The 7th June marks the 525th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas. The treaty was named for the Castilian town near Valladolid where it was signed by the Catholic Kings (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) and John II, King of Portugal. The signing of this treaty divided those parts of the world newly “discovered” by Spain and Portugal between the empires of the two kingdoms along an imaginary meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. The lands to the east of this line corresponded to Portugal and those to the west to Spain.
The Treaty of Tordesillas had a precedent, the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479), that followed the War of Castillan Succession, and already marked the division of the Atlantic into two spheres of influence, one for Spain and the other for Portugal, with the exception of the Canary islands (Spanish, but in the Portuguese sphere). This was confirmed by the papal bull Aeterni regis (Sixtus IV, 1481) which recognised as Portuguese some disputed territories in the Atlantic (Guinea, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde). More importantly, the treaty recognised Portugal exclusive right of navigation south of the Canary islands. Continue reading