History of Madeira


A rich history of culture & wine

Prosperity and setbacks

Madeira was a major international docking point for adventurous ocean expeditions centuries long, until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. From that moment on, ships no longer had to sail around Africa, and Madeira was forgotten. The history of Madeira reads like an exciting novel, starting with its discovery in 1419, the official discovery of Madeira.


The first settlers

A fire of seven years

After its discovery in 1419, the rugged land full of forests had to be made fit for habitation, so for that purpose large forests were set on fire. These fires lasted no less than seven consecutive years! In those days, air pollution and sustainability were not in the dictionary. This massive destruction, however, created a very fertile soil.


Madeira: hub of voyages around the world

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch, Portuguese, and English ruled the oceans with a mighty fleet of hundreds of ships, controlling most of the global trade with Europe. Madeira became the hub for these voyages, as the sailors used the island as a stopover for fresh water and food, for voyages to North America, Central America, South America, India, and everything beyond.

The history goes on

1869 / Opening of the Suez Canal

The opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869 meant an enormous leap forward for shipping. Now it was possible to sail from Western Europe via the Mediterranean to India. Without the detour around Africa 7,0000 kilometre were saved, consisting of almost half the journey! Madeira was therefore no longer part of the route, and the demand for Madeira declined to such an extent that it was called the ‘forgotten island wine.’

1986 / Portugal joins the EU

Accession to the EU has greatly improved the standard of living in Madeira. Until then, especially in the north, there was a lot of poverty.

5) Harbour