The Casa de Contratación (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkasa ðe kontɾataˈθjon] , "House of Trade") or Casa de la Contratación de las Indias ("House of Trade of the Indies") was established by the Crown of Castile, in 1503 in the port of Seville (and transferred to Cadiz in 1717) as a crown agency for the Spanish Empire. It functioned until 1790, when it was abolished in a government reorganization. Before the establishment of the Council of the Indies in 1524, the Casa de Contratación had broad powers over overseas matters, especially financial matters concerning trade and legal disputes arising from it. It also was responsible for the licensing of emigrants, training of pilots, creation of maps and charters, probate of estates of Spaniards dying overseas. Its official name was La Casa y Audiencia de Indias.
Unlike the later East India Companies, chartered companies established by the Dutch, English, and others, the Casa collected all colonial taxes and duties, approved all voyages of exploration and trade, maintained secret information on trade routes and new discoveries,licensed captains, and administered commercial law. In theory, no Spaniard could sail anywhere without the approval of the Casa. However, smuggling often took place in different parts of the vast Spanish Empire.
The Casa de Contratación was founded by Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1503, eleven years after Christopher Columbus's landfall in the Americas in 1492.The Casa was the Spanish counterpart of the Portuguese organization, the Casa da Índia , or House of Índia of Lisbon, established in 1434 and destroyed by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.
Dr. Sancho de Matienzo became the first treasurer, Jimeno de Bribiesca the first contador, and Francisco Pinelo the first factor. They soon controlled the economic development of Hispaniola.
A 20 per cent tax, the quinto real (royal fifth) was levied by the Casa on all precious metals entering Spain.The other taxes could run as high as 40% to provide naval protection for the trading ships or as low as 10 per cent during financial turmoil to encourage investment and economic growth in the colony. Each ship was required to employ a clerk to keep detailed logs of all goods carried and all transactions.
The Casa de Contratación produced and managed the Padrón Real , the official and secret Spanish map used as a template for the maps carried by every Spanish ship during the 16th century.It was constantly improved from its first version in 1508, and was the counterpart of the Portuguese map, the Padrão Real . The Casa also ran a navigation school; new pilots, or navigators, were trained for ocean voyages here.
Spain employed the then standard mercantilist model, governed (at least in theory) by the Casa in Seville. Trade with the overseas possessions was handled by a merchants' guild based in Seville, the Consulado de mercaderes , which worked in conjunction with the Casa de Contratación. Trade was physically controlled in well-regulated trade fleets, the famous Flota de Indias and the Manila galleons.
By the late 17th century, the Casa de Contratación had fallen into bureaucratic gridlock, and the empire as a whole was failing, due primarily to Spain's inability to finance both war on the Continent and a global empire. More often than not, the riches transported from Manila and Acapulco to Spain were officially signed over to Spain's creditors before the Manila galleon made port. In the 18th century, the new Bourbon kings reduced the power of Seville and the Casa de Contratacion.In 1717 they moved the Casa from Seville to Cádiz, diminishing Seville's importance in international trade. Charles III further limited the powers of the Casa, and his son, Charles IV, abolished it altogether in 1790. The Spanish treasure fleets were also officially ended due to the abolition, brought an end to the prosperous Spanish colonial income.
The mapmaking enterprise at the Casa de Contratación was a huge undertaking, and critical to the success of the voyages of discovery. Without good navigational aids, the ability of Spain to exploit and profit from what it found would have been limited. The Casa had a large number of cartographers and navigators (pilots), archivists, record keepers, administrators and others involved in producing and managing the Padrón Real.
The explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who made at least two voyages to the New World, was a pilot working at the Casa de Contratación until his death in 1512.A special position was created for Vespucci, the piloto mayor (chief of navigation), in 1508; he trained new pilots for ocean voyages. His nephew Juan Vespucci inherited his famous uncle's maps, charts, and nautical instruments, and along with Andrés de San Martín was appointed to Amerigo's former position as the official Spanish government pilot at Seville. In 1524, Juan Vespucci was appointed examinador de pilotos (Examiner of Pilots), replacing Sebastian Cabot who was then leading an expedition in Brazil.
