navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies United States History: Early Years
Biographies Unit Biographies

Vasco da Gama 1460–1524
Portuguese Explorer

Vasco da Gama was the first explorer to sail from Europe around Africa to India. He did this three times. His first voyage, beginning in 1497, was a voyage of exploration. He opened up a sea route to India for others to follow.

His second voyage, in 1502, was a military expedition. The King of Portugal wanted da Gama to make a show of Portuguese power. Da Gama led a fleet of twenty ships to India. At ports along the way, he used threats and violence to force local rulers to submit to Portuguese authority.

Da Gama's third voyage, in 1524, was his last. By that time, Portugal had forts and settlements in India. The king sent da Gama to oversee them. Da Gama was no longer a young man, though, and he died soon after arriving. His expeditions helped Portugal become a powerful nation.

Comprehension Check

What was the purpose of da Gama's second voyage to India?

Critical Thinking

What effect did da Gama's 1497 voyage have on trade?