Sunday, December 4, 2011

Top Five Reasons Why 15th-16th Century Europeans Went Exploring

What do you think were the top five motives (reasons) fifteenth-and sixteenth-century Europeans went on voyages of exploration? Explain your answers.

The European sailors are known to have gone out exploring from the 1400s. One of the 5 main reasons why 15th and 16th century Europeans went on voyages was probably because of their curiosity, the trading of spices, the competition of finding direct routes and seeking new lands, figuring out the map, and spreading religion and culture. The Renaissance was a time when people constantly questioned or became curious as to how their surroundings worked. They became curious and wanted to set out on different voyages where they explored, conquered, and sought new lands. Through their curiosity man started exploring and for the Europeans it started because of the value of spices. Spices were used to preserve food, add flavor to meat, and to make medicines. Long before the Renaissance, the Europeans had traded with Asians, yet during this time period the Moluccas or the Spice Islands was where the Europeans got their main source of spices.  When Arab merchants started controlling the trade between Asia and Europe they brought goods to the eastern Mediterranean ports, and then the Italian traders brought goods to European markets.

This eventually led to the thinking of the Europeans, outside of Italy, that it would be more profitable to gain direct routes to Asia and through the curiosity driven power of the Renaissance, they decided to set out on journeys to seek new lands and find new routes. This now became almost like a competition of finding new lands or finding direct routes. John Cabot, an Italian explorer, born in Genoa, wanted to beat Spain in finding a route to China. With the help of King Henry VII, Cabot set forth on a ship with a crew of 18 men on May 2, 1497. When Cabot landed he saw land just below Greenland, also known as present day Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. He saw no people there but he saw cut trees and snares made to catch animals. Cabot then planted flags of England and Venice and left. This trip helped England ultimately set up colonies to use for natural resources. Even though Cabot did not find a direct route, he was able to help England claim the land that they found causing the inhabitants to move west or become enslaved.

For a while, people also thought that the Earth was flat and that one would eventually fall of the edge if they were to go too far. Prince Henry, sponsoring exploration for Portugal, started mapping out the African coast by gathering cartographers. Amerigo Vesupucci, Italian sea captain, wrote a journal about his exploration in Brazil. By 1507, Martin Waldsemuller, a German cartographer, published a map of the regions that Vespucci describes in his journal. He called them “Americas” and over time the term “Americas” was used for both continents of the Western Hemisphere. All these voyages helped the Europeans create a map of the world that they used in their journeys. Not only did the quest for figuring out the map make the Europeans want to explore, but to also spread religion. Prince Henry saw that he could convert Africans into Christianity, which is one of the main reasons why he sponsored the exploration for Portugal. By 1415, Portugal had expanded into Muslim North Africa, including the port of Ceuta on the North African coast.

In conclusion, the five main reasons as to why Europeans started to set out on voyages or explorations was due to the time period they lived in that caused them to constantly question or become curious as to how their surroundings worked, figuring out how they could draw a map of the world, spreading Christianity, trading spices, and the competition of finding direct routes of trading or seeking new lands that they could claim. 


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