Chapter 1 - Chapter 1 Explorations Europeans had long...

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Chapter 1 Explorations Europeans had long enjoyed interactions with other parts of the world, having established trade routes to and contacts with merchants in north Africa, coastal sub-Saharan Africa, the Mideast, China, and India. Until the middle of the fifteenth century, this trade was largely in the hands of the northern Italian city-states like Genoa and Venice, whose merchant princes conducted long- distance commerce through the Mediterranean Sea and overland to the east. By 1450 or so, first Portugal and then Spain entered into the business of exploration, creating in the process what historians regard as a maritime revolution. Their activities had a profound effect on Europe and the world as a whole, opening up the previously isolated Americas to European exploitation and establishing the preconditions for European expansion well beyond its borders. As global trade and interactions increased from 1500 on, Europe became much more influential than it had been since Roman times, until, by the nineteenth century, it dominated virtually the entire globe. The maritime revolution initiated by the Portuguese and Spanish, a revolution in military technologies, and the compelling forces of an expansionist religion spawned a dramatic revolution in the relations and affairs of the world. The Italian city-states had limited their maritime trade to the Mediterranean in part because the ships they utilized—galleys propelled by large numbers of oarsmen— could not handle the rougher seas of the Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese, whose fishermen had traveled in sail-powered ships called caravels since the thirteenth century, adapted these vessels to longer-distance voyages. They added triangular sails, called lateens, to the more traditional square-rigged sails, which enabled them to combine speed and durability with maneuverability. Now capable of sailing against the wind as well as with it, Portuguese seafarers could venture farther out into the Atlantic than ever before. As they increased the tonnage of their vessels, and as new instruments like the magnetic compass and the astrolabe afforded greater precision in navigation, explorers such as Bartolemeu Dias and Vasco de Gama made their way around the coast of Africa into the Indian Ocean and to the coast of India. In 1500, drawing on the greater capability of the caravels, Pedro Alvares Cabral crossed the south Atlantic to what is now Brazil, enabling Portugal to lay claim to the territory once
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Spain began its own voyages of exploration, starting with Christopher Columbus’s westward expedition to what he believed was India in 1492. He had, in fact, made his way to the Caribbean, though he refused to believe he was not in Asia. It took the explorations of Amerigo Vespucci, among others, to demonstrate that Columbus had stumbled upon lands unknown to Europeans, the “new world” of the Americas, as map-makers dubbed them in honor of Vespucci.
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