One Italian and three Portuguese navigators were among the important explorers of the Age of Discovery, as follows: Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) was the son of a Genoese weaver. (In Italian, he was known as Cristóbal Colón.) As the saying goes, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety-two.” Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467–1520) is credited with discovering Brazil in 1500. This vast territory became a Portuguese colony before independence. Vasco da Gama (c. 1460–1524) sailed the western coast of Africa, rounding the Cape of Good Hope. He eventually reached India in 1498. Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) set out from Portugal with five ships. He was tasked with exploring the western coast of South America. This journey led him to the stormy tip of South America, later to be named the Strait of Magellan. He rounded the straights and sailed westward looking for a route to the Spice Islands (near present-day Indonesia). However, near the Philippine islands, hostile natives killed Magellan. Nevertheless, Magellan was the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean. Of his five ships, only the Victoria finally reached Seville, Spain, in 1522. The ship was filled with treasure, but only 18 of the original 270 crew members survived the journey. Certain technological innovations permitted the Age of Discovery to happen. These included (1) seaworthy ships that could handle long voyages, and (2) useful navigation aids that helped sailors travel from one point to another. Advances in shipbuilding included tougher, sleeker hulls that cut more easily through rough seas. Additionally, different kinds of sails were created. These could increase the ship’s speed or move against the wind. Cartography , the science of mapmaking, was vital. Better maps made accurate navigation possible. New maps and charts were often jealously guarded. It was considered treason to “leak” maps to other nations. Indeed, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the maps developed by Sir Francis Drake and others were stored in a locked vault.
New navigational tools included chronometers and the astrolabe . With these two devices, navigators could accurately estimate a ship’s latitude (distance north or south of the equator). However, the inability to estimate longitude (east/west position) remained a problem. It took centuries to solve that problem and involved the best efforts of the greatest scientific minds of Europe. John Harrison, a Yorkshire carpenter, solved the problem with his marine chronometer . The British Admiralty’s Board of Longitude approved the marine chronometer in 1774. However, it was a number of years before this device was widely adopted. The Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the late 1700s. The Industrial Revolution spanned a period from the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries. During this time, the predominately agrarian and rural societies of Europe and North America were rapidly transformed through urbanization and industrialization. This process was first pronounced in England, Scotland, and Wales. That’s because all of the “necessary ingredients” for this change were present in here. These ingredients included the following:
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