The Portuguese begin to move into towns and towards the coast leading to the rise of future great cities such as Lisbon and Oporto. As the population crowds towards the foreshores there is the realisation that the ocean is to be their future bread basket – providing not only the fish to feed them, but the potential for trade, profits and wealth.
Coastal trade grows and becomes a central part to economic life. One of the outcomes is innovation in the methods of trade. The first is a prototype of maritime insurance sponsored by King Dinas I (a keen trader himself with his own trading fleet). When introduced this scheme proscribed the payment of a percentage of each cargo to cover future unexpected losses. Royal patronage and encouragement is soon turned to shipbuilding. Subsidies are provided for the local manufacture of ships in Lisbon and Oporto.
With this royal support sea trade flourishes, reaching even further afield, embracing the English and creating long term close ties (reinforced by the Treaty of Windsor in 1373 between the two countries). By 1410 a wide variety of goods are routinely being traded -wine, olive oil, dates jewels, pearls. The Portuguese reach out further with the King’s ships traveling to such places as Norway, Flanders and Genoa. All this is fine, but something more fundamental is happening; and you have to look into the holds of the ships to discover it. What you see is grain and cereals. At this time Portuguese ships increasingly carrying food staples back to Portugal.
Sea trade is now essential to feed the population (likely driven by the increasing urbanisation and movement to the coast of the population). And feeding a country is always central to political stability. Indeed, soon the King mandates that returning ships must bring products such as cereals back to Portugal on return trips as opposed to higher value goods.
So with sea born trade and trade is here to stay, Portugal increasingly transforms itself into a seafaring nation, investing in all of the required skills to allow its merchants to venture deeper and deeper into the unknown Atlantic ocean.
But trouble lies ahead… with increasing reliance on the seas, comes insecurity…