In the 1530s and 1540s, the principal mapmakers (known as "cosmographers") in the Casa de Contratación working on the Padrón Real included Alonso de Santa Cruz,Sebastian Cabot, and Pedro de Medina. The mapmaker Diego Gutiérrez was appointed as cosmographer in the Casa on October 22, 1554, after the death of his father Diego in January 1554; he also worked on the Padrón Real. In 1562 Gutierrez published the map entitled "Americae...Descriptio" in Antwerp. It was published in Antwerp instead of Spain because the Spanish engravers did not have the necessary skill to print such a complicated document. Other cosmographers included Alonso de Chaves, Francisco Falero, Jerónimo de Chaves, Sancho Gutiérrez (Diego's brother).
In the late 16th century, Juan Lopez de Velasco was the first Cosmógrafo-Cronista Mayor (Cosmographer-Chronicler Major) of the Council of the Indies in Seville.He produced a master map and twelve subsidiary maps portraying the worldwide Spanish empire in cartographic form. Although these maps are not especially accurate or detailed, his work represented the apogee of Spanish mapmaking in that period, and surpassed anything done by the other European powers. Cartographers in England, the Low Countries, and Germany, however, continued to improve their skills in making maps and in organizing and presenting geographic information, until by the end of the 17th century, even Spanish intellectuals were lamenting that the maps produced by foreigners were superior to those made in Spain.
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian merchant, explorer, and navigator from the Republic of Florence, from whose name the term "America" is derived.
Portugal was the leading country in the European exploration of the world in the 15th century. The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 divided the Earth outside Europe into Castilian and Portuguese global territorial hemispheres for exclusive conquest and colonization. Portugal colonized parts of South America, but also made some unsuccessful attempts to colonize North America.
The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration, led by the Portuguese, emerged as a powerful factor in European culture, most notably the European rediscovery of the Americas. It also marks an increased adoption of colonialism as a national policy in Europe. Several lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited.
Juan Díaz de Solís was a 16th-century navigator and explorer. He is also said to be the first European to land on what is now modern day Uruguay.
Juan de la Cosa was a Castilian navigator and cartographer, known for designing the earliest European world map that incorporated the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century. De la Cosa played an important role in the first and second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the West Indies, since he was the owner and master of the Santa María.
The term "New World" is a name used for the majority of Earth's Western Hemisphere, specifically the Americas. The term gained prominence in the early 16th century, during the Age of Discovery, shortly after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci concluded that America represented a new continent, and subsequently published his findings in a pamphlet titled Mundus Novus. This realization expanded the geographical horizon of classical European geographers, who had thought the world consisted of Africa, Europe, and Asia, collectively now referred to as the Old World, or Afro-Eurasia. The Americas were also referred to as the fourth part of the world.
Seville has been one of the most important cities in the Iberian Peninsula since ancient times; the first settlers of the site have been identified with the Tartessian culture. The destruction of their settlement is attributed to the Carthaginians, giving way to the emergence of the Roman city of Hispalis, built very near the Roman colony of Itálica, which was only 9 km northwest of present-day Seville. Itálica, the birthplace of the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian, was founded in 206-205 BC. Itálica is well preserved and gives an impression of how Hispalis may have looked in the later Roman period. Its ruins are now an important tourist attraction. Under the rule of the Visigothic Kingdom, Hispalis housed the royal court on some occasions.
Rui (Ruy) Faleiro[ˈʁuj fɐˈlɐjɾu], also known as Ruy de Faleira, was a Portuguese cosmographer, astrologer, and astronomer who was the principal scientific organizer behind Ferdinand Magellan's circumnavigation of the world.
