Regents Prep: Global History: Movement:

The resurgence of trade following the Middle Ages in Europe resulted in a demand for goods from Asia.  Trade routes were established across the Mediterranean and through the Middle East to handle this need.  But, when the expansion of the Ottoman Empire caused disruption along these routes, Europeans were forced to seek alternative ways of importing these goods.  This led to the exploration of water routes to Asia, and eventually the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans.

In 1469, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile married and joined two of the most powerful kingdoms in Spain.  In 1492, they conquered Grenada, the last Muslim stronghold and united Spain under their rule.  This is known as the Reconquista.  After achieving this victory, Isabella launched a religious crusade to rid Spain of Jewish and Islamic influence.  In all, over 150,000 people were forced out of Spain, while many others were killed.  This had a negative effect on Spain, as many of the people forced out were Spain's cultural and intellectual elite.

In the early 1400s, Europeans began exploring the west coast of Africa in search of an all water route to Asia.  These early explorations were led by the Portuguese. In 1488, Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa.  In 1498, Vasco Da Gama established an all water route to India.  The success of these explorations led Spain to begin its own voyages. In 1492, Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas for Spain.  These discoveries had a lasting impact on Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

European nations competed for colonies across the globe.  These colonies were exploited for their raw materials, and used as new markets for European goods.  Europeans had little regard for most of the indigenous peoples of these areas, and as a result, there was great loss of life and culture.

Africa: In the 1400s, the Portuguese setup numerous forts and port cities along the east coast of Africa in hopes of establishing trade with the interior.  They were unable to establish contact and ultimately failed.  By the mid 1600s, the Dutch had established a settlement at Cape Town on the tip of Africa.  This acted as a midway point for their trade with India.  The Dutch that settled Cape Town were known as Boers.  They either forced out, or enslaved most of the native Africans in this region.

Asia: In the 1500s, Portugal took control of the Indian trade network from the Muslims.  They also captured and controlled important trade ports along the Indian coast.  This resulted in Portugal controlling the spice trade for most of the 16th century.  Portuguese power in this region declined due in part to their mistreatment of native people in India, and the disrespect shown to Indian religion and culture.

The Dutch took control from the Portuguese in the late 1500s.  A group of wealthy merchants setup the Dutch East India Company in the early 1600s and became the dominant force in the Asian spice trade.  Their power did not begin to decline until the 1700s.

The British and French formed their own East India Companies and competed for the lucrative spice trade during the 1700s.  Britain and France both formed alliances with local princes and employed Sepoys, or Indian troops.  In the end, the British East India Company forced France out and remained in control of the trade networks.  Soon after, they became the real power in India.

Spain attempted to gain part of the Asian spice trade through its claim on the island chain known as the Philippines. The Spanish claimed the Philippines due to their discovery by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.  Spanish merchants and missionaries used these islands as a staging ground into Asia.

The Americas: After Christopher Columbus discovered the West Indies, Spain began a program of  imperialism and colonialism in the Americas.  Spain sent over Conquistadors, or conquerors who secured the region for exploitation.  Some Conquistadors were motivated by the search gold and glory, while others wanted to convert the natives to Christianity Hernan Cortez arrived in Mexico in 1519.  Within two years he had conquered and destroyed the Aztec Empire Francisco Pizarro arrived in South America in 1532, and accomplished the same feat against the Incas.

In North America, the Dutch, the French, and the British all competed for New World colonies.  All three nations were searching for the mythical Northwest Passage, which would lead them to Asia.  Unfortunately for them, it did not exist.  But, they stayed and began establishing colonies for trade and settlement.  In the 1600s, the French settled Canada.  They established a string of forts from the St. Lawrence river all the way to Louisiana. In 1607, the British established its first permanent settlement at Jamestown in Virginia.  Over the next 100 years, large numbers of British would settle along the eastern coast of North America.  This resulted in the death and displacement of the native population.  The Dutch established a trading post called New Amsterdam, but were eventually forced out by the British, and New Amsterdam became New York.

Triangle Trade and Slavery
As colonies in the Americas grew, so did the need for cheap, reliable labor.  At first, European settlers attempted to enslave Native Americans. This was a failure because Native Americans were unsuited to plantation work.  Also, it was easy for them to escape and return to their people.  Europeans then turned to Africa for its labor source.  Starting in the 1500s, large numbers of Africans were bought and transported to the Americas for agricultural work. This trade eventually became very large and profitable and was known as the Triangle Trade due to goods and people moving from Europe to Africa to the Americas.  The slave trade resulted in the African Diaspora, which is the large, forced migration of millions of people.

The Triangular Trade Routes

Columbian Exchange
The Age of Exploration was a period of vast exchange of people, plants, animals, ideas, and technology.  This is known as the Columbian Exchange, because it starts with Columbus.  While many aspects of this exchange had positive effects, such as the exchange of foods between Europe and America, there were also negative effects, such as the exchange of diseases between Europe and America.

Columbian Exchange

From Old World to New World

From New World to Old World

  • wheat
  • sugar
  • bananas
  • rice
  • grapes
  • horses
  • pigs
  • cattle
  • sheep
  • chickens
  • smallpox
  • measles
  • typhus
  • corn
  • potato
  • beans
  • peanuts
  • squash
  • pumpkin
  • tomatoes
  • avocados
  • chili pepper
  • pineapple
  • cocoa
  • tobacco
  • quinine (a medicine for malaria)

The Age of Exploration changed the world.  Access to new and better foods allowed the European population to grow, and access to the New World gave these people a place to go.  New World civilizations such as the Inca and Aztecs, faced near total destruction of their cultures either through disease brought by the Europeans, or by colonizationAfrica faced a diaspora, or forced movement of its people, as slavery became the dominant labor force in the Americas.  The Age of Exploration was both a positive and negative experience for many civilizations.


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