- That interest grew even more after Italian explorer Marco Polo returned from China
- In the late 1200s, Polo wrote about Asia's people, great riches, and splendid cities in his book, Travels, which was widely read in Europe
- Two hundred years later, his Travels would inspire another Italian explorer—Christopher Columbus
The Growth of Trade
- Merchants in Europe knew they could make a lot of money selling goods from Asia. Wealthy Europeans were eager to buy Asian spices, perfumes, silks, and precious stones.
- Merchants first bought these goods from Arab traders in the Middle East. The merchants then sent the goods overland by caravan to the Mediterranean Sea.
- From there, the goods traveled by ship to Italian ports in Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. These cities prospered as centers of the growing trade.
- However, Arab traders charged high prices. This led Europeans to look for a route to the East that would not require them to buy from Arab merchants
The Growth of New Ideas
- By the 1300s, several Italian city-states had become strong economic and cultural centers. Their influence spread across Europe
- Newly powerful bankers and merchants in Pisa, Venice, and Genoa studied classical works—those of ancient Greece and Rome
- Science was another area in which change occurred. Many scholars tested new and old theories of science. They performed experiments and evaluated the results.
- The arts were also influenced by classical forms and new ideas. Authors wrote about the individual's place in the universe. Artists studied classical sculpture and architecture. They admired the harmony and balance in Greek art
- This period of intellectual and artistic creativity is known as the Renaissance (reh • nuh • SAHNTS). The word renaissance means "rebirth" in French
- It refers to the rebirth of interest in classical Greek and Roman ideas. As the Renaissance spread across Europe over the next two centuries, it changed the way Europeans thought about themselves and the world
- It also set the stage for an age of exploration and discovery
The Rise of Powerful Nations
- For centuries, Europe had been a patchwork of small states. By the 1400s, however, a new, larger type of state had developed in Western Europe
- Strong monarchs rose to power in Spain, Portugal, England, and France. They began to establish national laws, courts, taxes, and armies to replace those of the local rulers
- These ambitious monarchs sought ways to increase trade and make their countries even stronger and wealthier
- As early as the mid-1400s, powerful countries such as Portugal and Spain began to search for sea routes to Asia
- They, too, wanted to engage in foreign trade. This placed them in direct competition with the Italian port cities that had become so powerful a century earlier
- As a result, a new era of exploration began
The effects of new technology
- Advances in technology—the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes—helped to make European voyages of exploration possible
- In the 1450s, the introduction of the printing press made it much easier to print books. More people had access to books and to new information
- Many Europeans read Marco Polo's Travels when it appeared in printed form in 1477. This book gave people descriptions of faraway places, such as modern-day areas of Iraq, Siberia, Japan, India, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. Whether the descriptions were entirely accurate is open to debate.
- However, Polo's Travels led European readers to realize that there were many spectacular sights beyond their immediate world.
Navigators discovered something unusual in the 1100s. They found that when a small magnetic needle was suspended freely, it would always point north. They used this knowledge to create the first compasses.
Compasses work because Earth has a weak magnetic field. Lines of magnetism run from the South Pole to the North Pole. These lines cause compass needles to point north. Once that direction is known, it is easy to figure out the other directions.
A simple compass, such as a pocket compass, is a magnetic needle suspended on a pin. There is a round card beneath the needle that indicates the four major directions. Aligning the pin to the north/south direction shows which way the user is facing.
Navigators from any age, including modern times, recognize that the compass is a more reliable navigation tool than looking at the sun or at stars. For one thing, a compass can be used in any kind of weather.
Advances in technology have greatly improved compasses since the Age of Exploration. There are floating compasses, digital compasses, and many other types. There are even electronic compasses built into wristwatches.
- People also improved instruments for navigating the seas. Sailors could find their latitude with an astrolabe (AS • truh • layb), which measured the positions of stars
- In the 1200s, Europeans acquired the magnetic compass from China
- The compass allowed sailors to accurately determine their direction
Better Ship Design
- Advances in ship design allowed sailors to make long ocean voyages. The stern rudder and triangular sail enabled ships to sail into the wind.
