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The Treaty of Tordesillas Which Divided The World

On this day, Spain and Portugal convened in the village of Tordesillas to sign the Treaty of Tordesillas, a landmark agreement that would reshape the world. With the discovery of entirely new continents, excitement was high about the potential resources and territories these landmasses had to offer. However, at the same time, it also caused tension between the ruling maritime powers of Spain and Portugal who wanted their piece of the pie. To prevent tensions from escalating into war, the Papacy acted as a mediator in creating the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the world between spheres of influence between Spain and Portugal.

Leadup to the Treaty of Tordesillas

The Treaty of Tordesillas, signed on June 7, 1494, between Spain and Portugal, was a pivotal agreement aimed at resolving conflicts over newly discovered lands following the voyages of Christopher Columbus and other explorers of the late 15th century.

This treaty was essential to avoid a clash between these powers as they expanded their territories. Mediated by Pope Alexander VI, who had already issued a papal bull favoring Spain, the treaty aimed to create a more balanced division of the unexplored world.

Mediated by Pope Alexander VI, the treaty established an imaginary line of demarcation about 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, dividing the non-European world into two zones of influence with the lands to the west going to Spain, and lands to the east belonging to Portugal. This division granted Portugal control over Brazil, which they discovered in 1500, while Spain would retain control over most of the Americas.

The Treaty of Tordesillas influenced the patterns of colonization by these two nations. Spain, with its vast western territories, embarked on a campaign of exploration and conquest that led to the establishment of a vast colonial empire in the Americas.

This limited the potential of Portugal’s expansion into the Americas, forcing it to explore south and east, expanding its influence in Africa and Asia. The treaty was respected for many years and effectively reduced conflicts between Spain and Portugal.

However, this treaty wasn’t perfect and led to some issues as the treaty did not address the other European powers who refused to recognize it. Rather than accept it, France, England, and the Netherlands would begin raiding Spanish holdings to establish their colonies. Ironically enough, this treaty led to further tensions with Spain and other kingdoms.

“But should it come to pass that the said ships of the said King and Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, etc., on sailing thus on this side of the said bound, should discover any mainlands or islands in the region pertaining, as abovesaid, to the said King of Portugal, such mainlands or islands shall pertain to and belong forever to the said King of Portugal and his heirs, and their Highnesses shall order them to be surrendered to him immediately. And if the said ships of the said King of Portugal discover any islands and mainlands in the regions of the said King and Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, etc., all such lands shall belong to and remain forever in the possession of the said King and Queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, etc., and their heirs, and the said King of Portugal shall cause such lands to be surrendered immediately.”

-Treaty of Tordesillas.

The Treaty of Tordesillas in Modern Perspective

Modern historians have criticized the Treaty of Tordesillas for its Eurocentric perspective and disregard for the indigenous populations of the newly discovered lands. The treaty’s division of the world into Spanish and Portuguese spheres of influence ignored the existing cultures, societies, and political entities in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

The legacy of the Treaty of Tordesillas can still be seen in the contemporary borders of Latin America. The treaty’s demarcation line influenced the territorial divisions that later evolved into modern nation-states. Brazil’s Portuguese heritage, distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbors, is a direct result of the treaty’s impact on colonization patterns.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was a significant agreement that aimed to resolve conflicts between Spain and Portugal during the Age of Exploration. Mediated by the Papacy, the treaty divided the non-European world into spheres of influence, shaping the patterns of colonization and exploration for centuries to come.

While the treaty successfully reduced conflicts between Spain and Portugal, it also led to increased rivalries with other European powers and had lasting consequences for the indigenous populations of the newly discovered lands. Despite its limitations, the Treaty of Tordesillas remains a landmark event in the history of international diplomacy and colonial expansion

Having the pope draft your treaty must have been a huge honor to do. But if you want to create letters that will impress the papacy, you can use our tools on vintage letter right here.

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