Treaty of Tordesillas

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The Treaty of Tordesillas (Portuguese: Tratado de Tordesilhas, Spanish: Tratado de Tordesillas), signed at Tordesillas (now in Valladolid province, Spain), 7 June 1494, divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Spain and Portugal along a meridian 370 Castillian leagues (approximately 2,061 kilometres (1,281 mi)) west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa). This line of demarcation was about halfway between the Cape Verde Islands (already Portuguese) and the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage (claimed for Spain), named in the treaty as Cipangu and Antilia (Cuba and Hispaniola). The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Spain. The treaty was ratified by Spain (at the time, the Crowns of Castile and Aragon), 2 July 1494 and by Portugal, 5 September 1494. The other side of the world would be divided a few decades later by the Treaty of Zaragoza or Saragossa, signed on 22 April 1529, which specified the antimeridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Originals of both treaties are kept at the Archivo General de Indias in Spain and at the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo in Portugal.[1]


Signing and enforcement

The Treaty of Tordesillas was intended to resolve the dispute that had been created following the return of Christopher Columbus. In 1481, the papal Bull Aeterni regis had granted all land south of the Canary Islands to Portugal. On 4 May 1493 the Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI decreed in the bull Inter caetera that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Spain, although territory under Christian rule as of Christmas 1492 would remain untouched. The bull did not mention Portugal or its lands, so Portugal couldn't claim newly discovered lands even if they were east of the line. Another bull, Dudum siquidem, entitled Extension of the Apostolic Grant and Donation of the Indies and dated 25 September 1493, gave all mainlands and islands then belonging to India to Spain, even if east of the line. The Portuguese King John II was not pleased with that arrangement, feeling that it gave him far too little land — it prevented him from possessing India, his near term goal (as of 1493, Portuguese explorers had only reached the east coast of Africa). He opened negotiations with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to move the line to the west and allow him to claim newly discovered lands east of the line. The treaty effectively countered the bulls of Alexander VI and was sanctioned by Pope Julius II via the bull Ea quae of 24 January 1506.[2]

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