King Manuel IThe dream of the Ganges and India, Global world

First global world currency was Portuguese

The strategy that led Portugal to the adventure of discovering new paths and maritime routes. To create confidence in trade, he created the world's first global currency, which was called “The Portuguese”!

The strategy planned by King D. João I, Queen Filipa de Lencastre, Princes of Avis-Lencastre and the faithful friend D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, led Portugal to be the European country that made the paradigm shift of “nations always at war” to increase their possessions, to a type of power based on "commercial relations".

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A Strategy We Can Call Disruptive

D. João I, with only 7 years, is armed knight and appointed Master of the Order of Avis.

The knowledge acquired, as well as the experience that the future Queen Filipa de Lencastre had with her father John of Gaunt (or João de Gant), Prince of England and Duke of Lancaster, were decisive for the education of the princes.

It is this "team" that defines and implements a new strategy that puts aside the conquest of wealth through war and privileges science and commerce as the new form of power and that results from the profit of business.

The best known son of King D. João I is D. Henrique but, D. Duarte, future King, D. Pedro, D. João, D. Fernando and D. Isabel who marries the Duke of Burgundy, are the young drivers of the dream of discovering and reaching the unknown.

To open new paths, it was necessary to face the unknown and dare to sail “on seas never sailed before”, as Luiz Vaz de Camões said, in Os Lusíadas in 1572.

Although the mission of the enterprise was of an economic, political, social, religious and commercial order, the conquest of Ceuta was the fundamental step towards the start of this strategy. The Mediterranean was controlled by Moorish pirates and the North African states blocked land routes from Africa.

The Ceuta operation was carried out in 1415 and, until the discovery of the sea route to India and Brazil, a hundred years passed. A long-term strategy, a century of great death, an entrepreneurial spirit, competence and determination.

It is already in the reign of D. Manuel I that the sea route to India was discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and that Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived in Brazil in 1500.

The First Global World Currency The Portuguese

In this context of globalization of trade, King D. Manuel I considered it necessary to launch a new currency that was reliable and a reference in the global market.

So he created the currency he called “O Português”.

It is a coin with 35,5 grams of gold and the largest ever made by a European territory. Its real value is, therefore, incorporated in the currency itself, thus giving confidence to the merchants who used it and, by dragging, to all the currencies of the Portuguese nation, promoting the credibility of the Portuguese merchants.

The first coins of O Português were minted between 1495 and 1497, for four decades and produced in Lisbon, Porto, Goa, Malacca and Coxim.


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“O Português” was one of the coins that Vasco da Gama took in ships to India and one of the gifts that D. Manuel I sent to Pope Leo X in 1514.

A real coin that was worth its weight in gold. To give you an idea, 35,5 grams of gold, although depending on the price of gold, would currently be worth about 1.650 €.

“O Português” presented on the obverse legends involving the shield and the crown and, on the reverse, the Cross of Christ, represented for the first time on a coin.

The currency circulated during the XNUMXth century, as the dollar and the euro circulate today and, more recently, through digital technologies, Cryptocurrency.

The currency was so relevant that later, between 1570 and 1640, “O Português” had ceased to be coined, when some European cities started to create their currency which they called portugaloser, using the Cross of Christ as “O Português” and with a caption that referred to the value of the old reference currency. 

The “O Português” coin has two captions on the obverse surrounding the crowned shield:

EMANUEL R PORTVGALIE AL

C VL IN ADG CNC ETHIOPIE ARABIE PERSIE I

Abbreviated meaning: “D. Manuel I, King of Portugal and the Algarves, from here and overseas in Africa, Lord of Guinea, of the conquest and navigation and trade of Ethiopia, Arabia, Persia and India ”

The Portuguese, the world's first global currency, Obverse, Banco de Portugal Collection
The Portuguese, the world's first global currency, Obverse, Banco de Portugal Collection

On the reverse, the caption around the Cross of Christ “IN HOC SIGNO VINCEES”, means in current Portuguese: “Com Este Sinal Vencerás”.

The Portuguese, the world's first global reverse currency, Banco de Portugal Collection
The Portuguese, the world's first global reverse currency, Banco de Portugal Collection

Note the marks of the engraver's imprint, three points at the top of the cross.

D. Manuel I was a continuator of the strategy of discovering the oceans, implementing new routes aimed at facilitating and increasing trade between the different worlds from East to West.

He was Grand Master of the Order of Christ, heir to the Templars and, together with the Order of Avis and Santiago, were the sources of knowledge, global vision and financing of the enterprise.

The “Portuguese” became known as the first global currency in the world!

See too

The Lusíadas by Luís Vaz de Camões

The Lusíadas by Luís Vaz de Camões.

"Printed in Lisbon, with license from Holy Inquisition, & Ordinario: at Antonio's Gõçaluez Impressor, 1572 "
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Image: D. Manuel's prophetic dream of the Ganges and Indo rivers. In an edition of The Lusiads. National Library of Portugal.

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