- The Portuguese three-masted caravel (KER • uh • vehl) became the most famous ship of the European age of exploration. Caravels could sail faster and carry more cargo and supplies than earlier ships.
- These advances and competition for foreign trade led countries such as Portugal and Spain to search for sea routes to Asia. Portugal began its explorations along the west coast of Africa, an area Europeans had never visited before
- Between a.d. 400 and 1600, powerful kingdoms and city-states flourished in Africa south of the Sahara. Much of their power and wealth came from mining and trade.
- Arab traders traveled Africa's east coast exchanging cotton, silk, and porcelain for African ivory and metals.
- West Africans mined and traded gold, copper, and iron ore.
- Trade with North Africa's Islamic societies brought wealth and Islamic customs to the West African kingdoms. The kingdoms also traded directly with Europe.
- The Portuguese set up trading posts along Africa's western coast in the mid-1400s
Ghana - A Trading Empire
- Between a.d. 400 and 1100, a vast trading empire known as Ghana emerged in West Africa. Ghana grew wealthy from the taxes it placed on trade
- Caravans carrying gold, ivory, and enslaved people crossed the desert to North Africa and returned with salt, cloth, and brass. Such trading contacts led many West Africans to become Muslim
- In 1076 North African people called Almoravids (al • muh • RAH • vihdz) attacked Ghana, disrupting the trade routes in the region. Soon new trade routes bypassed Ghana altogether
- The drop in trade led to Ghana's decline, and new kingdoms emerged in the region
Portugal's Trading Empire
- Events moved quickly. Within six months of da Gama's return to Portugal, 13 ships set sail out of Lisbon and headed for India. The ships were commanded by a nobleman, Pedro Álvares Cabral (PEH • droo AWL • vuh ruhsh kuh • BRAWL).
- Cabral planned to follow da Gama's westward-thensouthward course. Instead, he went so far west that he reached Brazil. Cabral claimed Brazil for his king and sent one of the ships back to Portugal with the good news that Portugal now had a foothold in the Americas.
- Cabral then continued to India and returned with spices, porcelain, and other valuable cargo. Other Portuguese fleets soon made the journey to India, where Portugal set up permanent forts.
- Portuguese fleets began to make yearly voyages to India. Their cargoes made the Portuguese capital of Lisbon the marketplace of Europe.
Columbus Crosses the Atlantic
- Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, Christopher Columbus became a sailor for Portugal. He traveled as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as Africa's Gold Coast. To reach Asia, Christopher Columbus had a different route in mind than the one used by his Portuguese comrades. He planned to sail west.
- In the 1400s, most educated people believed the world was round. People were less certain about the Earth's size. Columbus was among those who based their estimates on the works of Ptolemy (TAHL • uh • mee), an ancient Greek astronomer.
- Columbus believed Asia was about 2,760 miles (4,441 km) from Portugal—a voyage of about two months by ship. However, Ptolemy had underestimated Earth's size and, by using Ptolemy's estimate, Columbus did, too.
Vikings in North America
- Several centuries before the voyages of da Gama, Cabral, and Columbus, northern Europeans had sailed to North America. Known as Vikings, or Norsemen, their ships sailed from presentday Scandinavia to Iceland and Greenland in the 800s and 900s, and established settlements there for a brief period of time.
- According to Norse sagas, or traditional stories, a Viking sailor named Leif Eriksson explored lands west of Greenland in about the year 1000. The sagas refer to this land as "Vinland." Ruins from around that period exist in northeastern Canada, which could support the sagas. The Vikings' voyages were not wellknown throughout Europe, however. Other Europeans did not "discover" the Americas until Columbus made his historic voyage.
Columbus and Queen Isabella
- Columbus had a plan for reaching Asia, but he still needed money to finance his expedition. He visited European monarchs, looking for support. Finally, he found a sponsor in Spain.
- For most of the 1400s, Spanish monarchs devoted, or committed, their energy to driving the Muslims out of Spain.
- Muslims had invaded Spain in the 700s, but their power had been declining for centuries. The last Muslim kingdom in Spain fell in 1492. This freed Spain’s monarchs to focus on other goals. The Spanish observed the seafaring and trading successes of neighboring Portugal with envy. They, too, wanted the riches of Asian trade.
