Brazil, the Caribbean and America (here) they also brought new settlers into the country - including Huguenots expelled from France (here), the wanted to enforce their ideas of a godly life. The god of the Huguenots divided the world into above and below, and below were the pagans who were supposed to do the work as slaves. But they resisted, and so the 18th century became a series of wars between the Boers and the African peoples who colonized South Africa (more).

Pirates and Traders - England in India and China

It was only under Elizabeth I that England began (more) seriously to take part in the race for the Spice Islands. An exclamation mark was set in 1577 Francis Drake with the second circumnavigation - with the license to plunder Spanish ships and ports. But he not only brought stolen gold and silver, but also nutmegs. Gold and silver, which the Spaniards in particular took away from their colonies, long lured English pirates who hid in the Caribbean; the nutmegs aroused the interest of London merchants. The English could not stand up to the Dutch in the Indian Ocean at first and then concentrated on trade across the Mediterranean; which was founded in 1581 Levant Company established trading posts as far as northern India. The sea route wanted that East India Company establish. In 1612 their fleet was able to beat the Portuguese off Surat; In 1647 it had bases in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, among others. Among other things, the company traded in cotton yarns and fabrics - and thus fundamentally changed clothing in Europe and the overseas colonies: Cotton clothing was made for hot regions and could be used as underwear in Europe; completely new demands on cleanliness and health arose. In 1661 the Portuguese handed over Bombay as part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry to England; it was the first English territory in India and soon became the headquarters of the East India Company. In 1670 this was endowed with the law of war and court; At the end of the 17th century, 13 percent of British imports were already being made through the company. In 1765 it became a territorial power when the Nawab of Bengal asked it to administer Bengal. Then they used the silver with which they had previously paid for Indian goods to buy china, silk and tea in Canton and bring them to Europe and even America. Having gotten a taste for it in this way, the British continued to expand their territorial rule - that's how it should be British Empireoriginate in India.

England's colonies in North America

Other English seafarers saw their best chance of winning not in the spice trade, but in the slave trade. England has been involved in the Atlantic triangular trade since John Hawkins brought slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean in 1562. The Crown also allowed private corporations to take possession of "abandoned land" north of Florida, Spain. For a long time, the Europeans had hardly been interested in North America, there was no gold. At the beginning of the 17th century, however, with increasing competition between the European sea powers, the region gained strategic importance, and the Christian world was divided as a result of the Reformation. An expedition of the Virginia Company reached Chesapeake Bay in 1607, and founded the first successful English settlement on American soil there: Jamestown in what is now the US state of Virginia. The region was settled by Powhatan Indians, who cultivated, fished, hunted and collected corn, pumpkin and beans in mixed cultures. The first attempts by the Spanish and English to settle here were ended by attacks by the Indians. The Jamestown settlers, who had hoped for gold and silver and were not prepared to clear and cultivate land, suffered years of hunger before one of the few farmers among the settlers, John Rolfe, found a solution: tobacco was abandoned Plant well in the swampy soil. Seeds supplied from the Spanish Trinidad established the American tobacco cultivation, which brought slavery to North America with its labor requirements, and laid the basis for the later plantation system of the southern states. The spread of tobacco cultivation also led to regular skirmishes with the local Indians, who tried the great uprising in 1622 and killed 350 settlers - but were unable to drive them out. Rather, the annihilation of the Indians began (more).

The Puritan “Pilgrim Fathers” are considered to be the “fathers of the American people”. The Puritans wanted to live the "pure doctrine"; the Anglican state church in England had preserved too many Catholic traditions for them. After a few years in Holland, they chartered the "Mayflower", which landed at Cape Cod in Massachusetts at the end of 1620, where they founded the colony of Plymouth. They came to a country where a few years earlier the Indian population had been decimated by an epidemic - presumably the plague brought with them by previous explorers - and no longer posed a serious threat. Even so, this colony initially had serious difficulties in securing its food; but later many settlers would get rich with cod catching and trading. Economic success was a sign for the Puritans that God is on their side; and with the cod trade, New England became an international trading power. According to the law, the colony should only have been allowed to sell its goods via the English motherland; in practice, trade was initially tolerated. It was not until a century later that the British tried to put their colony on the curb (in 1733 with the Molasse Law, which imposed tariffs on sugar imports from the non-British Caribbean) - too late: protracted customs and tax disputes led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 which eventually led to the American War of Independence 1775-1783, which ended with the creation of the United States of America.

More on the topic: A little colonial history of the USA.

Portugal in the New World

In addition to trading in the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese began from 1550 to colonize the part of the New World that they had more or less accidentally acquired, namely the Brazilian wood they grew there Brazil called. Gold was only found here later; Based on the Caribbean model, sugar cane plantations were therefore set up here - and the Indians were forced to work in them. Here, too, the native population was greatly decimated, so that the import of African slaves began in Brazil as well. By 1600 sugar had not only replaced Brazil wood as the most important export, but Brazil was already the largest sugar producer in the world. The Caribbean islands also remained important producers. With the discovery of the mainland empires, however, the Spaniards had largely lost interest in them; on the other hand, the wealth of the New World attracted the Dutch, English and French, who fought fiercely with the Spanish for the Caribbean islands, on which they then took over the sugar cane cultivation (on the South American mainland, on the other hand, they could only permanently conquer the three Guyanas).

