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Jews and the Exploration of the New World. How could Jews be influential in Catholic Spain? With the opening of trade between Barcelona, Europe and Asia, Jews became involved in marine development

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jews and the exploration of the new world
Jews and the Exploration of the New World
  • How could Jews be influential in Catholic Spain?
  • With the opening of trade between Barcelona, Europe and Asia, Jews became involved in marine development
  • In the 13th Century, Don Jehudano, the richest Jew in Aragon, became the treasurer and confidante of King Jaime I—fitted out a fleet at King’s behest in 1263
  • Followed in 1320s by Jewish merchants of Tortosa (Aragon) equipped and manned two ships for the Navy for battle
jewish supporters of navy in portugal
Jewish Supporters of Navy in Portugal
  • Initially Jews forced to support expansion of the Portuguese fleet by furnishing an anchor and ropes for each vessel.
  • Later in the 15th Century, the Portuguese had already begun to explore the coast of Africa, and Jews fought for the capture of Mauritania in 1415.
  • Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) set up a naval school in Sagres and appointed the most important nautical scholar of the time, Mestre Jaime of Mallorca, a Jew. At this time, Jews in Mallorca were renowned for their nautical knowledge.
the christopher columbus question
The Christopher Columbus Question
  • Was Columbus a Jew?
  • There is no definite evidence, and people still question his origins.
  • Columbus, born in Genoa, came from a family of weavers in a town known to have Jews in residence—but that does not make him Jewish
  • People have claimed his grandfather-in-law was Jewish, though no evidence confirms this
  • We do know he traded with Jews and left money in his will to a Jew in Lisbon.
spain on the eve of conquest
Spain on the Eve of Conquest
  • Kingdoms of Spain in the 1400s were divided and weak. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile in 1469 had originally been supported by Jews and Marranos because of Ferdinand’s father’s support for them, and Jews lent Ferdinand money to court Isabella (Aragón broke)
  • All of this took place at a time when Jews and Marranos constituted some of the wealthiest families in Spain and were envied by Christians.
  • The introduction of the Inquisition in 1479 in Spain served as much to take wealth away from Jews as to purify the Marranos
  • Columbus entered into the service of Isabella in 1487