Why was Henry called the Navigator?
by Veronica Peña

Photo Credit: "Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1997"
Prince Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry of Portugal (1394-1460) was called the Navigator not because he went to sea himself, but rather because he encouraged exploration in the early 15th century. He did the organization that was needed for long voyages to succeed. He began sending out expeditions in 1418.

Photo Credit: "Eyewitness History of the World"
Better technology helped the Portuguese explore Africa.

His two motivations were to pile up wealth for himself and his country, and convert "pagans" and "Moors" to Christianity. The Portuguese and Henry especially hated the Moslems who had caused a lot of problems for Portugal in the past. Their desire for geographical knowledge was a third reason for exploration. Henry's early expeditions were unprofitable and he needed a way to change that. In Prince Henry's day the way to get rich was by finding and grabbing new land, hopefully land that had no people living on it, or at least people who were not able to fight back.

Photo Credit: "Mediasource Historical Library 1 (CD-ROM)"
Columbus used Portuguese ship designs.

The other way of getting rich was to engage in trade, to buy as cheaply as possible and sell as high as possible. In order to do this, Henry sent his ships further and further south along the west coast of Africa. He was the third surviving son of King John I of Portugal, so the king gave Henry the monopoly for travel and trade on the Guiana Coast. This allowed him to become very wealthy.

Photo Credit: "Eyewitness History of the World"
The Portuguese invented the Caravel

For years, Henry was the driving force behind the Portuguese exploration of the west African coast. His school for navigators in Lisbon produced some of the finest navigators of the day, and Henry financed their explorations. Henry also made improvements in the art of shipbuilding. The caravel, for example, was designed by Henry's shipbuilders.

Photo Credit: "Mediasource Historical Library 1 (CD-ROM)"
The Portuguese land in the Azores.

After ten years of exploration, one of Henry's navigators, Gil Eanes, rounded Cape Bojador on the coast of Morocco in 1434. In 1439, the Portuguese settled the Azore Islands. When his expeditions reached the Senegal River and the Cape Verde Islands, a profitable trade in gold and slaves allowed his captains to become very rich.

Photo Credit: "Microsoft Encarta 97"
Vasco da Gama's voyage

Shortly before Henry's death, one of his Captains, Pedro de Sintra reached Sierra Leone. After his death, Portuguese navigators like Dias and da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached India.

sources: Boxer, Charles R., The Portuguese Seaborne Empire: 1415-1825 (1969)
  Sanceau, Elaine, Henry the Navigator (1946)
  Ure, John, Prince Henry the Navigator (1977)
  Daniel R. Headrick, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia for Windows (1997)
  "Henry the Navigator," Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. (1997)
  Eyewitness History of the World CD-ROM (1995)
  Mediasource Historical Library - Volume 1 CD-ROM