The adventure, too, was more plural and far wider. Water passages were no longer merely familiar well-marked roads within a closed sea, a Mediterranean. The new highways led across the open seas, and they led everywhere.

Separated only by a tiny strait from Africa, the Portuguese were remarkably free of racial prejudice or provincialism. Their ancestors were Celts, Iberians, and Englishmen. They intermarried with Africans and Asians. Portugal became a small proto-America, a place for the mixing of people – Christians, Jews, and Muslims. A Muslim occupation had left his mark on institutions. The divers physical, mental, temperamental, traditional, aesthetic, and literary resources enriched one another, providing the varied energies and the motley knowledge required to reach out to the open ocean and come back home again.

“The Portuguese Discoverers”, from “The Discoverers”, Daniel J. Boorstin, The National Board for the Celebration of Portuguese Discoveries, Lisbon, 1987