The American Promise Value Edition, Combined Version (Volumes I & II): A History of the United States

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I. Europe in the Age of Exploration A. Mediterranean Trade and European Expansion 1. From the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, Italian merchants dominated the lucrative trade of exotic goods from Persia, Asia Minor, India, and Africa to the Mediterranean. 2. The Black Death, an epidemic of bubonic plague that occurred in the mid-fourteenth century and killed about one-third of the European population, had major long-term consequences for European society. 3. The insecurity of the fifteenth century prompted a few people to take greater chances, including embarking on dangerous sea voyages through uncharted waters to points unknown. 4. Monarchs who hoped to enrich their coffers and solidify their power sponsored these expeditions. 5. Scientific and technological advances, including movable type and navigational aids, helped set the stage for exploration. B. A Century of Portuguese Exploration 1. Portugal, with less than 2 percent of the population of Christian Europe, took the lead in exploration, motivated by religious zeal to conquer and expand into what it considered heathen lands. 2. The most influential advocate of Portuguese exploration was Prince Henry the Navigator, son of the Portuguese king; he led efforts to extend the Reconquest down the African coast. 3. The Portuguese did not appreciate the immensity of Africa or the length or shape of its shoreline; explorers had to develop new sailing techniques and new ships, notably the caravel, to complete their voyages. 4. The Portuguese met fierce resistance in inland Africa, which confined their expeditions to coastal trading posts. 5. By 1480, Portuguese explorers began a conscious search for a sea route to Asia, eventually succeeding with Vasco de Gama's 1498 voyage to India. 6. Portugal's African exploration during the fifteenth century broke the monopoly of the old Mediterranean trade with the East and led to the development of sailing methods later employed by Columbus and others. II. A Surprising New World in the Western Atlantic A. The Exploration of Columbus 1. Columbus, the son of a Genoan weaver, moved to Lisbon and married Felipa Moniz, whose family held close ties to Prince Henry the Navigator; through these connections, Columbus gained access to explorers' maps and papers.
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2. Like most Europeans, Columbus believed the earth was spherical; unlike most Europeans, however, Columbus believed the earth was small enough that ships would be able to reach the East by sailing west. 3. After failed attempts to convince various monarchs to sponsor an expedition, Columbus finally won financing from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1492. 4. Columbus's first voyage landed him on a tiny Caribbean island about 300 miles north of the eastern tip of Cuba, which he claimed for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain and named San Salvador.
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