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Portugal is the world’s former capital.

It was tiny Portugal that first unlocked the secrets of deepwater navigation. It was Portugal that figured out how to master ship and wind and wave, and bypass the entirety of the Eurasian landmass to make landfall anywhere in the known world. From that access, the Portuguese were able to trade and extort anything they wanted. Shipyards on the River Duoro in the city of Oporto (shown above) built the fleets that dominated global trade, with the commercial traffic ultimately flowing to Lisbon.

More than any other location in the world, Portugal is a monument about how a change in technology can change everything.

For more on how Portugal’s day in the sun (actually, that’s more like two centuries in the sun) transformed the world and destroyed the Ottoman Empire, see Chapter 3 in The Accidental Superpower.

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