. . . . with a shift in European life from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seaboard. Leadership in European political and economic life was coming more and more into the hands of Portugal, Spain, France, and England. These nations all had monarchies that were growing in strength, increasing their control over the various classes within the state, and consolidating their hold over the territories subject to them. They all had Atlantic coastlines, and led the way in seeking new trade routes and new lands. The Dutch joined in the race as their political independence grew. These rising states sought a way to counteract the long-standing Italian particularly Venetian monopoly of the eastern trade.
The economic impulse was no doubt dominant, but the missionary aspect was present too. Vasco da Gama was said to have named "Christians and spices" as the objects of his voyage to India. The desire to convert was linked to the crusading zeal, which lived on in the hearts of many Portuguese and Spanish as a legacy of their long conflicts with the Moors. To combine a profitable acquisition of new trade routes with a telling blow against the infidel was a potent combination in urging brave men on to daring enterprises. Nor was the desire to learn more about the world a negligible factor.
The state of technology was adequate to the task. At the start of the fifteenth century, European ships were inferior to those used by Arab and Chinese traders; but the Europeans learned fast, and within two hundred years they were building the best ships in the world. In 1400, European ships, though sometimes quite large, were clumsy. The Portuguese modified the (Arab designed) caravel (ships) by combining the square-rig with the lateen sails and adding a mast, or sometimes two. As a result, the advantages of both types of ship were gained and the disadvantages eliminated. The Arab caravels could not attain the size or speed possible to square-rigged ships, but were superior for sailing close to the wind and much more easily steered. The new ships made feasible the long-distance voyages to the Far East and the New World.
Some instruments existed for the use of navigators. Compasses had been used by Europeans at least from the thirteenth century. To ascertain their latitude, sailors found the altitude of the heavenly bodies by means of the astrolabe; the quadrant was invented and used in the fifteenth century. There was no satisfactory means of finding longitude or speed.
The geographical picture of the world with which Europeans started their expansion was a fascinating mixture of fact and fantasy, based on the knowledge of the ancients, especially Ptolemy, as supplemented in the Middle Ages, largely by the Arabs. . . . In the early Middle Ages, the greatest contributions to an increased knowledge of the world were made by the Vikings, or Norsemen. From around the year 1000 they were active in exploring North America, and their voyages there are recorded until the middle of the fourteenth century. Among Christian travelers in the Middle Ages, the greatest was Marco Polo, a member of the Venetian merchant aristocracy, who spent over twenty years in the East, seventeen of them in the service of Kublai Khan, ruler of the great Mongol Empire in Asia. After Polo's return to Europe in 1295, he wrote a book to describe what he had seen and heard.
Other travelers to the East, both before and after Marco Polo, some merchants and some missionaries, helped to spread a knowledge of Asia among the European reading public. Therefore, much was known about Asia long before the opening of the modern age of discoveries. . . . Genoese sailors reached the Barbary Coast late in the thirteenth century; an Englishman accidentally discovered the Madeira Islands around 1370; a French expedition reached the Canary Islands in 1402. Christian colonies were established in several places in the Canaries. The great age of exploration and discovery was inaugurated by the Portuguese, and the first important figure in the story is Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), a member of the royal family. In 1419, on the coast at Sagres, he built a palace, established his court, and set up a center for exploration. He gathered around himself sailors, astronomers, shipbuilders, mappers, and makers of instruments, and from here he sent out expeditions. His motives were religious, scientific, and patriotic: to carry on the crusade against Islam and spread the Christian faith, to explore the unknown seas and discover new lands, and to contribute to the greatness of his country.
After Henry's death, sponsorship of the voyages was undertaken by the kings. . . . King John sent out Pro da Covilh by land to find out if it was possible to sail around Africa to the East. . . . in 1495, Vasco da Gama took four Portuguese ships to India. With the help of an excellent Muslim pilot whom he picked up on the way, he reached Calicut on the west coast of India in May 1498, having left Lisbon the preceding July. He managed to acquire a rich cargo of spices at Calicut, with which he returned to Lisbon in September 1499. He had been gone over two years and lost a third of his men, but the Portuguese had attained their great objective, a sea route to India. The Portuguese set out to exploit their new route to eastern spices, but they met an obstacle in the Moslem merchants who largely controlled this trade in the East. There followed a bloody conflict between Portuguese and Moslems, in which the Europeans adopted the most ruthless methods to achieve their objectives.
. . Early in their career as explorers, the Portuguese encountered
Spanish rivalry. During the fifteenth century there were numerous
disputes between Portugal and Castile involving trade and colonization.
A treaty of 1479 granted the Portuguese a monopoly of trade,
exploration, and settlement on the West African coast and all
the Atlantic islands except the Canaries, which remained Spanish.
It was in the West that Spain made important discoveries.
The following requirements
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Using the Cornell Note-taking method,
Please complete each
in the textbook
as instructed below
Europeans Set Sail
Voyages to the Americas
The Race for Trade Routes
The Opening of the Atlantic
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