The sugar producers led a completely new form of cultivation, which was later taken over by tobacco and cotton growers: the slave plantation, which spread from 1580 and dominated the economies of Brazil, the Caribbean and the southeast of North America for 150 years from 1680. As the source of the slaves, Africa was also integrated into the emerging global trade network.

Slave trade in Africa

Slavery in America was not a new invention: slaves were kept in China, India, ancient Greece and Rome, and with American Indians; the Russian serfs were no different either. The slave trade in Africa also had an old tradition: Islamic trade caravans (more) traded with (mainly female) slaves, and slaves were also kept in Africa itself (850). The overseas trade in African slaves was established by the Portuguese in 1441, who brought slaves to Portugal, Madeira and the Canary Islands, where they grew sugar. Success attracted imitators, and in 1534 the transatlantic slave trade began (with a ship to Brazil). Soon the English and other nations also entered profitable trade (852). There is no agreement on the number of slaves who were abducted from Africa, especially to Brazil and the Caribbean, but also to other Latin American regions and the southern states of North America. Around five million people were deported to Brazil alone; in total there were at least ten million. In addition, there are many millions of young men who died catching slaves in Africa before they reached the coast or who did not survive the crossing. The conditions on the slave ships, where the slaves were often tightly chained below deck, were unspeakable - slave ships could be recognized from a distance by their stench. On some ships, every third person died during the crossing, on average every fifth.

The slave trade was able to flourish for so long because it had willing helpers in Africa: Selling slaves to the Europeans was a lucrative way of getting rid of prisoners of war. In addition, a very special "entrepreneurship" developed - with a horse and a gun you could get rich if you caught enough people for the slave trade - it was a good thing that the Europeans preferred men, while the Africans preferred to keep women, who traditionally did the field work. Even today, many Africans know exactly who used to be a slave owner and who was a slave. (It is difficult to imagine what effects the culture of violence promoted by the slave trade and the lack of young men in agriculture and handicrafts had on the development of African societies; it is accordingly controversial.) Whoever survived the crossing had to go to the mines or - two thirds of all slaves - work in the sugar cane plantations. The plantation owners and their overseers regarded black slaves as little more than animals - "buying is cheaper than breeding" was the motto of the planters; the high death rate of slaves says it all about their treatment. The sugar cane plantations had made sugar affordable for millions; the value of sugar imports from Jamaica to England in the middle of the 18th century alone was several times higher than imports from all colonies in North America combined. But this wealth only gushed thanks to slavery.The need for "replenishment" left a lucrative one Triangular trade arise: African slaves were sold to the Caribbean and the USA; Sugar and cotton from there in Europe, and from here European goods and liquor for exchange for slaves. Most people considered slavery to be inevitable anyway; in the 18th century about a quarter of humanity lived as slaves or serfs. (It was not until the end of the 18th century that the idea of ​​general human rights emerged in the wake of the Enlightenment, and there were first voices against slavery. In 1787, the "Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade" was founded in England.)

Brazil's free slave republics

Time and again, slaves succeeded in escaping their keepers and building their own communities in remote regions. Most of them were where there were most of the slaves: in Brazil. He is still famous today quilombo (as these communities are called in Brazil) by Palmares, which an escaped Angolan princess named Aqualtune is said to have founded in the Serra da Barriga in the state of Alagoas. At the beginning of the 17th century, 30,000 people lived here, as many as in British North America. It was not until 1694 that the Portuguese were able to defeat Palmares. Many quilombos in the Amazon region have survived to this day - long unnoticed by the white Brazilians; and it is only since the Brazilian constitution granted them land rights in 1988 that they have been officially recorded. Around 1,700 have been recognized so far, and their number is estimated at over 5,000. They live on an area of ​​300,000 square kilometers, which is why mining companies and plantation owners try to defend their claim to land wherever possible; and also many environmentalists are unhappy about large areas in the rainforest that now belong to the quilombos.

(How slavery went on is stated here.)

The colonization of Siberia

In the middle of the 16th century, Tsar Ivan IV gave the Stroganov family sole trading rights in Siberia, where furs were primarily to be found: This marked the beginning of the colonial development of this region, where half a million people lived with around 100 different languages. The Stroganovs engaged battle-hardened Cossacks from the southern Russian and Ukrainian steppes to do this; and in 1640 they reached the Pacific coast. In 1652 they met Chinese on the Amur, and after some clashes, the Russian-Chinese border was established in 1689. The Siberian natives had to pay tribute in the form of fur; in the 17th century fur income covered just under a tenth of the Kremlin's budget. When fur animals became rare, Russian hunters crossed the Bering Strait: from around 1730 they also hunted in Alaska, and in 1810 they reached northern California - this is where Russian and English / French fur hunts met.

