Friday, August 20, 2010

The Europeans: Voyages of Discovery and Expansion

Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492 opened up a sea of opportunities for European countries. Portugal and Spain already had vast experience in colonization and conquest through various sea routes. Their ship navigation skills proved to be an added advantage. Driven by a strong desire to colonize the New World, they were the first European countries to create vast colonial empires in the western hemisphere.

The said age was indeed an age of unprecedented exploration, discovery and expansion. The voyages were the voyages of discovery and bold white expansion. European overseas expansion led to the rise of colonial- empires and great political and economic revival. Spanish conquest of the New World was driven by the three 'G's—gold, glory, and gospel. The other European countries followed suit.

The European economy was dependent on gold and silver. Its severe shortage had brought about a recession in the European economy. Hence, the need to explore the outer world was imperative.

The English, French, and Dutch were comparatively slower to start; but in no way less interested or aggressive in claiming their share in the pie. The Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies sent home so much of wealth in the form of gold, silver, furs and sugar that it substantially stimulated the economy of Europe. This prompted other European countries also to see and seek westward.

The invention of heavy and technically sound ships like Carrack and highly maneuverable ships like Caravel in 15th century allowed the Portuguese and Spanish explores to make long and difficult voyages across the Atlantic and along the coastline of West Africa.

The discovery of the New World had set the stage for an unprecedented upheaval and action. A real life high drama was waiting to be played out in two distinctly different worlds; one Old and the other New. The Old World prepared itself to launch a bold onslaught on the New World to establish its supremacy and ownership over the vast riches of the new territories. The sense of mystery and adventure beckoned the explorers to embark upon newer expeditions.

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