CHAPTER 15: THE MARITIME REVOLUTION, TO 1550
After studying this chapter students should:
Be able to compare the routes, motives, and sailing technologies of those people who undertook global maritime expansion
before 1450 to the routes, motives, and sailing technologies of the Portuguese and Spanish explorers of 1400–1550.
Be able to explain the environmental, technological, economic and political factors that inspired Portugal and Spain to undertake
voyages of exploration.
Understand and be able to explain the reasons for the various different reactions of African and Asian peoples to the Portuguese
Be able to describe and account for the Spanish ability to conquer a territorial empire in the Americas.
Global Maritime Expansion Before 1450
The Pacific Ocean
Over a period of several thousand years, peoples originally from the Malay Peninsula crossed the water to settle the
islands of the East Indies, New Guinea, the Melanesian and Polynesian islands, the Marquesas, New Zealand, and
other Pacific islands out to Hawaii.
Polynesian expansion was the result of planned voyages undertaken with the intention of establishing colonies.
Polynesian mariners navigated by the stars and by their observations of ocean currents and evidence of land.
The Indian Ocean
Malayo-Indonesians colonized the island of Madagascar in a series of voyages that continued through the fifteenth
Arab seafarers used the regular pattern of the monsoon winds to establish trade routes in the Indian Ocean. These
trade routes flourished when the rise of Islam created new markets and new networks of Muslim traders.
The Chinese Ming dynasty sponsored a series of voyages to the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433. The Ming
voyages were carried out on a grand scale, involving fleets of over sixty large “treasure ships” and hundreds of
smaller support vessels.
The treasure ships carried out trade in luxury goods including silk and precious metals as well as stimulating
diplomatic relations with various African and Asian states. The voyages, which were not profitable and inspired
opposition in court, were ended in 1433.
The Atlantic Ocean
During the relatively warm centuries of the early Middle Ages, the Vikings, navigating by the stars and the seas,
explored and settled Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland (Vinland). When a colder climate returned after 1200,
the northern settlements in Greenland and the settlement in Newfoundland were abandoned.
A few southern Europeans and Africans attempted to explore the Atlantic in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
Voyagers from Genoa in 1291 and from Mali in the 1300s set out into the Atlantic but did not return. Genoese and
Portuguese explorers discovered and settled the Madeiras, the Azores, and the Canaries in the fourteenth century.