History of Madeira

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ChronologyChronology

Around 1317The Genoese captain Manuel Pessanha would have recognized, about at the same time as the archipelagoes of the Azores and the Canaries, the mountainous island of Madeira.
1346The legend ensures that a certain Robert Mac Kean, gentleman English that the Portuguese will name Roberto Machim, would have made shipwreck in 1346 on the deserted island with the beautiful Anne d’ Orset (or of Arset) whom it had removed. The two lovers died shortly after and the other shipwrecked men buried them close to the shore. The latter were made capture then by the Barbaresque ones, which took them along to Morocco where they were sold like slaves. One of them, Juan de Morales, of return to Portugal around 1400, would have advised in João 1st to engage a forwarding so that this ground is recognized officially.
1419Allured, one says, by the account of Morals, Henri the Navigator armed a vessel. João Gonçalves Zarco (or Zargo) and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, two riders of the Infante, was on board. The adventure turned badly. Taken by a storm with broad of the course Bojador, they failed on an small island which they named, to greet their rescue, Oporto Santo. It was, according to the sources in 1418 or 1419.

When the boat could take again the sea, Zarco went back to Portugal. It set out again the following year in the same direction, pushing beyond Oporto Santo towards the mountain which took shape under a cap of clouds. The adventurer of Tomar unloaded soon in the bay which it named Machico, of the name of the Master of the Boat of the King. He baptized officially the Madeira island (“wood”, in Portuguese), because of the thick forest which recovered it; but the name was reproduced already on a portulan Florentin gone back to 1351…

Old seamen of Zarco. - The taking possession of Madeira took place in 1420 solemnly, when the navigators were charged to colonize it and populate it. Zarco is established with its family in bay of Funchal. it explored the southern part, dropped anchor in roads where many old seamen lived, and called Câmara de Lobos (Room of the Wolves) the place which was going to become the first fishing port of Madeira. Around 1421, the choice of the first Master of the island was made on a site much more interesting, at the end of four torrents, within the sumptuous framework of the harbor of the Fennel (funcho): it founded here Funchal, the capital of the first territory discovered of the Portuguese colonial Empire.

Seven years a long fire. - On arrival of Zarco, there was not only one inhabitant on the archipelago: the life was impossible there, because the forest occupied all space. To be able to plant the essential cultures, one thus decided to burn the forest. But the colonists did not manage to control the fire and fire was of such a violence that it devastated the island during seven years… They went to find refuge on the sea and in the narrow valley of this torrent which one was going to baptize, for the circumstance, back Socorridos (torrent of the Survivors) will ribeira. Today, only the northern slope of the island still has vestiges of the primitive forest.
1420-1430Fire had fertilized, but also drained the ground. Began then what a Portuguese botanist called “the rural epopee of Madeira”. One dug the drains of the levadas everywhere in order to irrigate all the grounds, since the tops to the sides of the valleys. This immense work required an important labor, primarily slaves and prisoners. Finally, the corn, the barley and especially the cane with sugar, arrival of Italy, pushed on the terraces in staircase of the island. As of the 15th century, one planted also the vines which the Portuguese went to seek in Candie, in Crete.
The transitory era of the captain-donees. - In approximately 1430, the Henri Infante named Zarco captain-donee of Funchal. It will occupy this function until its death (around 1465), beginning the construction of the city and distributing the grounds to the first colonists. In same time, two other harbor offices were created all the northern slope of the island was entrusted to Vaz Teixeira, companion of Zarco, which is established in Machico; the island of Oporto Santo returned as for it to a gentleman of the name of Bartolomeu Perestrelo in 1450 (its family was going to preserve this load until the middle of the 18th century), father of Felipa Moniz, the future wife of Christophe Colomb.

To avoid the abuses to which could deliver the captain-donees, Manuel 1st incorporated in the Crown the two harbor offices of Madeira in 1497. Three months later, the first pirate raid devastated the island. Funchal was set up in city in 1508, and it accommodated its first bishop in 1514. The island was used then as stopover to the large discoverers, undergoes the inevitable pirate raids. More or less forgotten by the Spanishs and first Bragance, Madeira lived sparely until the 18th century

1478Christophe Colomb unloads in Madeira for trade names and marries the girl of the governor of Oporto Santo.
1566The French corsair Bertrand de Montluc unloads in Funchal with his 11 galleons and 1300 men. He will sow terror there 16 days lasting before dying in the combat.
1580-1640Madeira becomes Spanish during the reign of Philippe II of Spain, proclaimed king of Portugal.
. Click to enlarge the image.The island became an important home port for the explorers who brought back flowers and exotic plants of all corners of the world.
Culture of the cane with sugar in Madeira east put at severely tested by Brazilian competition.
1662Following the union of Charles II of England with the Portuguese princess Catherine de Bragance, Madeira passes under English domination.
18th century. Click to enlarge the image.At that time the era began from the English recognitions. Cook initially wet with three recoveries, as from 1768, in front of Funchal.

