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  • Writer's pictureMohammed M Masood

Hola! But No Hola in India! Different European colonies in India except Spanish colonies?

© 2021 Mohammed M Masood

The first major European colonial powers were Portugal and Crown of Castile (Spain) who led the Age of Discovery or better described as Age of Exploration commencing early 15th century. Starting with Portuguese exploration of the African coast and islands in the Atlantic Ocean. (1)

It was primarily to expand the trade and also to spread Christianity. As many historians have aptly put it as “For Gold, God and Glory!” (2)

In some instances, these explorations also discovered new sea routes and new lands previously unknown to the European Nations.

For we all know that Christopher Columbus whose explorations were sponsored by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella (It was the marriage of King Ferdinand of Aragon with Queen Isabella of Castile that led to unification of these two kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula which eventually resulted in formation of Spain) discovered the new world or Americas in 1492 when in fact he was looking to find a new route to India (3) and thereafter he led a number of voyages back there which eventually led to the colonization of those areas in the American continents by the Spanish in many cases vanquishing the native empires as seen in the case of Aztec and Inca Empires that were both conquered by Spanish conquistadors. (4)

It was only a little later looking at the immense wealth and success got by these Nations through colonialization that the other European Nations decided to follow their path of exploration and colonization – Dutch, France, England, etc soon joined the bandwagon.

Vasco de Gama was the one who discovered the sea route to India by sailing around Africa (Cape of Good Hope) into the Indian ocean in the year 1498 and arriving at Calicut. (5)

Shortly thereafter the Portuguese were the first European power to establish factories, forts and eventually colonies in India in the early 1500s. Incidentally they also happened to be the last European power to vacate their colony of Goa and Daman and Diu in the year Dec 1961 when Indian forces invaded these areas. (6)

The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch who also established factories, trading posts, forts and colonies in India. Pulicat on the Coromandel Coast was their capital. The Dutch rule in India lasted from 1608 to 1825 when all their colonies located on the Coromandel Coast ceded to the British. (7)

IMG: The logo of the Dutch East India Company which was richer than Apple, Google and Facebook combined (8)

Unknown to many India also had colonies of the Danish (Denmark-Norway as they were united before 1814) for over 200 years from early 1620s to almost 1845. Serampore in West Bengal and Tranquebar (Tharangambadi) were important colonies of the Danes in India. (9)

Img: Fort Dansburg in Tranquebar

Following this the arch rivals British and French also arrived in India where India became an extended battle ground for them to settle their personal scores. These two powers had the greatest number of colonies in India and ultimately with the British beating the French they became the dominant power in India and the Indian nation as such became a vast colony of the British. (10)

However, I always wondered why Spain which was among the first nations to colonize foreign territories and a powerful European Nation had no colony in India? A nation which had colonies in more than two dozen countries, what is the reason the nation which discovered Americas for Europe failed to gain a foothold in India?

Well, the answer lies in the bull of Inter Caetera issued by the Pope in 1493 and subsequently the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) and the later Treaty of Zaragoza signed in 1529 between Portugal and Crown of Castile (Spain) where the basic objective of the Papal bull and the subsequent treaties was to divide the world in two different zones meant for the two kingdoms. Each state now knew its limits and area where it could venture or not. (11)

In modern day world we would call it a non-competition clause.

The Papal Bull of “Inter Caetera” was issued by Pope Alexander VI under the influence of Spain as the Pope himself was from Spain - as the King of Portugal threatened to claim the lands discovered by Columbus ; to put it in plain simple terms the Papal Bull states that all newly discovered west of the imaginary longitude line belonged to Spain and everything east to Portugal. It was an important edict issued by the Pope to ensure that the two Catholic powers did not fight against each other which would harm not only their interests but also that of Christendom. Treat of Tordesillas was shortly signed after the Papal Bull and it moved the line of demarcation a little more westward to protect the Portuguese sea route down the coast of Africa to India and also giving the Portuguese rights to colonize lands that now constitute Brazil. However, the Portuguese in Brazil did occupy territories beyond the Tordesillas line.

Img illustrating the division between Spain & Portugal - Img Source: Wikipedia

The Treaty of Zaragoza was signed in 1529 in order to determine the influence and extent of these both states in Asia – in Pacific Ocean especially over the conflict Moluccas, Indonesia (known as the Spice Islands) in particular. The purpose was to have a line on the other side of the world that corresponded to the one established by the Treaty of Tordesillas as the earth is sphere and both sides could access these regions from their side. As a consequence of this treaty, Portugal got control of all lands and seas west of the Zaragoza, including all of Asia and its neighboring islands so far "discovered," leaving to Spain most of the Pacific Ocean. (12)

As seen, the main purpose of the Papal Bull and the subsequent treaties was to prevent rivalry and competition between two Catholic states which had similar objectives and to make it known to each its realm, limits and areas of influence as they strove for Gold, God & Glory! As India was to the east Portugal and west to the line of Zargoza only Portugal alone had the right to colonize it and it was out of bounds for Spain. Therefore, we do not have any Spanish colony in India.

© 2021 Mohammed M Masood

Notes & References:

1. Leighton James Hughes, Assessing the Success of Portuguese and Spanish Exploration and Colonization

2. Editors, The Three G’s [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

3. Editors,, Columbus reaches the "New World" [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

4. The Colonist's Journal, Spanish conquer the Aztecs and Incas

5. Maninder Dabas, 519 Years Ago, Today, Vasco Da Gama Set Foot In India. Here Is How He Discovered India [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

6. Praveen Davar, The liberation of Goa [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

7. Praful Thakkar, Chronologies of Sultans, Rulers & Colonial Heads of India

8. Bobby Salomons, The Dutch East India Company was richer than Apple, Google and Facebook combined [ , accessed 07th March 2021]

9. Charukesi Ramadurai, India’s Scandinavian Secret [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

10. Editors,, Anglo-French Wars in India [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

11. Editors,, Treaty of Tordesillas [ , accessed 07th March 2021 ]

12. Editors, , Lines of Demarcation

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