What were the early attempts to find the sea route to India?

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Early attempts to reach India by sea were motivated by the European desire to establish direct trading links with the East. Portugal and Spain were both active in this regard. Only Portugal succeeded, however.

Portugal's Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) did not personally explore, but he was instrumental in the effort to reach India. His interest in geography was stimulated by his brother, Pedro; Pedro traveled widely and encouraged his younger brother. Henry sent Portuguese sailors South along the western coastline of Africa. By the time of Henry's death, Portugal had only reached modern-day Sierra Leone.

Bartolomeu Dias proved that India could be reached by sea in 1488. He sailed all the way to the southern tip of Africa, and he named it the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally, Vasco da Gama reached Calicut, India in 1498. His long journey was extremely difficult, and two-thirds of his sailors died from scurvy or other causes. After his return to Portugal, Da Gama was given a title and an annual pension in recognition of his great achievement.

Sailing for Spain, Columbus tried to reach India by going West in 1492. Although, he never admitted it, he had discovered a new continent and had not reached India. He died believing he had reached Asia.

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