Age of Discovery

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The Age of Discovery or Age of Exploration was a period from the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century, during which European ships traveled around the world to search for new trading routes and partners.

They were in search of trading goods such as gold, silver and spices. In the process, Europeans met peoples and mapped lands previously unknown to them. Among the most famous explorers of the period were Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, John Cabot, Yermak, Juan Ponce de León, Juan Sebastian Elcano, Bartholomeu Dias, Ferdinand Magellan, Willem Barentsz, Abel Tasman, Jean Alfonse, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, Willem Jansz and Captain James Cook.

This south-oriented map, made by Arab geographer al-Idrisi in 1154, was one of the most accurate world maps prior to the age of European exploration.

Portugese Empire[change | change source]

The Portuguese first started exploring the Indian Ocean. In the 15th century, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached the southwestern tip of Africa, and there they established the city of Cape Town, a Portuguese colony. In the next two centuries, the Portuguese created a great trading empire on coasts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India. The Portuguese eventually weakened after the Dutch rose as the major power in the Indian Ocean trading world.

Spanish Empire[change | change source]

In a hurry to compete with Portugal for a colonial empire, Spain sent Christopher Columbus to the opposite route of the Portuguese, who went down the west coast of Africa. Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to what is now Latin America. He believed that he came to Asia. Later, some Spanish sailors found out that this land was a different continent than Asia. It was called the Americas. In the 16th century, Spanish conquerors gained the whole Latin America, except some British and French colonies in northeastern South America and Brazil, which belonged to Portugal. The Spanish concentrated on gaining land, unlike the Portuguese who focused on trading. They eventually developed a vast colonial empire, in contrast to the Portuguese who only ruled a few islands and coastal cities along the Indian Ocean. When Spain and Portugal was united under King Philip II, their combined empire was the largest on earth.

Britain, France, and the Netherlands[change | change source]

In the 17th century, political and religious wars with Britain, France, and the Netherlands weakened the Iberian Peninsula. These three nations emerged as the main winners of the wars and became major powers like Spain and Portugal. In the next two centuries, the world became a battlefield of the three nations. Britain and France held land in North America, in India and other distant places. The Dutch colonized smaller parts of the Americas, took the former Portuguese trading centers around the Indian Ocean, and conquered Indonesia. The three nations also had influence all around the world.

Eventually, the result was a series of wars that were fought both in Europe and overseas, with Britain emerging victorious. The British took the former land of French Canada and India. They seized power in the Indian Ocean and defeated the Dutch navy. By 1763, the British Empire became the second global empire after Spain. However, in 1776, 13 colonies of British America declared independence. With help from the French, Dutch and Spanish, they defeated Britain in the American Revolution.

Exploration of the Southern Pacific Ocean[change | change source]

In 1778, Captain James Cook of Britain sailed across the South Pacific Ocean in order to find a mysterious continent in the Southern Hemisphere. He landed on two small islands first. Then he sailed over and found another great piece of land. The first, was modern New Zealand; the second was Australia. James Cook claimed these lands for Britain. He then explored the Pacific world for another year and died in a fight with the Hawaiians.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  • Cipolla, Carlo Cipolla. European Culture and Overseas Expansion.
  • DeVoto, Bernard (1952). The Course of Empire. Houghton Mifflin.
  • Fiske, John (1892). The Discovery of America: With Some Account of Ancient America and the Spanish Conquest. Houghton Mifflin.
  • O'Sullivan, Daniel. The Age of Discovery.
  • Perry, J.H.. The Discovery of the Sea.
  • Penrose, Boies. Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance: 1420–1620.
  • Sletcher, Michael Sletcher (2005). "British Explorers and the Americas". In Will Kaufman and Heidi Macpherson. Britain and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Oxford University Press.
  • Wright, John K. (March 1947). "Terrae Incognitae: The Place of the Imagination in Geography". Annals of the Association of American Geographers 37(1): p. 1-15.