The Madeira wine is the only wine authorized by the English with being exported towards the American colonies. The vine becomes the principal culture of the island. It is at that time that Blandy and other Leacock found their wine dynasties.

19th centuryCame the Napoleonean wars which provided to the British Crown the occasion to be interested more closely in Madeira. In 1801, the fleet of Its Majesty crossed in bay, and the troops went to place downtown. The new occupation which started in 1807 lasted seven years. When the English soldiers decided to re-embark, much of them chose to be established in Funchal.

Madeira develops thanks to the trade of the wine whose the English raffolait, and Oporto Santo sinks in the most total lapse of memory.

1856An cholera epidemic strikes Madeira.
20th centuryThe Portuguese Republic is proclaimed in 1901. Madeira acquires a great administrative freedom. In 1910, the archipelago adheres to the Portuguese Republic.

Madeira knew its true prosperity at the beginning of this century. Many a quintas was then high in the suburbs and above the capital: it is there that the large ones of then resided, (to him rested or misled their trouble under the bougainvilleas… Some remained around Monte, but the majority, in particular west of Funchal left the place to luxury hotels. Thus was born and continued the top-of-the-range tourist vocation of the island.

But tourist rise touched only the capital, and the life of the campaigns became in comparison much harder. The emigration was lived by much, exactly as in the north of Portugal, the only manner of surviving. Between the years 1950 and 1974, thousands of islanders left the too small grounds of an island for them without future, and settled in Brazil, in Central America, in Hawaii and especially in Venezuela.

In spite of the fast development of hotel trade and lines of business which created many employment, the life remains hard in Madeira. Everyone works when it can it, including young people which is very numerous in these grounds of strong fruitfulness (more than 40% of the population has less than 20 years) and of very followed religious practice still where the population, after having regressed a long time, increases again. The emigration is dried up as on the continent, and those which had left in the years 1950 and 1960 return to the country. They bring there currencies whose amount represents close to twice the incomes of the banana plantations. Madeira can thus be praised from now on, without too much risk to be private of this title, to be the Atlantic island thickly populated. As in Minho, one observes here a great dispersion of the habitat and an astonishing symbiosis village-countryside.

After the Revolution of the Eyelets, the separatist movement carried out extraordinary thorough. Not without humor, he declared that “Madeira is the only foreign country which still receives escudos”… The freedom fighters put also the finger on the problems from which the island suffers: poverty (mean level of the wages approximately 30% lower than that of the continent), the unequal distribution of the richnesses, the poverty of the peasants and seizure of the central power on the economy of the archipelago.

The constitution in autonomous region on October 1st, 1976 defused any separatist inclination. A Parliament elected by the vote for all and a regional government regulate from now on the administrative or budgetary problems. They have even certain legislative powers or tax. Madeira emits moreover its own philately and hoists its colors. With the land reform of 1978, that was enough to calm - at least until now - the nationalist heats…

CharactersCharacters

If the island counts few really famous children (the dramatic writer Baltasar Dias at the 17th century and the Barbosa naturalist of the Scrap-metal at the 19th century), Madeira accepted on the other hand the visit of many foreign celebrities. Christophe Colomb, James Cook or Perugia spent some time here, and Napoleon made there stopover - certainly in spite of him - in 1815. Followed the count de Montalembert, the Adélaïde queen of England, Charlotte and Maximilien de Habsbourg on the way towards Mexico (where this last was to find a fine tragedy), Elisabeth de Wittelsbach (famous Sissi), eternal voyageuse, and after her, Camille Saint-Saëns. At the 20th century, prince Albert, future king of the Belgians, came there in 1912, then the Portuguese aviator Gago Countinho. The Charles emperor of Austria died here in 1922, and Winston Churchill made a stay in Câmara de Lobos in 1950. Lastly, Paul Morand and Jacques Chardonne (author of Living in Madeira) were very impressed by the island.

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