The Treaty of Tordesillas is a
fairly early example of international treaties in the Western world. The Treaty
of Tordesillas was signed at Tordesillas, which is currently located in Spain,
in 1494 and was a treaty which was specifically designed to dispense the lands
which had been discovered recently by explorers from the European countries.
The Treaty of Tordesillas thus
divided lands primarily between Portugal and Spain. The Treaty of Tordesillas
was considered important to resolve the issue of which countries would have the
right to the lands discovered by Christopher Columbus, for example, which most countries
wanted some right to at the time.
The lands had previously been
divided according to papal bulls, which were edicts issued by the Pope saying
which country had rights to which lands. The Treaty of Tordesillas overrode
those papal bulls and instead established a particular line for demarcating the
lands and stated that Spain would have rights to all lands discovered to the
west of the line and Portugal would have rights to all lands discovered to the
east of the line.
The line established by the Treaty
of Tordesillas ran from the North Pole to the South Pole and was established at
the midway point between the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus and the
Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa. The Treaty of Tordesillas was
not vigorously or rigidly enforced, as there was some Portuguese expansion into
lands which technically fell into the Spanish section of divided territory.
Most of the territory apportioned through the Treaty of Tordesillas had never
been seen by Europeans before.