Admiral Joao Pereira Corte-Real and the Construction of Portuguese East-Indiamen in the Early Seventeenth Century

By C.B. Boxer, published November 1940


Between 1580 and 1640, when she was dominated by Spain during the ‘Sixty Years of Captivity’, Portugal still produced good pilots and mariners. Despite the loss of national independence the Portuguese yards at Lisbon, Oporto, and Goa continued to build ships that aroused the envy and admiration of foreigners. Corte-Real gained practical experience by completing trading voyages to India, which he put to use with his proposals for regulating the Portuguese navigation and trade with India from 1619. His Discourse, printed in 1622 influenced the construction of Portuguese East-India ships and the payment of their crews. The remuneration of crew by allowing them to carry duty free goods, instead of paying wages, encouraged the building of large unseaworthy vessels rendering long voyages hazardous. As Corte-Real and his supporters gained influential positions the substitution of larger carracks by galleons and smaller naus accelerated, improving the survival of Portuguese fleets to the East Indies.

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Filed under: Atlantic | Other (Early Modern) | Indian Ocean
Subjects include: Administration | Manpower & Life at Sea | Shipbuilding & Design