Why was Henry called 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Henry the Navigator, son of King John I of Portugal, earned the respect of his countrymen early in life by his bravery in the Battle of Ceuta (1415), a victory over Muslim forces that allowed European forces to establish their first permanent position in North Africa.
Military interests aside, Henry devoted much of his energy to the study of the sea and distant exotic places, real and imagined. Portugal, in the early 15th century, was one of the first European nations to unify, but had been plagued by its geographic isolation; it faced westward toward the Atlantic Ocean and was surrounded to the east and north by Spain. Direct access to the Mediterranean the heart of Western civilization was denied. By seeking papal approval first, Henry began the sponsorship of a long series of exploratory ventures southward along the coast of Africa. A lucrative trade in slaves and gold quickly developed. Henrys commercial success and other military victories enabled him to concentrate on his first love exploration and the arts and sciences associated with it.
Henry the Navigators greatest contribution was the establishment of a government-sponsored institute at Sagres, which maintained a school, an observatory, and a base for exploratory ventures at nearby Lagos. Books and charts were collected in a library and reports were solicited from contemporary travelers. This concentration of experts and information fostered advances in navigational instruments and cartography. Further, a new ship design that became the Portuguese caravel employed new rigging techniques that enabled mariners to more easily negotiate strong headwinds and unfavorable currents. This ship quickly made Portugal the leading maritime power. During Henry the Navigators lifetime, Portuguese interests were not confined to the West African coast, but pushed westward into the Atlantic to Madeira and the Azores. He helped to establish the foundation for the budding Portuguese empire and contributed mightily to the Christian European effort to avoid Muslim-controlled trade routes in the Middle East and eastern Asia.