Age of Exploration

By Kendall

Turning Points in History - Age of Exploration

Why explore?

Outfitting an expedition could be expensive and risky. Many ships never returned. So why did the Europeans want to explore? The simple answer is money. Although, some individual explorers wanted to gain fame or experience adventure, the main purpose of an expedition was to make money.

How did expeditions make money?

How did expeditions make money? Expeditions made money primarily by discovering new trade routes for their nations. When the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople in 1453, many existing trade routes to India and China were shut down. These trade routes were very valuable as they brought in expensive products such as spices and silk. New expeditions tried to discover oceangoing routes to India and the Far East.

Some expeditions became rich by discovering gold and silver, such as the expeditions of the Spanish to the Americas. They also found new land where colonies could be established and crops such as sugar, cotton, and tobacco could be grown.

Henry the Navigator

The Age of Exploration began in the nation of Portugal under the leadership of Henry the Navigator. Henry sent out ships to map and explore the west coast of Africa. They went further south than any previous European expedition and mapped much of western Africa for the Portuguese. In 1488, Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa and into the Indian Ocean.

Portugal and Spain

Portugal and Spain became the early leaders in the Age of Exploration. Through the Treaty of Tordesillas the two countries agreed to divide up the New World. Spain got most of the Americas while Portugal got Brazil, India, and Asia.

Spain sent over conquistadors to explore the Americas and to conquer the peoples there. Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. They made Spain rich with the gold and silver they found in the Americas.

Portugal sent out Vasco da Gama who found a trade route around the southern tip of Africa and to India. They also explored much of the Far East and were the first Europeans to establish a trading colony in China at Macau.

Turning Points in History - Scientific Revolution