What if Australia were colonized by Portugal?

Colonialism: The Submission of the World

In search of a sea route to the fabulously rich India, seafarers from Portugal and Spain sailed into the unknown in the 15th century. The Europeans not only come across America - they also discover that good business can also be done on the distant shores of Africa and Southeast Asia

The treaty of Tordesillas is probably the most presumptuous agreement in world history: Mediated by Pope Alexander VI. In 1494 two European empires agree on the division of the earth. From now on, a border separates the globe at about 46 degrees west longitude. To the east, Portugal is allowed to take possession of all the newly explored countries; in the west, Spain is allowed to conquer and colonize. The agreement makes the Iberians masters of the world. And so they continue to set sail to subdue foreign territories and hold them permanently.

It is true that there have been explorers, conquerors and colonists since ancient times. So from 800 BC BC Greek cities such as Corinth, several hundred offshoot cities around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, gradually opened up local trade, cultivated their own culture and language there and thus established a form of foreign rule.

From 632 AD, the Muslims subjugated Arabia from North Africa, large parts of the Iberian Peninsula and southern Asia to the Hindu Kush - and the Chinese at about the same time Korea and North Vietnam.

But no colonization is as momentous as that which takes place in the course of the European expansion to other continents, which began in 1415 with the capture of the Moroccan coastal city of Ceuta by Portugal.

This land acquisition is promoted by the commercial interests of Portugal and the decline of the Byzantine Empire, which at that time was massively oppressed by the Ottomans. With the fall of the capital Constantinople in 1453 at the latest, Muslims control all entrances to the Silk Road to China and to the lucrative spice trade with India - and henceforth levy tariffs.

Europe's trading nations are therefore feverishly looking for a way of bypassing the Muslim empires by taking a new sea route to India and perhaps tapping into other sources of raw materials, such as new fishing grounds, wood deposits or precious metal deposits.

In 1488 the Portuguese Bartolomeu Diaz reached the southwestern tip of Africa as the first European seafarer in search of the sea route to India. In 1492 Christopher Columbus, driven by the same longing, reached the Caribbean - and although he did not discover the sea route to India, he found the outpost of a completely new world: America.

Six years later, the Portuguese Vasco da Gama navigated around Africa, discovered the rich merchant settlements of the Muslim-African Swahili on the east coast of the continent and landed on May 20, 1498 in the Indian trading town of Calicut. The sea route to India has been found.

The merchants of the country have nothing to oppose the superiority of Lisbon by sea. In addition, the Portuguese skillfully exploited power struggles within India.

In 1510 they founded the Goa trade base on the west coast of India, one year later they conquered Malacca on the strait between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea - and henceforth dominated large parts of the trade between these regions.

The competition of the Europeans

In the following four centuries, Europe's explorers, conquerors and merchants subjugated almost the entire inhabited world in a global competition for influence, prestige and profit and exploited the people and treasures of the subjugated territories.

The Portuguese and Spaniards are followed by the Dutch, French and English - who do not feel bound by the Treaty of Tordesillas and support their own expeditions (such as England's King Henry VII, who in 1497 dispatched the Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto to unite north of the route of Columbus Finding his way to India; Caboto is believed to be the first modern European to reach North America). Later, the Danes, Belgians, Germans and Italians also submit to colonies.

Finally, in the 19th century, the British Empire, the largest colonial empire in history, spanned a quarter of the world and Great Britain ruled over 400 million people. And in the 20th century, Japan will also be the only non-Western nation to establish colonies in modern times, for example in Korea.

Three types of overseas holdings

Historians today distinguish three types of overseas ownership:

  • A base colony serves as a supply, trade or military center overseas. Cape Town, for example, founded in 1652 by merchants from the Dutch East India Company in South Africa, was initially a supply port for ships on the way to India and the Pacific islands, similar to Singapore, later colonized by the British, at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula. The base colony is also the oldest form of colonization - almost every land grab begins with it. And it is mostly captains like Columbus or the representatives of merchant companies who set up these first branches. In general, European expansion is often not driven by states, but by private individuals on behalf of the state or with royal privileges. The state only assumes political responsibility when it is absolutely necessary to maintain overseas ownership.
  • A dominant colony serves to exploit raw materials and labor on site or to create sales markets for one's own finished goods. Thanks to their superior armed force, only a few Europeans rule over a large majority of the population here. Most of the European colonies in Africa are dominant colonies, but also French Indochina, Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), British India or German New Guinea in Southeast Asia.
  • Settlement colonies are designed not only to exploit and own countries and their nature, but also to cultivate them and to colonize them with their own people. British settlers decimate the Indians of North America from 1607 and displace the Aborigines in Australia from 1788. The settlement colony is probably the most brutal form of European land grabbing in the long term. In the worst case, there is an extensive exchange of population, for example in North America or Australia, but also in the Caribbean, where Europeans are driving out, resettling, murdering or infecting the indigenous people with deadly diseases and replacing the lacking workforce with slaves from Africa.

In 1914, on the eve of the First World War - 420 years after the Treaty of Tordesillas divided the globe in two - there are only a few areas on the globe apart from the polar regions that were not colonized by Europeans or were once European colonies.