The “Age of Exploration” was a time of world history from the 15th century to the 17 century during which European ships traveled the world in order to search for new trading routes and “business” partners in order to bring economical profits to Europe. The Europeans faced countless numbers of land during the time of prominent explorers. These explorers were Christopher Columbus, Hernando de Soto, Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro, etc.
These explorers would change the world forever. The Age of Exploration was instilled into people’s minds when new technologies and ideas were growing out of an era called the Renaissance. This era included knowledge in maps, and shipbuilding. The beginnings of exploration was conducted by Portugal under a man known as Prince Henry the Navigator.
The ships from Portugal sailed out to the Atlantic Ocean where the Madeira Islands were discovered in 1419. In 1427 Azores Islands(Autonomous Community) was discovered. The Azores Islands eventually became part of Portugal. Prince Henry the Navigator wanted to explore the West Coast of Africa. The only route known which was connecting Portugal to West Africa was the famous and dry desert, Sahara Desert. These routes to West Africa were managed by the Islamic States of North Africa.
In order to avoid the Muslims, the Portuguese hoped to find a sea route to trade with the Africans residing in West Africa. The Portuguese took time to achieve this sea route. In 20 years the route to avoid the Sahara Desert which was guarded by Islamic States was overcome and trade with gold and slaves begun in Senegal after the sea route was found.
Trading with the Africans continued as trading forts were built at Elmina and Sao Tome. Bartolomeu Dias circled the Cape of Good Hope and proved that there was indeed a route to the Indian Ocean. In 1498 Vasco da Gama proved Bartolomeu’s theory by arriving at a country known as India. Spain was one of Portugal’s biggest rivals. Spain is part of the Iberian Peninsula(Landmass on which Portugal and Spain are located). Spain took time to set its own hands to clock around the globe in order to find land to claim it. It was not until the late 15th Century when the Spaniards began competing with the Portuguese in the “Age of Exploration”. The first battle between Portugal and Spain was for the ownership of the Canary Islands in which Spaniards claimed victory.
In 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decided to fund Christopher Columbus’ expedition to Asia. They hoped Columbus and his men would reach India by bypassing or avoiding the Portuguese as they had full control on Africa and the Indian Ocean. By passing by Spain’s bitter enemy, that would only lead to war which the King and Queen did not want as they wanted to explore new land not cause war. Columbus decided to reach India by sailing west to reach the east. Columbus did not arrive at Asia as he had hoped. He and his men had arrived at the “New World”, North America.
Columbus and other Spanish explorers were dejected with their discoveries. Unlike Africa or Asia which the Portuguese had explored, the people of the Caribbean Islands barely had any supplies to trade with the Spanish. Since this was the first piece of land explored by the Spanish it was the main place for Spaniard explorers to trade with. It was not until when the Spanish found North America where they found number of empires which were tribes. The Spanish conquistadors were easily able to conquer these people known as Native Americans. Native Americans were conquered easily due to the spread of disease that the Europeans carried along with them. As if the disease was not enough, the Spaniards were advanced in warfare technology as they had guns which had long distance while the Native Americans had spears and sticks.
Once Spain successfully conquered North America, their main focus was to mine for silver and gold. The Treaty of Tordesillas was very powerful treaty which divided the world between the two powers, Spain and Portugal. The treaty stated that the Portuguese would control everything outside of Europe east of a line that ran about 1500 km west of the Cape Verde islands. This gave Portugal control over Africa, Asia and Brazil. The Spanish controlled everything west of this line.
The Spanish controlled land which was not even known to them. The other nations of Europe refused to adopt this Treaty. These nations were France, Britain, and Netherlands. All three of these countries were highly skilled in the art of sailing. Despite Spanish and Portuguese protections over their respective captured land, these “smaller” countries by using new technology and maps were able to find their way north by avoiding the two world superpowers. John Cabot led the first of these missions.
He was funded by the British Empire. John Cabot led the start of the series of explorations of the north by both the British and the French. Spain had ignored the northern part of the Americas as it had fewer people than Central America and far fewer riches. Explorers such as Cabot were looking to find a Northwest Passageway to find a route to Asia in order to get riches. This gateway to Asia was never discovered. Despite not finding the passageway other riches were found and in the early seventeenth century colonists from a number of Northern European states began to settle on the east coast of North America.
It was in fact the Northern European countries deemed as enemies to the Portuguese after they discovered Africa and the Indian Ocean. British, French, and Dutch began to jeopardize the Portuguese economy. They found their own trading ports and colonies to colonize. The Northern Europeans also were first in exploring the Pacific Ocean. Dutch explorers explored the coasts of Australia. In the 18th century, James Cook had plotted the location of Hawaii.Now all of these countries were successful in taking over most of the world by colonization, but the real question is just how did the Europeans conquer most of the world compared to kingdoms in Asia, India, Africa or the Middle East.
