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Grand Canary Island

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Gran Canaria, or Grand Canary Island, is the second largest of the Canaries, an archipelago of seven islands in the North Atlantic.

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Gran Canaria, or Grand Canary Island, is the second largest of the Canaries, an archipelago of seven islands in the North Atlantic. It is just under 2000 square kilometres in area and lies about 120 kilometres from the western coast of Africa.

It has been suggested that the Canary Islands were the Fortunate Islands discussed by various writers in the period of late antiquity (the Elder Pliny, for example, writes that one of the Fortunate Islands was named Canaria because it was populated by ‘dogs of great size’).

The earliest firm evidence of European knowledge of the Canary Islands derives from voyages undertaken in the mid-fourteenth century.

In 1400, a Norman aristocrat named Jean de Bethecourt landed on the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Unable to found a settlement due to resistance by the indigenous peoples of the islands, de Bethecourt looked to support from Henry III of Castile, who made him governor of the islands and provided him with sufficient resources to assemble a force strong enough to subdue the islands in 1404.

After the death of de Bethecourt, dynastic intrigues led to the crowns of Spain and Portugal claiming sovereignty over the islands, and to the Spanish crown gradually asserting its claim over the islands by force. Portugal recognized Spanish sovereignty by the Treaty of Alcácovas in 1479.

 

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Prepared by: Turnbull, P
Created: 4 October 2001
Modified: 10 December 2003

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000045

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