The Gomes contract, we know, produced an impressive annual series of African discoveries – around Cape Palmas at he continent’s southwestern tip, into the Bight of Benin, the island of Fernando Po at the eastern tip of the Guinea coast ant then down southward across the equator. It had taken Prince Henry’s sailors thirty years to cover a length of coast that Gomes, under his contract, covered in five. When Gomes’ contract expired, the King gave the trading rights to his own son, John, who became King John II in 1481, opening the nest great age of Portuguese seafaring.

King John II had some advantages that Prince Henry had lacked. The royal treasury was now enriched by the feedback of imports from the west African coast. Cargoes of pepper, ivory, gold, and slaves had already become so substantial that they gave their names to the parts of continent that faced the Gulf of Guinea. For centuries these would be called the Grain Coast (Guinea pepper was known as “Grains of Paradise”), the Ivory Coast, the Gold Coast, and the Slave Coast. King John protected Portuguese settlements by building Fort Elmina, “the mine,” in the heart of the Gold Coast. He supported land expeditions into the interior, to the cack-country of Sierra Lione and even as far as Timbuktoo. And he pushed on down the coast.

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

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