Some people think that the diseases the Europeans carried such as smallpox was the key to successfully devastated indigenous populations of a particular location. The disease alone does not perfectly explain how the Europeans took over America. Millions of Native Americans died due to the disease but some young Natives also survived. Similar to the European colonization of India, Indians were immune to the diseases that they carried with them. Europeans and Asians both had the technology to make guns and had gunpowder to fight against enemies. Despite having similarities to the Europeans, several kingdoms were not able to defend themselves.Europe’s success was fueled by the political incentives to just make war to take over land in their own name. These incentives by political leaders had leaders spend huge amounts of money in order to supply the soldiers.
European leaders did in fact spend money to make their palaces but most of the tax revenue that Kings received were spent towards wars. King Louis XIV and other kings had been raised from childhood to pursue the glory of victory through the battlefield. This “glory” was instilled into them ever since. Whereas in China, Emperors were encouraged to keep the taxes low and help people live their lives better instead of spending money towards the military unlike European leaders. Due this and other reasons, leaders outside of Europe were not able to protect themselves and could not match Europe’s innovations in warfare tactics. The huge sums of money gave military leaders the ability to buy new weapons, battleships in order to try out new battle tactics. Since European countries were smaller and closer, they could easily learn from their rival’ errors and copy their improvements. Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus constructed one of the earliest two decked gunships in 1628.
The outcome did not fare well since it sank shortly after setting sail.The Swedish navy and other navies across Europe learned from this failure, and by the eighteenth century they were building warships with two or more gun decks that were not only stable, but also had a longer range and were more maneuverable than 17th century warships. China had far less tax revenue to spend on the military compared to the Europeans. In the 18th century, taxes in France were 15 times higher than China and in England it was 40 times higher. Most of the tax money that China did collect and preserve did not go towards the new form of fighting but towards archers who journeyed on horseback. China was the dominant empire in East Asia so very few rivals thought of challenging it, thus it led to less incentives of spending heavily towards the military. As a result there was simply no use for gunpowder in East Asia. Hernan Cortes’ victory against the Native Americans was primarily due to the fact that the Spaniards could roam lands with horses.
Horses were never seen by the Natives. Cortes had only brought 16 horses versus Aztecs who primarily fought on foot. The Spanish had the advantage over the Aztecs as they had horses. After their victory over the Aztecs, the Spanish brought more horses. In 1519 Coronado had 150 horses when he went to North America and de Soto had 237 horses in 1539.
By 1547, Antonio de Mendoza, the first governor of Mexico had owned over 1,500 horses. The Spanish had forbade the Natives to ride the horses without permission. The Natives had no answer for cannons and other firearms. Also the Aztecs had never seen or used horses and they found them terrifying to face in battle. Furthermore, Europeans benefited from living in literate cultures that could easily record and pass down detailed knowledge about navigation, technology, and conquest. Massive population catastrophe occurred wherever Europeans made contact with indigenous Americans. The Taino were indigenous people whom Columbus met on his first voyage to the island of Hispaniola. The original Taino population of about 600,000 in 1492 shrank in just 20 years to under 60,000.
It was common to see a drop of 90 percent or more in native populations.How were the diseases so lethal to the indigenous people? The Eurasian continent included many large domesticable animals such as horses, cows, oxen, sheep, and goats that did not exist in the Americas. Over the course of thousands of years, Eurasians domesticated these animals and lived in close contact with them. The animals were a great benefit to the economy but also transmitted all kinds of terrible diseases to the farmers. Both Europe and Asia suffered many plagues that devastated their populations, such as the Black Plague during the 14th century. The Black Plague killed 25 to 33 percent of people across Eurasia, from China to France.
Descendants of plague survivors possessed antibodies that protected them from such devastating diseases in the future. The Natives lacked domesticable animals and diseases. As a result, the devastating diseases went in only one direction, from Eurasia to the Americas. In 1492, Columbus’ arrival in the Americas suddenly collided with 12,000 years of American isolation from Eurasia which led to deaths of millions of Natives. While native populations decreased ninety percent, Europeans took gold, silver, and new foods back to Europe, such as potatoes, tomatoes, chiles, squash, vanilla, turkey, corn, and cacao. After these new food, gold and silver were introduced to citizens in European countries, it increased the “wanting” of more supplies to make economy stronger. Thus it led to more conquering of the land in the Americas.