Never have heard the discovery and exploration of the New World from that point of view.
I knew Portugal was a seafaring nation and had made great expeditions to India and then the Far East
What about the Spanish? I knew they were led mainly by the thier soldiers. Also they were attempting to conquer, spread religion, and find wealth.
And the English?
Why didnt Portugal continue. Its seems in the 1500 the were passed quickly by the Spanish and the English in terms of amount of expeditions, maritime trading companies and especially colonization.
Maybe this should be a new thread?
Nah this thread is perfectly alright and I will not talk about the English or Dutch that have also a great maritime story, even if not comparable in what regards discoveries. But regarding your question see it this way.
The population of Portugal in the XVI century was 16 times smaller that the population of the metropolitan area of New York. about a million people and that counts also for old women ad children and not all men where sailors or soldiers, the land was worked.
The discoveries, either the Spanish ones or the Portuguese ones where a race for wealth that would come from the first that would find a sea way to India managing take out of the way the Turks and the Venetians that dominated the trade (by the red sea and the med) and got all the profits.
Columbus was working for Spain and his intention was to reach India sailing west. For many years he was convinced he had reached India. The Portuguese had more knowledge, know that continent was not India and that's why the Portuguese king was not interested in Colombo's offer that was made to him first.
But the word discovery of the sea way for India is not an accurate one. In fact the real discovery had to do with being able to pass Cabo da Boa Esperança and that means discovering the trade winds and that has nothing of logical has you know. For doing it it s needed to sail almost to Brasil before turning to the cape. After passing the cape and that was done by Bartolomeu Dias, it was just a question to go up a bit along the coast till already well known waters, sailed for centuries by Arab traders. From there on, it was not a discovery but a fight.
At the time the Turkish empire was one of the more powerful on earth and they were the ones that dominated that trade on the oriental side of the red sea. So it was not easy, considered the disproportion of forces and the fact that for being there or to send reinforces the Portuguese would have to circle all Africa while they were already there, on the red sea. It was possible because the Portuguese were better sailors, had better boats and most of all because we have a rare ability to go along with other cultures and rapidly made local allies. I would say that being a country that had been fighting with Mouros reconquering the occupied territory for the last 300 years (before the discoveries) would has given to the Portuguese a fair amount of fighting knowledge as a winning spirit.
Regarding Portugal have disappeared as an independent force in the XVI century that was much what happened. On those times countries had not what we would call today nationalism. What counted was the royal families and the noble families. When D. Sebastião, a not very bright kid that was unfortunately also a Portuguese king died in a Stupid battle that everybody said him not to engage, the legal owner of the Portuguese throne (by descendants) was the king of Spain.
The funny thing is that if the son of our precedent king had not been killed in a stupid race horse, the situation would be inverse and it would be the king of Portugal the legitimate king of Portugal and Spain.
So, it still were two different countries with the same king but obviously the interests of Spain were not the same as the Portuguese ones and Portugal forces were taken out of India and Brasil to sustain the main interests of Spain regarding a dominant position in Europe and if the invincible armada was not destroyed by a storm, that was not even an hurricane, Europe story could be different.
The Portuguese forces and fortresses in Red Sea, India, Africa, Macau, Malaca and Brasil had to fight without reinforcements against the enemies of Spain that know were also Portuguese enemies, meaning Dutch and English.
When the people, not the nobleman had enough of this situation, about 60 years later, they trough out of the window (literally) the Spanish representative and "invented" a new king. From there Portugal, that is much smaller and had a population about 5 times smaller than Spain had to fight a survival and bitter war with Spain that lasted almost 30 years.
Meanwhile the English and the Dutch taking advantage of the situation continue attacking the Portuguese Colonies in Brasil, China and India.
Giving the situation it is pretty amazing that Portugal had not only survived but managed to maintain Brasil, the African colonies, the main Indian colonies and Macau but off course, both this situations (King of Spain also the king of Portugal and the subsequent long war) changed the geo-strategic situation and prevented Portugal to continue dominating the trade route with India.
Anyway to my view the best contribute of that original million of souls that expanded Portugal by the world was the Portuguese that from one million native speakers is today spoken by 215 million native speakers and the number of speakers is increasingly very rapidly.