Cabral, Pedro Alvares

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Cabral, Pedro Alvares

Cabral, Pedro Alvares (pĕˈdro͝o əlväˈrəsh kəbrälˈ), 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).

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Cabral, Pedro Alvares


Born circa 1467; died circa 1520. Portuguese navigator.

In 1500, Cabral was appointed commander of a fleet that was to sail to India following Vasco da Gama’s route. Sailing south from the Cape Verde Islands, Cabral strayed far from his path toward the west and on Apr. 22, 1500, at 17° S lat., discovered a land that he mistook for islands and named it the Land of the True Cross. (That same year it was renamed Holy Cross, and a few years later the unofficial name of Brazil became firmly established.) Cabral sailed toward the Cape of Good Hope and in the middle of September 1500 reached India near the city of Calicut. He destroyed Calicut for its refusal to trade with the Portuguese and concluded agreements favorable to Portugal with the neighboring ports of Cochin and Cannanore. By January 1500 he had left the country, and at the end of July he returned to Portugal with a valuable load of Indian goods. The sale of these goods covered the expenses for the expedition more than twice over.


Magidovich, I. P. Ocherki po istorii geograficheskikh otkrytii. Moscow, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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