The Waldseemüller map or Universalis Cosmographia is a printed wall map of the world by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, originally published in April 1507. It is known as the first map to use the name "America". The name America is placed on what is now called South America on the main map. As explained in Cosmographiae Introductio, the name was bestowed in honor of the Italian Amerigo Vespucci.
Diogo Ribeiro, known in Spanish as Diego Ribero, was a Portuguese cartographer and explorer who worked most of his life in Spain. He worked on the official maps of the Padrón Real from 1518–1532. He also made navigation instruments, including astrolabes and quadrants.
Between 1492 and 1504, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus led four Spanish-based transatlantic maritime expeditions to the Americas, a continental landmass which was virtually unknown to and outside of the Old World (Afro-Eurasia). These voyages to America led to the widespread knowledge of its existence. This breakthrough inaugurated the period known as the Age of Discovery, which saw the colonization of the Americas, a related biological exchange, and trans-Atlantic trade. These events, the effects and consequences of which persist to the present, are sometimes cited as the beginning of the modern era.
Alonzo de Santa Cruz was a Spanish cartographer, mapmaker, instrument maker, historian and teacher. He was born about 1505, and died in November 1567. His maps were inventoried in 1572.
The Padrón Real, known after 2 August 1527 as the Padrón General, was the official and secret Spanish master map used as a template for the maps present on all Spanish ships during the 16th century. It was kept in Seville, Spain by the Casa de Contratación. Ship pilots were required to use a copy of the official government chart, or risk the penalty of a 50 doblas fine. The map probably included a large-scale chart that hung on the wall of the old Alcázar of Seville. Well-known official cartographers and pilots who contributed to and used the map included Amerigo Vespucci, Diogo Ribeiro, Sebastian Cabot, Alonzo de Santa Cruz, and Juan Lopez de Velasco.
Diego Gutiérrez was a Spanish cosmographer and cartographer of the Casa de la Contratación. He was given this post by royal appointment on October 22, 1554, after the death of his father Dylanger in January 1554, and worked on the Padrón Real, the Spanish master map.
The Virgin of the Navigators is a painting by Spanish artist Alejo Fernández, created as the central panel of an altarpiece for the chapel of the Casa de Contratación in Alcázar of Seville, Seville, southern Spain. It was probably painted sometime between 1531 and 1536. Carla Rahn Phillips has suggested that it represents Christopher Columbus as a European magus-king reinforcing "the notion that the Spanish Empire represented the fulfillment of biblical prophecy to bring the Christian message to all the peoples of the world.
Rodrigo Zamorano (1542–1620) was a cosmographer of the royal house of Philip II of Spain.
Diego Ramírez de Arellano was a Spanish sailor and cosmographer. He achieved fame for piloting the Garcia de Nodal expedition to the region of the Strait of Magellan. The expedition discovered the Diego Ramírez Islands, the most southerly point visited by Europeans until the discovery of the South Sandwich Islands by Captain James Cook in 1775.
The Salviati Planisphere is a world map showing the Spanish view of the Earth's surface at the time of its creation c. 1525, and includes the eastern coasts of North and South America and the Straits of Magellan. Rather than include imagined material in unexplored areas—as was customary—it is content to leave them blank, inviting future exploration.
Pedro de Medina was a Spanish cartographer and author of navigational texts. His well-known Arte de navegar was the first work published in Spain dealing exclusively with navigational techniques.
Amerigo Vespucci's Letter from Seville, written to his patron Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici, describes experiences on Alonso de Ojeda's May 1499 voyage. Vespucci's findings during the Age of Discovery led Spain people to believe that North and South America were not connected to Asia, which was a common belief at the time and was even held by Vespucci himself. Despite the surrounding controversy among many historians about which Vespucci letters were real, and which ones were forged, this particular letter of Vespucci's is notable for its detailed description of the Brazilian coast and its inhabitants.