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
these goods. This led to the exploration of water routes to Asia, and
eventually the discovery of the Americas by the
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
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,
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,
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
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.
In the 1400s, the Portuguese setup
numerous forts and port cities
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
either forced out, or enslaved most
of the native Africans in this region.
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
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
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.
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
Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Spanish merchants and
missionaries used these islands as
a staging ground into Asia.
After Christopher Columbus discovered the West
Indies, Spain began a program of
imperialism and colonialism in the Americas. Spain
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
arrived in Mexico in 1519. Within
two years he had conquered and destroyed the
arrived in South America in 1532, and
accomplished the same feat against the
North America, the Dutch, the French,
and the British all competed for New World
colonies. All three nations were searching for the
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.
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
trade resulted in the African
which is the large, forced migration of millions
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.
From Old World to New World
From New World to Old World
- chili pepper
- quinine (a medicine for malaria)
The Age of Exploration changed the world. Access
to new and better foods allowed the
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
colonization. Africa faced a
diaspora, or forced movement of its people, as
became the dominant labor force in the Americas.
The Age of Exploration was both a positive and negative
experience for many civilizations.