What Was the Treaty of Tordesillas?

The Treaty of Tordesillas was sign by Spain on June 2, 1494 in the city of Tordesillas, Spain.
The Treaty of Tordesillas was sign by Spain on June 2, 1494 in the city of Tordesillas, Spain.

The Treaty of Tordesillas was notable for dividing lands outside of Europe. It was signed by Spain on June 2, 1494, and by the Portuguese three months later on September 5, 1494.

The Treaty

The main reason for the treaty was to ensure a newly discovered land outside Europe was divided in a rational and peaceful manner between the Portuguese Empire and the Crown of Castile. This land was divided along the meridian 370 league that is located on the west side of Cape Verde Island. The Portuguese Empire occupied the east region while the people of Castile occupied the west. Another treaty known as the Zaragoza emerged in the year 1529 between the outside worlds that indicated the antemeridian to the position of separation.


The main reason for the treaty was to solve the dispute that arose upon the land being found. This land was discovered by Christopher Columbus and his crew on their sail from Crown of Castle to Spain. On his voyage, he made a stop in Lisbon where he requested a meeting with the King John II on matters pertaining the land he had discovered. This aggravated the King, therefore he drafted a letter to the catholic Monarchs claiming that the treaty of Alcacovas signed in 1479 gave Portugal the right to all lands found on the south of Canary Island. This meant the land did not belong to the Castle of Castile. Having known that they do not have any military manpower with them, the catholic Monarchs chose a more diplomatic way of solving the dispute. In May 1493, Pope Alexander ruled that any land found between poles 100 leagues that is located west of Cape Verde all belonged to the Castle. Furthermore, since Portugal was not mentioned, they could not claim the land. However, the agreement did not satisfy the King because it gave him little land than he had wanted. In as much as they could not go to war over the matter, disputes arouse upon the mention of India which was part of the discovered land. This is what brought about the treaty of Tordesillas as it was viewed as the only solution to the matter.

Modern Claims

Contrary to ancient claims, the modern claims states that this treaty cited by Chile was formed with the main aim of protecting the principle of an Antarctic sector. It also made a declaration that the treaty made by the Portuguese and Spaniards gave them the right to own land that is located south of the pole. Furthermore, Indonesia fought to own the Netherlands New Guinea in the year 1962. It did this with a reason that the Territory of Majapahit had made Western New Guinea inclusive of the treaty of Tordesillas. Lastly, Argentina also invoked the agreement in early 20th century as a reason to own the Falkland and Malvinas Island.


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