The beginning of the Canary Islands conquest

The Greeks Homer and Hesiod both made mention in their writings of a set of islands located beyond the Gibraltar Strait which they called the Hesperides. They were seen as a heaven on Earth, and this was likely the first reference to the archipelago in ancient times. One of the first reliable records of the Canary Islands was made by Plinius in the 1st century, where he talks of an expedition sent there by Mauritanian King Juba. On the expedition's return, they brought their king huge dogs as a souvenir of their adventure, which is probably where the archipelago got its name from: Canaries, from canine. Some hypotheses state that the Phoenetians and the Romans also reached the Canary Islands on a number of explorations driven by their interest in trade.

Contact with the Canary Islands was re-established in the 14th century with a visit by Lancelotto Malocello to Lanzarote, who it is believed the island is named after. Prince Luis de la Cerda of Spain obtained a papal bull in 1344 issued by Clement VI granting him dominion over the Fortunate Isles and naming him the Prince of Fortune. As a fun fact, it is interesting to note that this French nobleman never actually travelled to the islands.

After this series of tentative approaches to the archipelago, there began a military campaign to conquer the Canaries. The conquest went on for almost a century, from 1402 when Jean de Bethencourt reached Lanzarote, until the completion of the colonial process in 1496. Among the reasons that led this period in the Canary Islands' history to go on for several decades were the tough resistance put up by some of the islands, the scarce financial resources of the conquistadors and the lack of riches found in the Canaries to motivate European explorers. The Norman Jean de Bethencourt and his associate Gadifer de Salle struck a deal with Lanzarote's aborigines shortly after reaching the island in 1402. The conqueror then sought protection from the Castilian Crown, such that the island was left to his command. The same happened in Fuerteventura and El Hierro, whose inhabitants yielded because the population was already suffering from previous attacks.