Pedro Alvares Cabral and the Discovery of Brazil

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• Part 2: The Famous Voyage

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Part 1: The Early Years

We know Pedro Alvares Cabral as the discoverer of Brazil. How he came to be so remembered is either lucky accident or poor planning. Either way, he is famous.

He was born into a wealthy family in Belmonte, Portugal, in 1467. As was the way with young men of wealthy families at this time, young Pedro went to the court of Portugal's King John II, in order to study. He continued his education under the next king, Dom Manuel. Other than that, not much is known of his early life.

He did manage to befriend a man named Vasco Da Gama, who would become very famous as the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa and all the way to India. Da Gama did this, arriving in 1498, and returned to Dom Manuel's court full of news. He was also exhausted. The king wanted another voyage right away, so that Portugal could keep its advantage over European rivals Spain and England. Da Gama, however, wouldn't go. He had been on the high seas and in foreign lands for nearly two full years by the time he returned. He asked the king to send his friend, Pedro Cabral, in his place. The king was disappointed but yielded to Da Gama's wishes, naming Cabral as the head of the expedition and giving him 13 ships. The young man (for which this might have been his first voyage—historians just don't know) set about rounding up a crew and getting his ships ready to sail.

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David White