Portugal<, also known as the Portuguese Empire, was the world’s first global empire in history. It began with the capture of Ceuta from the Arabs in 1415, though the famous sailors and explorers from the country truly made Portugal the major power at its time. They explored the coast of Africa in 1419, using technological advances in navigation, cartography, and maritime technology, such as the caravel. This allowed the Portuguese to establish a sea route to access the rich spices from Asia. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope, while Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498. In 1500, Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered the coast of what is now Brazil, who later established what would become Brazil’s most powerful colony. Following the decades, Portuguese sailors and explorers continued to explore the coasts and Islands of the East Indies, allowing a string of forts and factories to be established. By 1571, Portugal was at the height of its power, stretching from Lisbon to Nagasaki to the African coasts to the Middle East to India to Asia and to Brazil, allowing wealth to pour in from all directions. From 1580 to 1640, Spain and Portugal united into a personal union, though both empires governed each other still. Yet Portuguese colonies were under endless attack from Spain’s enemies: Britain, France, and the Netherlands. To make matters worse, the Portuguese overextended themselves, preventing a strong, effective grip over their colonies.
During the 17th Century, the Dutch stole from the Portuguese its Indian and Southeast Asian colonies, ending the Portuguese trade monopoly in the Indian Ocean it once held. Brazil was the country’s most powerful colony. When Spain was overrun by Napoleon in 1809, the royal family fled to Brazil for protection. After the Second Napoleonic War in 1823, Portugal was annexed, forcing the government to be relocated to Brazil, though most of its colonies were still under their control.