Today in North African history: the Battle of Tangier ends (1437)

Prince Henry the Navigator (d. 1460) is one of those Portuguese guys you spend a few minutes on in high school history class in the rush to get to Columbus. Which is unfortunate, because he’s an important figure. The explorations Henry sponsored were the first Portuguese voyages along the Atlantic coast of Africa, and later explorers like Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama built on the progress those trips made, eventually getting all the way around Africa and on to India. Henry can thus be considered the father, or one of the fathers, of the Age of Discovery.

Frankly, it’s lucky for Henry that he’s known for his contributions to European exploration, because he also had a considerably less successful career as a soldier. It started off promisingly enough—he was an active participant (wounded in battle, in fact) in Portugal’s 1415 conquest of the North African city of Ceuta (which belongs to Spain today, but that’s another story). But his escapades in the 1437 Battle of Tangier were disastrous enough to really be a legacy-killer for most people.

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