Treaty of Tordesillas

treaty dividing territory between Portugal and Spanin

The Treaty of Tordesillas was a treaty between Portugal and Spain in 1494. The countries decided to divide up all the land in the Americas between Portugal and Spain. However, Natives had no say in this treaty.[1] The Spanish Pope Alexander VI was the Pope at the time of the treaty. The Pope drew an imaginary line on a map. This line was 2,193 kilometers to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. He gave Portugal the land to the east of this line and gave Spain the land to the west of this line.[2] The purpose of the treaty was to resolve conflict.[3]

Lines dividing the non-Christian world between Spain and Portugal: the 1494 Tordesillas meridian (purple) and the 1529 Zaragoza antimeridian (green)

King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile of Spain signed this treaty in Tordesillas, Spain. This is where the treaty got its name.[4] Spain governed the territories West of the line and Portugal governed the territories east of the line. The two countries mostly followed the treaty.

This treaty was an important event during the age of discovery and colonization. Natives did not acknowledge the treaty. The treaty also connected to the discovery doctrine. This doctrine said that European Christians had the right to colonize new lands. It did not matter who lived there first. It only mattered that a Christian first settled there. So the first Christian to settle in land would have a right to that land.[5] Both Portugal and Spain respected this doctrine.

Great Britain (1600) and the Netherlands (1602) soon joined the Portuguese and Spanish in exploring the world at the beginning of the 17th century. With these new countries, the Treaty was broken and more or less 'canceled'. By this time, Portugal's limited resources made it weaker. Portugal could no longer control its Asian colonies. It no longer had trading superiority. In time, the French, Danes, Swedes and later the Americans joined the earlier Europeans in colonizing South and East Asia. Protestantism did not regard the Pope's authority in the treaty.[6]

The Treaty lasted a short time, but had indirect impacts. It changed Spanish and Portuguese exploration of the New World. The treaty in part explains why the Portuguese-speaking part of South America became one country called Brazil. The regions in South America more to the West speak Spanish.The Spanish-speaking colonies split up into many different independent countries including Argentina, Colombia, and many others. [6]


  1. "Jun 7, 1494 CE: Treaty of Tordesillas | National Geographic Society". Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  2. "Demarcation Lines". Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  3. "Treaty of Tordesillas: The 1494 Decision Still Influencing Today's World". The History Reader. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2022-07-30.
  4. Emma Helen Blair, ed.,  The Philippine Islands, 1493–1803 (Cleveland, Ohio: 1903). Frances Gardiner Davenport, ed., European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648 (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1917), 100.
  5. Harjo, Susan Shown (2014). Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States & American Indians. Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-1-58834-478-6.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Treaty of Tordesillas: The 1494 Decision Still Influencing Today's World". The History Reader. 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2022-07-30.