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Canary Islands

Autor:   •  December 21, 2016  •  Term Paper  •  1,194 Words (5 Pages)  •  113 Views

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Edward Diggin



        located off the south coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands are an island set consisting of seven main landmasses and multiple islets.  There is little documentation regarding early settlers of the Canaries, however European expeditions of discovery in the early to mid-14th-century marked the establishment of a documented history, a rise in colonization and economic interest in the islands. Focusing on events from this time period I intend to expose the importance of the developing Canaries to further European expansion, economic growth and the development of the New World.  

        Due to the geographical location, The Canary Islands "offered a convenient base for" (Landes, 70) European-African trade.  Gaining much European attention after their documentation around 1330, empirical contenders began their pursuits of invasion as to claim jurisdiction of the Canaries; most notably were the Castilians (Spanish) and the Portuguese.  Early documents described the inhabitants of the Canaries, the Guanches, as light in complexion and warlike in nature, living much more primitively than Europeans but still maintaining a tribal like organization.  Castilian expeditions led to early European colonization on the islands, first conquering lesser Guanche societies on infertile islands.  It is believed much of their early success however can be credited to a lack of immunities the Guanches had to European diseases, not any inferiority in fighting ability.  This was of no regard however as the original goal of the Castilians was to gain access to the African gold market through the Canaries, it was not until the Portuguese began profiting from sugar production on Madeira that the Castilians recognized the additional value that islands possessed.

        With the Portuguese focusing on the developing sugar industry in Madeira, The Castilians continued their expansion to the rest of the Canary Islands.  The Castilian’s continued expansion in the Canaries marked nearly a century of battles with other Europeans (French and Portuguese) as well as a firm Guanche resistance before being recognized as the controlling force of the islands.  By the end of the 15th century the Canaries were well under the control of the Castilians.  Profiting mostly in the slave trade of the Guanches and less from African gold as had been originally intended, around 1450 the Castilians changed their profit focus with the Canaries towards the now flourishing sugar cultivation industry.  It is the entrance of the Canaries into the sugar industry that helped shape the later course of transatlantic expansion as well as the rapid growth in African slave trade.  

         As sugar cultivation became the main goal of Castilian presence in the Canaries, the islands' economies quickly began to thrive.  Castilian colonists built cities and ports throughout the islands, originally for use of trade but expanding rapidly as the convenient location served as the prime stop for transatlantic ships to resupply.  The influx of European colonies continued as the Canaries proved a crucial location to European maritime trade which became the main factor in the economic success of the now Castilian controlled islands.  The booming economy was also supported in part by agricultural successes on the more fertile islands.  Many colonial settlers became fishermen and farmers but much of the fertile land was consumed by sugar production and the ports used for export.


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