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Henry the Navigator lived between the years 1394 to the year 1460 (Beazley, 1894). He was the prince of Portugal, who was considered as the patron of exploration. I have chosen him for the topic because of his significance in the process of colonization and civilization of Africa, and other continents, of his contribution to the process of colonization.
Henry had two main aims particularly in his interest in Africa. First, he wanted to expand his knowledge on Africa and its environs; by then little was known about the continent. Secondly, he wanted to expand its territory and conquer more unexploited territories. Lastly, he aimed at civilizing Africa through the spread of Christianity and stopping of the slave trade.
The Moroccan campaign motivated Henry to develop interest in the exploration of African territories. His father, John I, was a king of Portugal, who inspired him to continue with further invasion after he had conquered Ceuta in the year 1415 (Beazley, 1894). On the other hand, the slaves from Africa were mistreated in Portugal and in the whole of western countries and hence, he was inspired to save Africans from slavery.
The personal income and resource of Henry motivated him to explore and achieve his objectives. First, in the year 1420, he was appointed the governor of an exceedingly rich old Order of Christ, the Portuguese successor to the Knights Templar, which had its headquarters at Tomar. This gave him both monetary and political power and hence, had no fears on how to finance the activities. On the other hand, he inherited a lot of wealth from his father. His brother took over the leadership of his father and provided Henry with a favorable trading environment, generating a lot of wealth.
Henry made several steps in the attempt to influence his move to achieve the aims as above. First, he opened a school to learn navigation and the African geography. This was extremely significant. His servants, military men and he himself could have knowledge of Africa before they explore on it. On the other hand, the study of navigation could facilitate the traveling process from Portugal to African territories. To facilitate sailing and navigation, with less or, no interaction, Henry conquered extremely strategic ports connecting Africa and European states. These ports included Cape Bojador, Cape Blanco, and the Bay of Alguim in the years 1434, 1441, and 1443 respectively (Oliveira, 1914). On the other hand, the port Lagos provided him with the access to several islands and territories.
Henry succeeded in pursuing his goal in various ways. First, he was able to explore most parts in the coast of Africa, where no other European state had ever heard off or discovered. This was achieved through his desire to learn, and the ability to conquer several ports. As a result, of the strength and reputation of his military, he was appointed as a commander of several foreign army portages. Henry’s activities were also extremely successful in that, between the years 1444 and 1446, the number of vessels which sailed along the West African coast were between thirty and forty (Oliveira, 1914). Lastly, Henry formed the bases of the Portuguese colonial empire in Africa, and eventually the other European countries were awaken and started exploring Africa and establishing colonial empires. On the other hand, Henry failed to stop slave trade, which increased as the other European countries, exploited Africa.
Henry made both positive and negative contributions to the world history. He can be considered the father of the African civilization. His exploration to the African geography inspired the other Europeans to establish colonial empires in Africa, and eventually civilizing it. On the other hand, he contributed to the colonization process, as his initiation was extremely tormenting to Africa, particularly during the colonial era and during the freedom way. Colonization led to deaths, destruction of property and lack of human dignity for Africans. Despite that, I admire Henry the Navigator for his courage and strategic positioning particularly, his military and navigation skills as he conquered several territories.