Pedro Alvares Cabral

Cabral, Pedro Alvares (pĕˈdrŏ əlväˈrəsh kəbrälˈ) [key], c.1467–c.1520, Portuguese navigator. A friend of Vasco da Gama, in 1500 he was sent out by Manuel I as head of a fleet destined for India. Bartolomeu Dias was one of his officers. Cabral went far west of his course and reached the coast of Brazil, which he claimed for Portugal. Proceeding onward, he reached Madagascar, Mozambique, and the Indian coast. At Calicut (Kozhikode), trouble arose over establishing a post for trade and for converting the Muslims. He bombarded the city but had to retreat in order to save his East Indian cargo. The ships returned to Portugal with rich cargoes, but his methods of diplomacy were severely criticized.

The old story that Cabral discovered Brazil because he had been driven off his course by storms has been questioned, and it has been urged that even before the Spaniard Vicente Yáñez Pinzón saw the Brazilian coast (Jan., 1500), Portuguese navigators had been there and that Portugal, wishing to obtain the land, had managed to secure a revision of the pope's original demarcation of the world into Spanish and Portuguese zones of exploration. Certainly the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) adjusted the former line and put Brazil in the Portuguese zone, but the issue is still a subject of debate.

See W. B. Greenlee, comp., The Voyage of Pedro Alvares Cabral to Brazil and India: From Contemporary Documents and Narratives (tr. 1938, repr. 1972).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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