History lesson 03


After the travels of Marco Polo, Europe started regular trade with China and India. In order to buy and sell goods, Europeans had to trade with many merchants along the routes that were set up. Goods passed from one merchant to another on their way to and from Europe. Each time a merchant bought and sold goods, he tried to make a profit. This system made goods from Asia very expensive in Europe and as most of the merchants were Italian, the Italian city-states became very rich.

The leaders of France, Spain, England, the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands), and Portugal were not happy that the Italians were earning all this money. They wanted to make big profits and so they decided to find new ways of getting goods back from Asia. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal was the first to explore new trade routes to Asia. Prince Henry wanted to gain control of trade routes for Portugal and spread the Catholic faith. With money and assistance from Prince Henry, Portuguese explorers such as Bartholomeu Dias sailed down the African coast. In 1488 Dias explored the tip of Africa, now known as the Cape of Good Hope. In 1498 Vasco da Gama of Portugal sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached India. The achievement of this explorer made it possible for Portugal to trade directly with India, cutting out the Italian merchants.

The King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain gave Christopher Columbus money to pay for ships and a crew. Columbus promised that by sailing west from Spain, he would find a new way to get to Asia and the spice-rich East Indies. Like almost everyone else in Europe, he didn’t know that North and South America were in the way! After sailing for many months, on October 12, 1492, Columbus stepped on land. He thought that he was in India, so he called the natives Indians.

Many people believe that the Vikings had been in America before Columbus arrived. The Vikings were originally from Scandinavia and were known to be fierce warriors, crafty merchants and bold explorers. Historians believe that Vikings explored the northern part of North America, landing in Newfoundland, Canada, many years before Columbus sailed.

The people of Europe during the age of exploration were anxious to do more exploring. Spanish and Portuguese governments sent many explorers to the New World. The New World was named America in honor of the Italian navigator and explorer Amerigo Vespucci. These explorers paved the way for the colonization of the newly reached territories.

Much of what is now the United States was explored by Spanish adventures known as conquistadors, or conquerors. In 1513 Ponce de Leon landed in Florida and explored it while searching for the Fountain of Youth. The southeastern part of the continent was explored by Hernando de Soto. In 1540 Francisco de Coronado explored the Grand Canyon in the southwest area of what is now the United States.

Other important explorations in the New World followed. In 1500 Pedro Cabral landed in South America and claimed land for Portugal what is modern day Brazil. It was in 1513 that the Spaniard Balboa explored the Pacific Ocean. John Cabot of England landed in eastern Canada in 1497. Jacques Cartier, sailing under the French flag, claimed all of eastern Canada for France in 1534. In 1609, Henry Hudson explored the northeastern section of Canada and claimed it for the Dutch. Two other explorers who were brave enough to seek new lands and trade routes were Ferdinand Magellan and Sir Francis Drake. Magellan started out on a voyage around the world in 1519. Although he was killed along the way, one of his ships eventually completed the journey in 1522.

The Price of Exploration
Many other brave men set sail from ports in Europe to seek adventure and gold in the Americas. England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland grew rich and powerful during the period of exploration. While conquistadors were gathering gold and silver, many great civilizations in the Americas were destroyed. This was especially true in Mexico and South America, where the Spanish explorers took advantage of the kindness of the people of the great empires of the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs, among others. Explorers also introduced the disease smallpox to the new lands, which many Europeans were used to but this greatly reduced the native populations. The map below, called “Voyages of Exploration,” shows where Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch explorations were located.

Lesson 15 Review

Directions: For each question, present the answer in complete sentences with supporting information from the Lesson. Do not copy and paste from the Lessons or Internet resources, but answer in your own words to demonstrate understanding of the material.

1. What was the reason for the Europeans to explore and develop colonies?

2. Who was the first to discover the Americas?

3. Describe the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus.

4. Identify four important explorers and list their accomplishments.

5. Describe the main drawbacks of exploration and colonization.