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Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an archipelago comprising 4 islands off the northwest coast of Africa. It is known for its namesake wine and warm, subtropical climate. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green and rugged, with high cliffs, pebbly beaches and settlements on deltas of the Fajã River. Capital Funchal has botanic gardens and is known for its harbor and a large New Year’s fireworks show.
See the fact file below for more information on the Madeira or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Madeira worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
QUICK FACTS ABOUT MADEIRA
- Madeira is officially known as the Autonomous Region of Madeira.
- It is one of two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other is the Azores, which is located northwest of Madeira).
- Madeira is actually an archipelago with an area of 286 square miles – it is located 310 miles from the African coast and about double that distance from the European continent.
- The language spoken by people living in Madeira is Portuguese.
- It was settled in 1420, and received political autonomy on July 1, 1976.
- It is a popular year-round resort, in part thanks to its mild climate and cultural value, and sees about 1.4 million tourists per year, which is nearly five times its population!
HISTORY OF MADEIRA
- Madeira has been mentioned for thousands of years; including by Pliny the Elder, who was a Roman author and philosopher who commanded the army of the early Roman Empire, and mentioned islands that match up with the coordinates of the Madeira islands.
- It is also believed that the Vikings came to Madeira before the Portuguese colonized it – this is believed because of bone fragments found, along with DNA of mice.
- In 1419, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira became shipwrecked on an island (now known to be Madeira) due to a powerful storm that washed them away at sea.
- Historians dispute that a third sailor, Bartolomeu Perestrello, was also present at the time of the shipwreck and discovery of the island.
- By 1425, the islands started to be settled, and on September 23, 1433, the name “Ilha da Madeira”, translating to “island of the wood”, first appeared on a map.
- The two sailors were sent by Prince Henry the Navigator, who wanted to extend his knowledge of the coast of West Africa.
- By 1440, the island archipelago was divided up – Machico was given to Teixeira, Porto Santo was given to Perestrello, and Gonçalves Zarco (whose statue is seen to the right) was given Funchal.
- In the beginning, there was a heavy focus on the cultivation of agriculture, so large portions of the dense laurel forest had to be deforested.
- In its place, large water channels and trade houses were built, and crops were grown, including wheat, which was managed by 150 farms by the end of the 15th century.
- The wheat was transported mainly to the European continent.
HISTORY & ECONOMY OF MADEIRA
- The cultivation and sale of wheat was soon replaced with the cultivation of sugarcane, which was known as “white gold” at the time.
- The introduction of sugarcane turned Funchal into a popular stopping point for European trade routes.
- Most of the manual work of excavating, harvesting, and transporting the sugarcane was done by African slaves brought in from the African mainland – it was this pattern of sugar cultivation that would soon gain a foothold in the Caribbean and Brazil.
- Due to Madeira’s location, climate, and abundance of sugarcane, it became a highly profitable industry which helped European colonization and expansion tremendously.
- The popularity of Madeira attracted explorers like Christopher Columbus to the island in 1478 – he ended up marrying the daughter of a plantation owner on Porto Santo Island and took some sugar cane plants with him on his voyage to the Caribbean.
- By the end of the 15th century, Madeira was the world’s greatest producer of sugar.
- Other crops and food items that were of economic importance to the island were fish, fruit, and vegetables, as well as the emergence of wine in the 17th century.
- During the 17th and 18th centuries, Madeira wine became extremely popular and was seen as a luxurious beverage.
- By 1891, the population was around 132,000 inhabitants.
- On July 1, 1976 (shortly after the democratic revolution of 1974), Portugal granted political autonomy to Madeira. Madeira’s flag was created on September 12, two years later.
- In 2017, there were approximately 14% Venezuelan, 14% British, 12% Brazilian, and 7% German nationalities living in Madeira, with Funchal having the largest concentration of people.
- There are many Madeiran communities that exist around the world, such as in the United Kingdom (Jersey).
- Tourism continues to be a huge sector in the region’s economy, and currently contributes about 20% to the region’s GDP.
MADEIRA’S GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
- Madeira enjoys a relatively mild climate and has been classified as having a Mediterranean climate, which includes mild year-round temperatures and average rainfall.
- In the south, there is very little indigenous subtropical rainforest left (due to the burning of trees for farming).
- The laurisilva forests in the north are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, having existed for approximately 1.8 million years!
- Laurisilva forests are subtropical and found in places with high humidity and mild temperatures.
- These forests are characterized by broad, glossy leaves known as “lauroid” (laurel blossom is pictured below).
- Madeira has the largest forest area, encompassing more than 22,000 acres, which houses a diversity of plants and animals.
- Madeira is very mountainous – it’s located at the top of a large shield volcano that rises around 20,000 feet from the Atlantic Ocean floor.
- There are also many nature reserves found in Madeira which provide habitats for rare plant and animal species, such as the monk seal, seabirds, and the Madeiran wall lizard (pictured above).
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Madeira across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Madeira worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, which is an archipelago comprising 4 islands off the northwest coast of Africa.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Life of Henry the Navigator
- Machico, Funchal, and Porto Santo
- Tourism Poster
- Madeira Through the Wars
- Island Cuisine
- Madeira Crossword
- Plot the Nature Reserve
- Climate Map
- Madeira Wordsearch
- Postcard from Madeira
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Link will appear as Madeira Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 14, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
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