Age of Exploration reading

Age of Exploration
Beginning in the early fifteenth century, European nations started a series of global
explorations that established a new chapter in world history. Known as the Age of
Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, this period spanned the fifteenth through the early
seventeenth century (1400s-1600s), during which time European nations expanded their
influences to places such as the Americas, Africa, and the Far East.
The European Age of Exploration developed at the same time as the Renaissance.
Competition between burgeoning (rapidly growing) European empires, such as Spain and
England, fueled the evolution and advancement of overseas exploration. With the help of
new technologies, European nations were motivated by profit, power, and religion. As a
result, the size and influence of European empires all over the world during this period
expanded greatly. The effects of exploration were not only felt abroad (overseas), but
also within the geographic confines of Europe itself. The economic, political, and cultural
effects of Europe’s beginning stages of global exploration impacted the long-term
development of both European society and the entire world.
For early explorers, one of the main motives for exploration was the desire to find new
trade routes to Asia. By the 1400s, merchants and crusaders had brought many goods to
Europe from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Demand for these goods increased the
desire for trade. Europeans were especially interested in spices from Asia. They had
learned to use spices to help preserve food during winter and to cover up the taste of food
that was no longer fresh. This trade introduced luxury goods such as cotton, silk, and
spices to the European economy. It also created a large demand among the European
people. New technological advancements in maritime (ocean) navigation and ship
construction allowed Europeans to travel farther and explore parts of the globe that were
previously unknown.
Trade with the East, however, was expensive, difficult, and dangerous. Muslims and
Italians controlled the flow of trade. Muslim traders carried goods to the east coast of the
Mediterranean Sea. Italian merchants then brought the goods to Europe. Problems arose
when Muslim rulers sometimes closed the trade routes from Asia to Europe. Also, the
goods went through many hands, and each trading party raised their price.
European monarchs and merchants wanted to break the hold that Muslims and Italians
had on trade because controlling trade would make their countries rich. Over time, it
became clear that global exploration was extremely profitable, and European nations
made it a priority. One way to do so was to find a sea route to Asia. Portuguese sailors
looked for a route that went around Africa. Christopher Columbus tried to reach Asia by
sailing west across the Atlantic.
European monarchs began to pay for explorations to find a sea route to Asia so they
could get spices cheaper. Portugal was the first country that sent explorers to search
for the sea route to Asia. After Bartholomew Dias and his crew made it to Africa's Cape
of Good Hope, Vasco da Gama and his crew became the first to sail around Africa and
through the Indian Ocean to India. Spain, however, would soon take over the lead in
exploration. When Portugal refused to finance Christopher Columbus' idea to sail west to
find the shortcut to the Indies, Columbus convinced Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen
Isabella to finance it. On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew reached
the island of Hispaniola. Although Columbus believed he had reached Asia, he had
actually discovered the entire continent of North America and claimed it for Spain. Spain quickly colonized North America. Ponce de Leon discovered Florida, and the first
European settlement in the New World was later established at St. Augustine. Hernando
Cortes crushed the Aztec empire in Mexico and claimed it for Spain. Francisco Pizarro
did the same to the Incan Empire in South America. Other explorers such as Francisco
Coronado and Hernando de Soto claimed other portions of North America for Spain.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa even claimed the entire Pacific Ocean for Spain. As the Spanish
empire grew, explorers forced native populations into slavery and to convert to
Christianity. Meanwhile, France began to explore North America. Explorations by
Giovanni Verrazano and Jacques Cartier resulted in French claims of much of Canada
and the north Atlantic coast. England would soon attempt to make its presence known by
financing pirates such as Francis Drake to plunder Spanish settlements and steal gold
from Spanish sea vessels. England also established a settlement in North Carolina in 1587.
Territorial disputes and constant pirating resulted in a series of major wars between the
competing nations. In 1588, the British Army defeated the praised Spanish Armada. The
British victory proved a serious blow to Spanish influence in the New World. Although Spain still controlled much of the New World after defeat, England and France
were able to speed up their colonization. England soon established successful colonies
throughout the eastern portions of the United States, and France had colonies in Canada
and the middle portions of the United States.
Prior to the Age of Exploration, Europeans were exposed to new places, people, beliefs,
and goods as a result of the religious wars known as the Crusades. Since one of the ideas
of the Catholic faith is that Christianity ought to be the universal religion and faith among
all mankind, Catholics work(ed) hard at converting those of other beliefs to their faith.
Therefore, the pope (head of the Catholic church) was instrumental in encouraging and
supporting worldwide exploration. He often approved the enslaving Africans and native
peoples. Spanish missionaries were frequently a part of the early expeditions of Spain so
that they could convert the natives to Christianity. Europeans typically viewed native
populations as barbaric heathens who could only become civilized through the adoption
of Christianity.