The Age of Exploration (1400 to 1750)

The Age of Exploration (1400 to 1750)

Before the age of exploration people believed: earth was flat, monsters, Europe at centre, boiling in south, and the world was smaller.

Why people wanted new sea routes:

  • Wealth for country

  • Wealth for explorer

  • To avoid Arab controlled trade routes

  • Religion

  • Inspired by spirit of Renaissance and The Travels of Marco Polo

  • Prester John

What made voyages possible:

Portuguese caravels (clinker-built, square and lateen sails, rudders)

New navigational instruments such as:

  • Astrolabe (north star), Quadrant (sun), cross-staff (horizon) all found latitude.

  • Compass for direction.

  • Log and line for speed.

  • Lead and line for depth.

  • Portolan charts and newer maps.

Life on board ship.

Difficult and dangerous. Strict discipline. Food dry and salted. Scurvy. Jobs to do. A hammock after America was discovered.

Important Explorers

a) Prince Henry the Navigator. 3rd son, Sagres (mapmaking, shipbuilding and astronomy), west coast of Africa, padroas (stone pillars), slaves helped fund voyages.

b) Bartholomew Diaz. Portuguese. Storm. Cape of Good Hope (King John). Padroa.

c) Vasco da Gama. Portuguese. India by sea. Reach Calicut. 2-year voyage. Portuguese got control of this valuable sea route. Set up trading posts.

d) Christopher Columbus (special study).

Born Genoa. Believed world was round. Wanted to sail west to China and Japan. Underestimated the distance by 3. Failed to get support in England and Portugal.

Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in good form having driven out Muslims. ‘In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue’. King and Queen promised to make him governor of new lands and title of Admiral of the Ocean.

3 ships, Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria and 90 men. He kept 2 logs. San Salvador in the Bahamas. Built a fort out of the wrecked Santa Maria and left 40 men behind. Brought back gold, pineapples, parrots and 6 ‘Indians’.

3 more voyages. Those left behind were killed. Explored other islands like Cuba. Brought over settlers. Such great cruelty against natives that Columbus was brought back in chains.

Died disappointed. Never admitted he had not reached his goal. Amerigo Vespucci proved that Columbus had discovered America. The discoveries of Columbus led to a dispute with the Portuguese. The Treaty of Tordesillas gave Brazil to Portugal and Spain got the rest of South America.

e) Ferdinand Magellan.

Portuguese. Charles V of Spain supported him. He would be made governor of all new lands discovered and 5% of the profits. 5 ships (Trinity, Conception, San Antonio, Santiago and Victoria)

Aim of the voyage was to avoid the Portuguese trade route by sailing west.

‘El Paso’ or the ‘Straits of Magellan’. Pacific ocean. Scurvy. Magellan killed on the Philippine Islands. Del Cano and 17 others out of 260 came home after 3 years.

f) Hernando Cortés.

Conquistador. Aim was gold and silver. 500 men. Got help from other tribes to attack the Aztecs (taxes, slavery and human sacrifices). Horses were new. Tenochtitlan (Mexico City). Montezuma killed by his own. Spaniards escape and return with 100,000 men. Slaughter and victory.

g) Francisco Pizzaro.

Conquistador. Gold and silver. 170 men. Captured Atahualpa. Room full of gold. Took Cuzco, the capital city. Pizzaro killed by his own.

Results of the Age of Exploration.

  • Geographical knowledge

  • Cultures destroyed

  • Many died of European diseases

  • Many enslaved, tortured and murdered

  • Countries other than Italy became rich and powerful.

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