Historical Overview


20 Million BC

Volcanic eruptions in the ocean. Formation of the group of islands.

1.7 Million BC

Termination of volcanoes, cooled lava gave birth to the geological and geographical features.


Madeira Island appears for the first time in a Florentine map titled "Part dell 'Affrica Tratt dalla V. del Portulano Charter."

1418 - 1420

Captains João Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo set sail to Porto Santo. Zarco and Teixeira explore the coast. Madeira Island´s colonization begins.


The commencement of the cultivation of sugar cane, also known as “white gold” which paved way to great economic prosperity. Tristão Vaz Teixeira named the administrator of the northern half of the island. The first settlers began to set fire to Funchal´s dense forest determining the best areas for the cultivation of sugar cane.


The area of administration of ​​Tristão VazTeixeira is named a"Captaincy" and is located in Machico. The creation of the Municipalities of Ribeira Brava, São Vicente and Caniço.


Bartolomeu Perestrelo becomes captain-donee of Porto Santo.


João Gonçalves Zarco is named captain of the southwest half of the island, the captaincy of Funchal.


Cultivation of wine. (Malvasia grape Crete /Candia).


Death of João Gonçalves Zarco.


Creation of the municipality of Ponta Delgada.


Christopher Columbus travels to Madeira Islands to buy sugar.


Christopher Columbus Marries Dona Felipa Perestrelo e Moniz, Bartolomeu Perestrelo´s daughter.


Diego Columbus, Columbus´s first born is born in Porto Santo


D. Manuel I incorporates Madeira in the crown of Portugal.
Madeira Island is attacked by pirates.


Funchal received its first charter between 1452 and 1454, which elevated it to town status and the county capital. In 1508 it was elevated to city status and received a coat of arms with five gold forms of sugar, in the shape of a cross, representing the economy of Madeira and fact that in a few decades it became the biggest European sugar exporter.


The Fortress of St. Lawrence in the port of Funchal was constructed to protect the city against pirate attacks.


Inauguration of the Sé Cathedral of Funchal (Commencement 1493). It is elevated to bishopric by Pope Leo X.


Madeira, a major sugar cane exporter, gets competition from America (Portuguese colonies in Brazil).


Funchal is attacked by command of the French privateer Bertrand Montluc.
Palaces and churches were looted.
Death of Montluc.


The Death of King Henry II.


D. Philip II of Spain, becomes D.Philip I of Portugal.


England enters the coastal region of Portugal.
An increasing share of spice and slave trades are taken by English privateers.


The nearby Porto Santo Island is often plundered by pirates.


Porto Santo was a target of a large pirate attack where about 900 people were kidnapped.


English pirate John Ward attacks the capital Funchal (on behalf of Beys of Tunis). About 1200 people were abducted and taken to Tunisia as slaves.


Portuguese free themselves of the hated Spanish rule/regime.


Marriage of King Charles II of England with the Portuguese King´s daughter Catherine of Braganza. Expansion of the Madeira wine trade by English merchants.


Portugal regains its independence.


London imposed a wine embargo against France.
Madeira´s wine business is expanding greatly under the control of British dealers.


cholera epidemic


Strong earthquake

1807 -1814

British “friendly occupation” of Madeira Island during the Napoleonic Wars. Madeira Island was then returned to Portugal in 1814


Madeira´s governor José Travassos Valdez fled to England under the protection of the Royal navy after a crushing defeat by Miguel of Portugal, who unrightfully claimed the crown after the death of King John IV of Portugal, for supporting the rightful heiress Maria II.


The birth of tourism in Madeira Island. An increase in ship traffic to the island from the northern colder European countries paves the way to what is today the main source of economy in Madeira, tourism.


The classy Reids hotel opens its doors to a upper class clientele.

1916 and 1917

World War I, German U-boat arrived and torpedoed 3 ships in Funchal´s harbour.


Charles I , the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire, died after he came into exile in Madeira Island.


Population revolts against the strict economic measures set in place by Oliveira Salazar´s government. A general strike took place that was then suppressed by troops sent in from Lisbon. This event commenced a wave of emigration to South America, USA and Hawaii.


Santa Catarina International Airport is inaugurated


Portugal´s democratic revolution took place on April 25 and put to end years of dictatorship


Political autonomy was granted to Madeira Island. The island has its own government, legislation and presidency.


Madeira is granted great financial support after Portugal entered the European Economic Community.


Madeira was hit by violent winds and torrential rains causing various mudslides throughout the island.



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