Manuel I, 1469–1521, king of Portugal

Manuel I, 1469–1521, king of Portugal (1495–1521), successor of John II. Manuel's reign was most notable for the successful continuation of Portugal's overseas enterprises. John had planned the expedition in search of a sea route to India and had appointed Vasco da Gama to head it, but it was under Manuel that the epochal voyage was made (1497–99) and that the wealth of the Indies began to pour into Portugal. Cabral announced the discovery of the coast of Brazil (1500), and such commanders as Francisco de Almeida and Afonso de Albuquerque built up the Portuguese commercial empire. Portugal became the leading commercial nation of the West. This sudden wealth, however, soon had corrupting effects on officials and started the process of turning interest away from the agricultural and industrial development of Portugal itself. In order to marry Isabel, eldest daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Manuel accepted (1496) the Spanish condition that he expel the Jews and Moors from Portugal. However, because he did not wish to lose a community that had contributed much to learning and science in Portugal and had provided many able artisans, he first attempted a policy of forcible conversion of the Jews. Though Manuel promised that no investigation would be made into the faith of the “new Christians,” he could not prevent the departure of some Jews. Nor could he prevent a great massacre of the Jews in Lisbon in 1506, though he punished the perpetrators. Manuel used his new wealth to erect some beautiful buildings, including the Hieronymite monastery at Belém (now in Lisbon), near the spot where Vasco da Gama embarked for India. He also revised the laws and strengthened the power of the king. He was succeeded by his son, John III.

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