Madeira (Maday'ra), the largest (38 miles by 15) of a small group of islands in the North Atlantic, 390 miles NW. of Morocco, 1164 SW. of the Lizard, and 535 SW. of Lisbon. Madeira (Portuguese, 'timber'), first settled in 1419, is treated as an integral province of Portugal, sending representatives to the Cortes at Lisbon. Pop. (1881) 132,223; (1905) 150,500. Madeira is traversed by a mountain-chain running E. and W., with deep ravines between the lateral ridges, the most notable the 'Grand Curral,' which is more than 2000 feet deep. The islands are of volcanic origin ; there are three summits between 5895 and 6059 feet. Slight earthquakes occur. The south is treeless and arid ; the north side is more luxuriant and fertile, with wider areas of cultivated ground; In the north-west are undulating grassy plains. The coasts are steep and precipitous, the only harbour being that of Funchal (q.v.) on the south coast, which is little better than an open roadstead. The clouds, attracted by the mountains, yield plenty of moisture, and the climate is remarkable for its constancy; mean temperature, 61° F.; minimum, 50° F. ; while in the hottest days of summer it seldom rises above 80°; 90° is exceptional. The average rainfall is 29 inches ; there are few really wet days. The temperate and constant warmth of its climate has made it a favourite resort for invalids affected by pulmonary disease. The fruits and grains of Europe are cultivated on the lower levels; the products include wheat, barley, Indian corn, the potato, oranges, lemons, guavas, mangoes, figs, and bananas. Travellers praise the golden splendour of the wide expanses of gorse and broom, and of the marvellous masses of colour of the flora. There are between 300 and 400 genera of wild flowering plants. Wine, especially that known as Madeira, is the chief export. The vines were nearly exterminated in 1852 and succeeding years by oidium, but were soon replanted ; and oidium and the phylloxera have since been kept in check by sulphur. Sugar-canes flourish. The inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese, Moorish, and Negro descent; they are vigorous, lively, and industrious. A great drawback to visitors is the absence of roads. Loads are carried on the head by natives, and hammocks and sledges drawn by bullocks are used. Roman Catholicism is predominant. At Funchal (q.v.) are the governor's palace, town-hall, opera-house, lyceum, cathedral, English church, and Scottish Free Church.
See works by White (2d ed. 1860), Grabham (1869), Piazzi Smyth (1882), Miss Taylor (1882), Yate Johnson (1885), Brown (1890), Fraser's Magazine (1875), and Blackwood (1888).