Conquest of the Canary Islands

Conquest of the Canary Islands
Map of the Canary Islands
Location of the Canary Islands

The conquest of the Canary Islands by the Crown of Castille took place between 1402 and 1496. It can be divided into two periods: the Conquista señorial, carried out by Castilian nobility in exchange for a covenant of allegiance with the crown, and the Conquista realenga, carried out by the Spanish crown itself, during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs.


The ties between the Canaries and the Mediterranean world which had existed since antiquity were interrupted by the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire. Although these linkages were weakened, they were not totally severed, and the Canaries' isolation was not total. During the Middle Ages, the first reports on the Canaries come from Arabic sources, which refer to some Atlantic islands which may have been the Canaries. What does seem clear is that this knowledge of the islands did not signify the end of the cultural isolation of the native inhabitants.

Visits to the archipelago began to increase after the end of the 13th century for reasons including:

  • The economic expansion of some regions of Europe, such as Genoa, Aragon, the Kingdom of Castille, and Portugal, and their need to establish secure routes to the Orient to obtain silk and spices, as well as to Africa to obtain gold and slaves, while avoiding the territories controlled by the Ottoman Turks in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Development of new navigation techniques (compass, astrolabe, stern rudder, cog-caravel) and the development of cartography, as well as the atlases, one of which, the Atlas Catalán by Abraham de Cresques of Mallorca, in 1375, shows the Canary Islands with their modern names.
  • Ideological and political motives: the monarchies of Southern Europe entered an expansive phase. In the case of the Iberian royalty, their territorial expansion was spurred by the Reconquista against the Moors in Spain. For this reason, territorial expansion represented a reinforcement of royal power, imbued with a crusader spirit in defense of Christianity.