History of Madeira

To know the history of Madeira you have to go back to the year 1418, when the navigators led by João Gonçalves Zarco sighted, after many days adrift on the high seas, a small island that saved them from a fateful destiny. A safe harbour which they named 'Porto Santo'. A year later, in 1419, they reached an island they called 'Madeira', due to the abundance of this raw material.

Navigators Tristão Vaz Teixeira, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and João Gonçalves Zarco then became, with their respective families, the first settlers of the archipelago. This colonisation process began in 1425, by order of King D. João I, with people of modest means, some former prisoners of the Kingdom and a group of people from the lower nobility.

Funchal Madeira 13
In the years that followed, Madeira's history was defined, in an undeniable way, by its enormous potential, which was soon noticed. The archipelago combines an excellent geographical location, which quickly made it an international point of connection, with extremely fertile volcanic soils and a subtropical climate that is mild all year round.
flores viewpoint 14
pico do facho viewpoint 2

Therefore, during the colonisation process, some crops were introduced that became central to Madeira's history. Such is the case of sugar cane, which quickly brought remarkable economic prosperity to the region. From the 16th century onwards, the archipelago established itself as one of the most famous sugar producers in the world. It should be noted that this product was, at that time, called 'white gold'.

In this first phase, vegetables and fishing were the main means of subsistence for Madeirans. However, in order to develop Madeira's agriculture, it was essential to thin out some of the forest, characterised by its density, and build a large number of water channels, called 'levadas'. This way, it was possible to transport water from the rainy north coast to the more arid south coast.
Already in the 17th and 18th centuries, Madeira's history was marked by the appearance of a new culture that would bring a new boost to local economy. We speak, of course, of the unmistakable wine produced in this insular region, internationally acclaimed and awarded to this day.
Later, the paradisiacal contours of these two Atlantic islands became famous all over the world. From the 19th century onwards, part of the European aristocracy, attracted by the therapeutic properties of this Atlantic-suspended Eden, began to take up temporary residence here. Madeira flourished for tourism, a sector that still marks its daily pulse today.
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