Alfonso V succeeded his father, Edward I, to the throne of Portugal in
1438 and became known as ‘The African’ because of his campaigns in Morocco.
During Alfonso’s reign, his famous uncle, Prince Henry the Navigator,
directed the important voyages of discovery that made Portugal one of the
leading sea powers of the century.
King Alfonso was the first Monarch to make discovery a ‘for-profit’
business. In 1469, he signed an agreement with Fernŕo Gomes in which Gomes
agreed to explore 300 miles of African coast annually. As an incentive,
Gomes would receive a monopoly on trade from Guinea, providing of course
that the King would also receive a share of these profits.
Alfonso also considered a westward voyage to Asia and consulted the
Florentine cosmographer Toscanelli about the feasibility of such a route.
Working with Alfonso, Toscanelli was able to eventually propose a much
shorter trade route of getting to the ‘Land of Spices’ (Asia) than by the
African route currently followed by the Portuguese Navy. The Correspondence
between Alfonso V and Toscanelli later influenced the development of
Christopher Columbus’ own ideas on global navigation.
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