- King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain agreed to support Columbus's expedition for two reasons. One reason was that Columbus promised to bring Christianity to any lands he found.
- As a devout Catholic, this was important to Isabella. Another reason was that if he succeeded in finding a route to Asia, Spain would become wealthy from trade with that region. Queen Isabella promised Columbus a share of any riches gained from lands he discovered on his way to Asia.
Columbus's First Voyage
- On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Palos, Spain. He had two small ships, the Niña and the Pinta, and a larger one, the Santa María. Columbus was captain of the Santa María, his lead ship, or flagship. The three ships carried about 90 sailors and a six-month supply of food and water.
- The small fleet stopped at the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa for repairs and supplies. Columbus then began the difficult voyage westward across unknown and mysterious stretches of the Atlantic Ocean.
- After a few weeks at sea, the sailors grew nervous about the distance they had traveled. Columbus refused to alter his course
- Instead, he encouraged the crew by describing the riches he believed they would find. He urged them on, saying that, "with the help of our Lord" they would arrive in the Indies.
- On October 12, 1492, at two o'clock in the morning, a lookout shouted, "Tierra! Tierra!" "Land! Land!" He had spotted a small island in the chain now called the Bahamas. Columbus went ashore, claimed the island for Spain, and named it "San Salvador." Although he did not know it, Columbus had reached the Americas.
8.1.2 Compare and contrast reasons for British, French, Spanish and Dutch colonization in the New World.
- Columbus believed he had arrived in the East Indies, the islands off the coast of Asia. This is why today we call the Caribbean Islands "the West Indies." It also explains why Columbus called the local people "Indians." He noted that the natives regarded the Europeans with wonder and often touched the crew members to find out "if they were flesh and bones like themselves."
- When Columbus returned to Spain, Queen Isabella and the Spanish king, Ferdinand, received him with great honor. They made him Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and agreed to provide funds for his future voyages.
- Columbus made three more voyages for Spain, in 1493, 1498, and 1502. He explored the Caribbean islands of Hispaniola (presentday Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Cuba, and Jamaica. He also sailed along the coasts of Central America and northern South America. He claimed these lands for Spain and started settlements. He also mapped the coastline of Central America.
- Columbus had not reached Asia, but instead had found a part of the world that was unknown to Europeans, Asians, and Africans. In the years that followed, the Spanish went on to explore most of the Caribbean, and to establish the Spanish Empire in the Americas
Dividing The Americas
- Both Spain and Portugal wanted to protect their claims in the Americas. They turned to Pope Alexander VI for help. In 1493 he ordered a line of demarcation, an imaginary line that reached from the North Pole to the South Pole, and cut through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Spain was to control all lands west of the line, and Portugal would control all lands east of the line.
- Portugal objected, saying that the division gave more land to Spain. In 1494 the two countries signed an agreement called the Treaty of Tordesillas (tohr • day • SEE • yuhs), which moved the line farther west. The two countries had divided the entire unexplored world between themselves.
- After Columbus, other voyagers explored the Americas. In 1499 Italian Amerigo Vespucci (veh • SPOO • chee) led a voyage funded by Spain.
- On this and a later journey for Portugal, he explored the coast of South America. Vespucci realized South America was a separate continent, and not part of Asia. European geographers began to call the continent "America" in his honor.
- A Spaniard, Vasco Núñez de Balboa (bal • BOH • uh), heard stories of the "great waters" beyond the mountains of Panama, in Central America. He hiked through steamy rain forests to find them. At the coast in 1513, Balboa saw a vast body of water, which he claimed for Spain, along with the adjoining lands.
- Balboa was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the Americas.
Sailing Around the World
- In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who was sailing for Spain, reached the southernmost tip of South America. He sailed through the stormy waters of a narrow sea passage, or strait. The strait led him into a calm ocean—the same one Balboa had seen. The waters were so peaceful—pacifico in Spanish—that Magellan named the ocean the Pacific Ocean.
- Magellan died in the Philippine Islands, but his crew continued to sail westward, arriving back in Spain in 1522. Magellan’s crew were the first people known to circumnavigate, or sail around, the world.