Digital Library

Armadas da India 1497-1650

Francisco Contente Domingues, Zachary Mead, Chase Oswald, Filipe Castro


This page is a summary of the ongoing research on the Portuguese Armadas da India, the commercial fleets that left Lisbon every year for India and returned around 18 months later, laden with exotic products from Asia.

Lisbon waterfront around 1530 (Genealogia do Infante D. Fernando, 1534).

With his successful trip to India, around the Cape of Good Hope, Vasco da Gama opened a maritime route to the Asian markets of spices and exotic goods. The Portuguese crown sought to keep this commerce under state control, and sent a fleet to India almost every year, for over a century. There are several lists of Armadas and they sometimes have contradictory information.  We intend to compare the data in each of the lists and try to put a  comprehensive list online, organized by decades.

These voyages are reasonably well documented, as well as their routes, their ports of call, the names of the ship’s captains, the Asian governors, and the notable soldiers. We also know a good deal about the economics of this trade, its impact in 16th-Century Europe, the business networks that were generated and developed in various countries, and the role of the Church in the European expansion to East.

At present, however, we don’t know much about the principal vehicle of this expansion: the Portuguese Indiaman. In fact, it is amazing how little is known about the Portuguese naus that plowed the maritime route to India from 1498 to about 1650. A handful of texts and treatises, a small number of representations in charts, drawings, and paintings, and around twenty shipwrecks, are all the clues we have to attempt to understand and reconstruct these ships. We know almost nothing about the standard Portuguese Indiaman, its sailing abilities, and evolution. We know very little about the way in which these vessels were conceived and built, and there are enormous gaps in our knowledge about their size, shape, construction details, structural strength, design of the upper works, or even basic rigging solutions.

From an estimated total of around 220 shipwrecks, only a few Portuguese ships have been found in the 20th century, and almost all were looted by curious divers or destroyed by treasure hunters. Very few have been excavated or even surveyed by archaeologists, and even less have been published.

This page is intended as a contribution to the understanding of this important chapter of the history of technology, and a guide through the bibliography and other information available pertaining to the Portuguese naus da Índia.

The main objective of this project is to gather, organize, and make easily accessible all available information on Portuguese Indiamen.


A number of lists is known to have existed in several institutions, although João Vidago mentions the lack of a reliable, official list and hints that many of the first voyages were recorded later, from memory, by asking people that were still alive and remembered which ships went and under whose command.

In this study we are using:

[1] Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu, started in 1558 and finished circa 1565, whose original was stolen from Biblioteca da Ajuda in 1910, dismembered and partially lost. The first two parts were reunited and purchased in the 1960s, and is now in the New York Pierpoint Library, ms. 525. This manuscript is illustrated and includes the armadas of the years 1497-1563, missing the fleet of 1517.

[2] Memória das Armadas, an illustrated manuscript from the Library of the Portuguese Academia das Ciências, which includes the fleets from 1497 to 1566.

[3] Relação de capitaens mores e naos que vierão do reyno a este estado da india des do seu descobrimento, a manuscript in the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, transcribed by Eduardo Frutuoso, covering the fleets from 1497 to 1731.

[4] Armadas que partiram para a Índia (1509-1640), a manuscript in Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, caixa 26, no. 153, transcribed by Paulo Guinote.

[5] The two lists surviving in Relação das naus da India, in the British Library, Codex Add. 20902, transcribed and published by Maria Herminia Maldonado in 1985.

[6] The codex of the Egerton Collection at the British Museum, published in Documentação Ultramarina Portuguesa, Volume 1, Centro de Estudos Historicos Ultramarinos, and again by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 69.2: 269-310, covering the fleets from 1497 to 1555.

[7] Rol de pessoas embarcadas para a India, part of a manuscript from Biblioteca Central de Marinha (RDe 503), copied from the register of the treasury books from Casa da India and referenced by João Vidago as Ementa da Carreira  da India, da Biblioteca Central de Marinha. It was published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 69.3: 497-518. Covers the fleets from 1505 to 1635.

[8] Miscelanea Historica from Biblioteca da Ajuda (50-V-23), published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 69.4: 731-790. Covers the fleets from 1496 to 1600.

[9] Armadas que foram para a india depois de sua Magestade ser Rei de Portugal (or Ajuda III), manuscript from Biblioteca da Ajuda (50-V-34), folios 163-171, published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 70.1: 109-124. Covers the fleets from 1581 to 1614.

[10] Relação das Armadas, first part of the Ementa da Carreira da India, in Biblioteca Central de Marinha (RDS-5-03), which seems to be a copy of the original from which the following lists were copied: Livro das Famosas Armadas, from Simao Ferreira Pais, Relação das naus da India from the Codex Add. 20902 in the British Library [5], Relação  das Armadas (51-VII-5) sometimes referred to as Ajuda I [11], Relação das Armadas (46-IX-12), or Ajuda II, Relação das Armadas (50-V-34), or Ajuda III [9], and perhaps also the Livro das Armadas from Academia de Ciencias [2].  Published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 70.3: 453-516. Covering 1496 to 1584.

