13th September 1500: Portuguese Explorer Pedro Alvarez Cabral Lands in Calicut and Opens the first European Factory in India


 

On 13th September 1500, Pedro Alvarez Cabral, a Portuguese explorer and navigator arrived in Calicut and opened the first European factory in India.

 

Cabral, who is also considered the discoverer of Brazil, is remembered for carrying out the first consequential exploration of the northeast coast of South America, which he eventually annexed for Portugal. In 1500, Cabral was chosen to lead an expedition to India using Vasco Da Gama’s newly discovered route around Africa. The aim of this journey was to bring back valuable spices from India while establishing trade relations with the country in the process; considering the fact that the spice trade was dominated by the Arab, Italian and Turkish merchants.

 

Cabral reached Calicut on 13th September 1500 and soon received permission to open a factory and warehouse by the local ruler. Viewing this as a threat to their trade monopoly in the region, the Arabs attacked the Portuguese. The Portuguese were seriously wounded in this attack, around 500 of their men were killed and their infrastructure was destroyed. Cabral waited for 24 hours for an explanation from the ruler of Calicut, but he got none. The Portuguese were enraged by this attack on their men and set fire to 10 Arab merchant ships. Cabral further bombed the city when he got no explanation from the local ruler about the sudden attack.

 

This large scale killing was blamed on the Portuguese hostility towards the Muslims which had been developing over years of disagreements in North America and the Iberian Peninsula. Further, the Portuguese wanted to control the spice trade in India completely and did not want any kind of competition in their way. Similarly, the Arabs did not look favourably upon the Portuguese presence in the spice trade either.

 

Since the beginning, the Portuguese wanted special treatment in all areas of trade. Because of this the the Arab merchants believed that they were soon going to lose further opportunities to the Portuguese and hence instigated the local Hindu ruler against them. The Portuguese and Arabs remained extremely apprehensive about each other and never got along. Yet, despite this animosity the Portuguese had firmly positioned themselves in the spice trade and didn’t let anything else come in their way.

 

From Calicut, Cabral and his men sailed to Cochin where he established trading alliances with local rulers and bought many spices before he returned from Europe. In spite the fact that many men and ships were lost in this journey, it was considered a success when he returned to Portugal. The sale of Indian spices contributed greatly to the finances of the Portuguese Crown and the Portuguese spread their Empire right from South America to the Far East.

 

After Cabral’s return, Portugal’s King Manuel I began to make plans for another fleet of ships to make another journey to India and Cabral was chosen as Commander for this journey as well. Even though Cabral was preparing himself for this journey for reasons that are not certain he was relieved of his voyage. It is believed that command for this journey was to be given to another navigator Vincente Sodre and Cabral was not in favour of this. The fact whether Cabral was asked to leave or if he himself left is a fact which is not clear. Pedro Alvarez Cabral passed away in 1520 of unspecified causes in Santarem, Portugal.

 

Also on This Day:

 

1906: Surendra Kumar Dey, social reformer and politician, was born

 

1929: Jatindra Nath Das died on the 63rd day of hunger strike in Lahore Central Jail.

 

1948: Police action was taken against recalcitrant Hyderabad state by the Government of India and peace was declared on 17th September.

 

1992: Union government decides to form a National Human Rights Commission

 

1996: Lokpal Bill introduced in Lok Sabha.

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