The other side of the world: New Guinea and Australia

New Guinea and Australia were founded around 1,600 BC. BC (New Guinea) or 1,500 BC BC (Australia) reached by Austronesian sailors who brought dogs, pigs and chickens. Since then there has been regular contact with peoples settled in Indonesia, and in exchange for spices and feathers, the inhabitants received Asian goods including Chinese porcelain. With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511 on the Moluccas, however, all political relationships that might exist here changed. New Guinea was "discovered" by the Portuguese in 1526, but was not settled by Europeans until 1880: Malaria and other tropical diseases initially prevented permanent settlement. Then Holland acquired the West, Great Britain and the German Empire the East. The eastern part is now the core of the independent state of Papua New Guinea, the western part was annexed by Indonesia in 1963. To this day, the indigenous people are trying to achieve independence as West Papua.

In 1606, Australia was conquered by the Europeans (the Dutch Willem Jansz) discovered, but has been forgotten again. As James Cook From 1768 to 1771 he sailed on a great scientific expedition to Tahiti (he was supposed to measure the duration of a passage of Venus in the southern hemisphere, and in Tahiti one hoped for a cloudless sky - with the duration measured in different places, the astronomers of the British Royal Society wanted the distance of the sun from the earth), he had a second assignment: to finally find the southern continent, which had to balance the land masses of the north - a necessity that many believed in at the time. Cook himself did not believe in this continent - as an experienced sailor, the strong swell told him that in the south there would only be sea. When he had sailed as far south as ordered, he turned to the west, around 1642 from the Dutchman Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand to map. So good was Cook's card that it was used 200 years later; initially she helped the whale and rye hunters who were up New Zealand settled. The native people, the Maori, were considered very warlike, but traded with the immigrants, a number of whom soon even lived among the Maori.

James Cook sails afterwards Australia and formally took possession of it for the British Crown in 1770. He charted the east coast, and when Cook returned to England after nearly three years, his maps set the standard for future expeditions. Cook started his second journey in 1772, and this time he had a chronometer with him, with which he could determine the longitude precisely in any weather - the chronometer showed the time at his home town, the comparison with the local time showed how far he was to the west or east of this. This significantly improved the navigation - and the maps accordingly - and Cook created an accurate map of the southern hemisphere of the earth. The settlement of Australia began in 1788 with the establishment of one Convict Colony (more); James Cook started a third expedition in 1776, on which he was supposed to search and map the Northwest Passage (the sea route to the Pacific north of the American continent). On this tour he discovered Hawaii, where he was stabbed to death by locals in 1779 after a dispute.

(The Northwest Passage was not to be completely crossed by ship until 1903 - 1906 by the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. A team led by Amundsen was also the first to reach the South Pole in 1911 (who first reached the North Pole is controversial, presumably was this 1909 the American polar explorer Robert Peary); and Amundsen also discovered the Northeast Passage, the sea route around Siberia, from 1918 to 1920. The "discovery" of the white spots on earth was made with the first ascent of the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest, Completed by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.)

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The military developments which had helped the Europeans, despite their numerical inferiority, to conquer the empires of the Aztecs and Inca and to maintain themselves in Asia continued; new fruits and global trade changed lives; the upheavals also changed people's thoughts - a new era began all over the world:
The first globalization (1500 to 1800)

© Jürgen Paeger 2006 - 2020

With the Jacob's staff the width could be determined exactly to one nautical mile (1.852 km), an order of magnitude better than with the astrolabe.


Jacob's staff: The cross staff is moved until it just covers the sun and horizon. A scale on the stick shows the angle of incidence of the sun. Since the sun is lower above the horizon at higher latitudes, the latitude can be calculated from this. Own illustration, modified from wikipedia, Jakobsstab, accessed on March 14, 2010. License: GNU 1.2

The successor to Jacob's staff is the sextant.

Junks are the traditional Chinese sailing ships with flat bottoms and bamboo slats, mostly square or pentagonal sails. The Daus with their trapeze sails are widespread in the Indian Ocean.

The European diseases were so catastrophic in the Caribbean and America for two reasons: on the one hand, the Europeans had adapted to their diseases in the millennia of living with domestic animals (more); on the other hand, America's population goes back to a few immigrants, so it was genetically very similar.

The pirates who lived in the Caribbean found their provisions in the sea and on the islands: Sea turtles, for example, were popular and - turned on their backs - survived on board for a long time. The once millions of turtles have become rare as a result. In the Caribbean, too, colonization led to the disappearance of the megafauna.

The African slave trade to the New World began on the west coast, in what is now Senegal and Ghana, soon expanded into what is now Angola and, starting from Mozambique, also included the east coast in the 18th century.

It affected about ten times as many people as the slave trade through the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

James Cook uses a new instrument to determine latitude: the sextant. It is easier to use than the older Jacob's staff.


Sextant: Using the upper mirror and a second, semi-transparent mirror, the observer can aim at the horizon and midday sun at the same time and read the angle of incidence of the sun on a scale. Own illustration, modified after Joaquim Alves Gaspar, from wikipedia, Sextant, accessed March 14, 2010, license: cc 2.5.