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The Treaty of Alcáçovas (also known as Treaty or Peace of Alcáçovas-Toledo) put an end to the War of the Castilian Succession in favor of Isabel, and confirmed Castilian control of the Canary Islands and Portuguese control of the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde islands, all in the Atlantic Ocean. It was signed on September 4, 1479 between the Catholic Monarchs of Castile (Castilla, Spain) and Aragon on one side and the King of Portugal on the other side.

Contents

Succession

Ferdinand and Isabella

Portugal on one side championed the claim of the daughter of Enrique IV of Castile, Juana, to the crown of Castile, while the Kingdom of Aragon championed the rights of Isabel to that crown. King Afonso V of Portugal was married to Juana, about whom rumors of illegitimacy were spread and who was popularly known as Juana "la Beltraneja", because her father was alleged to be Beltrán de La Cueva.

When Isabel, who was married to Prince Ferdinand of Aragon and whose claim to the crown was also disputed, was crowned Queen of Castile, civil war broke out in 1474. Portugal was finally defeated in the Battles of Toro in 1476 and Albuera in 1479.

Possessions

Afonso V of Portugal

The treaty also settled disputes between Castile and Portugal over the control of the Atlantic in which Castilian control of the Canary islands was recognized but which also confirmed Portuguese possession of the Azores, Madeira, the Cape Verde islands and gave them rights to "lands discovered and to be discovered...and any other island which might be found and conquered from the Canary islands beyond toward Guinea." This treaty, ratified later by the Papal bull Aeterni regis in 1481, essentially gave the Portuguese free rein to continue their exploration along the African coast while guaranteeing Castilian sovereignty in the Canaries. It also prohibited Castilians from sailing to the Portuguese possessions without Portuguese license. The Treaty of Alcáçovas established Castilian and Portuguese spheres of control in the Atlantic and settled, for a while, a period of open hostility, but it also created the basis for future claims and conflict.

Portugal's rival Castile had been somewhat slower than its neighbour to begin exploring the Atlantic, and it was not until late in the fifteenth century that Castilian sailors began to compete with their Iberian neighbours. The first contest was for control of the Canary Islands, which Castile won. It was not until the union of Aragon and Castile and the completion of the Reconquista that the larger country became fully committed to looking for new trade routes and colonies overseas. In 1492, the joint rulers of the country decided to fund Christopher Columbus' expedition that they hoped would bypass Portugal's lock on Africa and the Indian Ocean, and instead, reach Asia by traveling west over the Atlantic.

Long term implications

The Treaty of Alcáçovas could be considered as a landmark in the history of colonialism. It is one of the first international documents formally establishing the principle that European powers are empowered to divide the rest of the world into "spheres of influence" and colonise the territories located within such spheres, and that any indigenous people living there need not be asked for their consent (or even be informed that their fate was being decided upon). This would remain a generally-accepted principle in the ideology and practice of European powers up to the 20th century decolonization. The Treaty of Alcáçovas could be regarded as the ancestor of many later international treaties and instruments based on the same basic principle - for example the resolutions of the 1884 Conference of Berlin, a full four centuries later, which in much the same way divided Africa into colonial spheres of influence.

See also

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