[11] Relação  das Armadas (51-VII-5) from Biblioteca da Ajuda, sometimes referred to as Ajuda I, published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 71.1: 87-161. Covering 1496 to 1638.

[12] Manuscript n. 46 from Fundo Português of the Bibliotèque Nacional de Paris, containing a list similar to [4] and [5] from 1509 to 1622, published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 73.3: 561-614. Covering 1497 to 1632.

[13] Sucesso de las naves y armadas by Duarte Gomes de Solis, published by Frazao de Vasconcelos in 1938 and Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 74.1: 131-148. Covering the fleets from 1560 to 1595.

[14] Catálogo verdadeiro e completo dos Bispos e Govemadores que sucessivamente regerão a Igreja de Macau, from which Admiral Ernesto de Vasconcelos published a list in 1926, in Boletim da Academia das Ciencias de Lisboa, 16.1: “relayao de Capitaes Mores e Naus que vieram do Reino a este Estado da India des o seu Descobrimento” . Published again by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 75.1: 65-102. Covering the fleets from 1497 to 1731.

[15] Memória das pessoas que passaram à India nos anos de 1504 a 1628, from the Colecção Pombalina da Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa (123), similar to the Ementa published by Braancamp Freire [21]. Again published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 76.2: 245-276. Covering the fleets from 1497 to 1628.

[16] Livro de Toda a Fazenda, by Figueiredo Falcão, 1607, who claims to have compiled the information from 74 books at Casa da India and completed it with the information in Crónica de D. Manuel, from Damião de Góis, and João de Barros’ Décadas. This list was also published by Cte. Encarnação Gomes, in Anais do Clube Militar Naval, 75.3: 297-323. Covering the fleets from 1497 to 1612.  

[17] Noticia Chronologica dos Descobrimentos, Codex CXV-1-21 from Biblioteca Publica de Evora, published by Francisco Luis Ameno in the 18th century.

[18] Noticia Abreviada dos Descobridores da India, codex 478-V from the library of the Academia de Ciências de Lisboa.

[19] Relação de todas as naus da India e Armadas, codex 312-A from the library of the Academia de Ciências de Lisboa.

[20] Armadas da India, manuscript from Casa Forte, 319, from the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo.

[21] Ementa da Casa da India, manuscript published by Braancamp Freire in 1907, in Boletim da Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa.

[22] De todas as armadas que os reys de Portugal mandaram à India, até que el-rey D. Filipe sucedeo nestes reynos. List from chapter 20 of Década X of Diogo do Couto.

[23] and [24] Noticia das armadas que foram à India desde o seu descobrimento (fols. 93-), and Relação (fols. 189-), both in the manuscript no. 509 from the Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra.

[25] Armadas que passaram a descobrir as conquistas e a India desde 1412 até agora (1632), in the manuscript 656 from the Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra.

[26] Relação de Pedro Barreto de Resende, from Codex F.G.787 of the Biblioteca naciola de Lisboa.

The Fleets by Decades

Fleets from 1497 to 1510

Fleets from 1511 to 1520

Fleets from 1521 to 1530

Fleets from 1531 to 1540

Fleets from 1541 to 1550

Fleets from 1551 to 1560

Fleets from 1561 to 1570

Fleets from 1571 to 1580

Fleets from 1581 to 1590

Fleets from 1591 to 1600

Fleets from 1601 to 1610

Fleets from 1611 to 1620

Fleets from 1621 to 1630

Fleets from 1631 to 1640

Fleets from 1641 to 1650



Abreu, Lisuarte de, 1563. Livro de Lisuarte de Abreu.

An., 1566. Memória das Armadas.

Códice da Biblioteca de Évora (Cota: XCV–1-20)

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1989a.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1989b.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1989c.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1990a.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1990b.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1991.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1993.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1994.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1995a.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1995b.

Gomes, Cte. Encarnação, 1996.

Guinote, P., Frutuoso, E., and Lopes, A., 1998. Naufragios e Outras Perdas da Carreira da India. Lisboa: Ed. Grupo de Trabalho do Ministerio da Educacao para as Comemoracoes dos Descobrimentos.

Maldonado, M. H., 1985. Relação Das Náos e Armadas da índia Com os successos delias que se puderam saber, Para Noticia e instrucção dos curiozos, e amantes Da Historia da índia (British Library, Códice AM. 20902). Coimbra, Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra.

Vidago, J., 1969. Sumário da Carreira da India. Separata dos Anais do Clube Militar Naval.