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This Day in History

January 1, This Day in History – June 10th: The Signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas, 1494



On June 10th, 1494, a significant event in global history occurred: the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas. This agreement between Spain and Portugal, mediated by Pope Alexander VI, determined how the newly discovered lands outside Europe would be divided between the two powers.

Coming after Christopher Columbus’s momentous 1492 voyage, the treaty aimed to resolve disputes over lands in the New World. The pope drew a demarcation line, roughly 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, with lands to the west reserved for Spain and to the east for Portugal.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was a crucial juncture in the Age of Discovery. It effectively granted Spain rights to most of the Americas (leading to the wide spread of Spanish language and culture in these regions) and ensured Portugal’s domination over the route to India and eventual control over Brazil.

However, the treaty ignored the existence and rights of indigenous peoples inhabiting these lands and was unrecognized by other exploratory nations, including England, France, and the Netherlands.

This June 10th, we reflect on the Treaty of Tordesillas, its impact on the geopolitical and cultural landscape of the New World, and its lessons about the consequences of colonial ambition.

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