During 15th & 16th Century, Portugal was a leading European Power.
Portugal had extensive colonial trading empire.
August 21, 1415 with the conquest of Ceuta, a city on the North African Coast, The Portuguese Empire was founded.
Period of Discovery
The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494 and divided the (largely undiscovered) world between the Spanish and the Portuguese.
Bartolomeu Dias turned The Cape of Good Hope in 1488 opening up trade with India.
Expanding the Empire
Vasco de Gama rounded The Cape of Good Hope and solidified trade with India.
Prince Henry the Navigator took the lead role in promoting and financing Portuguese Maritime exploration till his death in 1460.
In 1581, Phillip was crowned Philip I of Portugal, uniting the 2 crowns and overseas empires under Spanish Habsburg rule.
The union had both benefits and drawbacks. (Portugal could sell slaves in the Spanish Americas for a higher price, on the other hand they were now dragged into conflicts with England, France, Dutch Republic.)
In 1500 navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral landed in Brazil and laid claim to it in the name of King Manuel I of Portugal.
Between 1500-1530 few expeditions came to chart the coast and collect brazilwood. (used to produce a valuable dye to stain luxury textiles.)
Portuguese restricted colonial trade , Brazil was only allowed to export and import goods from Portugal and other Portuguese colonies
Tobacco, cotton, cachaca were produced but sugar by far the most important product.
First sugarcane farms established in mid 16th century.
Portuguese relied on aborigine slaves originally, then began importing African slaves to harvest the sugarcane.
The Sugarcane Cycle 1530-1700
References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_empire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonial_Brazil h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Portu gal