Age of Discovery

Eyridiki Sellou | Apr 16, 2024

Table of Content


Age of Discovery or Age of Exploration or Geographical Revolution are informal, loosely defined terms for the early modern period, largely overlapping with the so-called "Age of Sail," roughly from the 15th to the 18th century, in which European sailors explored regions around the world, most of which were already inhabited but unknown or nearly unknown to their "discoverers." More recently, some scholars have preferred to coin the nomenclature Contact period

Maritime exploration, led by the Portuguese, became a powerful factor in European culture, particularly the European encounter and colonization of the Americas. It also marks an increased adoption of colonialism as government policy in several European states, as such sometimes synonymous with the first wave of European colonization.

European exploration outside the Mediterranean began with Portugal's maritime expeditions to the Canary Islands in 1336. Soon after, Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores (claimed by the Portuguese crown in 1419 and 1427, respectively), then of the West African coast after 1434 until the establishment of the sea route to India in 1498 by Vasco da Gama. In contrast, the Crown of Castile (Spain) sponsored Christopher Columbus' transatlantic voyages to the Americas (1492-1504) and the first circumnavigation of the globe (1519-1522) by Ferdinand Magellan (completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano). These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans and land expeditions to the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia that continued until the late 19th century, followed by exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.

European oceanic exploration generated international trade and colonial empires, contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the New World (the Americas), as well as Australia, originating the so-called "Columbian exchange," a vast transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The Age of Discovery enabled the mapping of the world, resulting in a new view of the globe and contact of distant civilizations. At the same time, new diseases were propagated that decimated populations (basically Native Americans) that had never come into contact with the Old World. It was an era characterized by slavery, exploitation, military conquest, and Europe's growing economic, technological, and cultural influence on indigenous peoples.

The established term "Age of Discovery" is still commonly used. The concept of "discovery" has been scrutinized, critically highlighting the history of the central term in this periodization. Parry coined the alternative nomenclature of the Age of Reconnaissance, since it was not only the era of European exploration into hitherto unknown regions but also expanded geographical knowledge and scientific empiricism as it "also saw the first great victories of empirical inquiry over authority, the beginnings of that close association of science, technology and everyday work which is an essential feature of the modern Western world." Pagden asserted that "for all Europeans, the events of October 1492 constituted a 'discovery.' Something of which they had no knowledge had suddenly presented itself to their gaze." O'Gorman (the inspiration for Pagden's work) argued that the physical and geographic encounter with new territories was less important than the Europeans' effort to integrate this new knowledge into their worldview-the so-called "Invention of America." Pagden examined the origins of the terms "discovery" and "invention" in English and Romance forms. Discovery comes from "disco-operio," meaning "to uncover, reveal, expose to the gaze," implying the pre-existence of what is revealed, and it is no accident that very few Europeans of the time used the term "invention" and not "discovery," with the notable exception of Martin Waldseemüller, whose map first used the term "America."

The central legal concept of the "Discovery Doctrine," expounded by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1823, is based on assertions of the right of European powers to claim land during their explorations. The concept of "discovery" was used to reinforce colonial claims and the Age of Discovery and was therefore loudly challenged by indigenous peoples as the concept and colonial claim of "discovery" on lands already characterized by indigenous presence.

The period, alternatively called the Age of Exploration, has also been interpreted in light of the concept of "exploration" itself. Its understanding and use, like science more generally, has been discussed as structured and used for colonial enterprises, discrimination and exploitation, combining it with concepts such as "frontier" (as in frontierism) and manifest destiny, and to the contemporary era of space exploration.

Alternatively, the term and concept of "contact," as in first contact, was used to blur the nomenclature of the period, which would then become Age

The Portuguese began the systematic exploration of the African Atlantic coast in 1418, under the patronage of Infante Henry of Aviz, to posterity Henry the Navigator. They developed a maneuverable, light and fast sailing ship, the caravel, with which to challenge not only ocean currents but also ocean winds, taking advantage of which, in 1488, Bartholomew Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope, opening the sea route to the Indian Ocean.

In 1492, the Catholic Kings of Spain financed Genoese sailor Christopher Columbus' plan to sail westward to reach the East Indies by crossing the Atlantic. Columbus encountered a continent unknown to most Europeans, although it had already been explored and temporarily colonized by Norwegians some 500 years earlier, named "America" in honor of explorer Amerigo Vespucci, the first to understand that it was a "New World." To prevent conflict between Portugal and Spain, four papal bulls were issued to divide the world into two regions of exploration

In 1498, a Portuguese expedition commanded by Vasco da Gama reached India by sailing around Africa, opening up direct trade with Asia. While other exploratory fleets were sent from Portugal to North America, in the following years the Portuguese Armies of India also extended the eastern ocean route, sometimes touching South America and thus opening a circuit from the New World to Asia (starting in 1500, under the command of Pedro Álvares Cabral), and exploring the southern Atlantic and southern Indian Ocean islands. Soon, the Portuguese sailed further east, reaching the Spice Islands (1512) and China the following year. Japan, however, was not reached until 1543. In 1513, Spaniard Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the "other sea" from the New World, bringing Europe the first news of the Pacific Ocean. The western and eastern vectors of exploration overlapped in 1522, when a Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan (later by the Basque Juan Sebastián Elcano) sailed westward to circumnavigate the world, while Spanish conquistadors explored the interior of the Americas and, later, some of the islands of the South Pacific.

From 1495, the French and English joined the race of exploration, challenging the Iberian monopoly on maritime trade and seeking new routes, first to the western coasts of North and South America, starting with the first English expedition led by Giovanni Caboto in 1497, followed by French expeditions, and to the Pacific around South America. The Dutch joined the "contention" during the 16th century. Eventually, they emulated the Portuguese in the Africa-India route. They discovered Australia in 1606, New Zealand in 1642 and Hawaii in 1778. Meanwhile, from 1580 to 1640, the Russians explored and conquered almost all of Siberia and, in the 1730s, reached Alaska.


A brief summary of the main milestones of the period follows:

Increase in European trade

The Fall of the Western Roman Empire disrupted much of the links between Europe and Asia. Christian Europe was largely in economic stagnation.

Prior to the 12th century, the main obstacles to trade east of the Strait of Gibraltar were Muslim control of vast areas, including the Iberian Peninsula, and the trade monopolies of the so-called "Maritime Republics" of Italy, particularly the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Genoa. However, the Reconquista broke the Muslim stranglehold on Gibraltar: Portugal emancipated itself from Arab control with the siege of Lisbon as early as 1147, while the remaining Iberian kingdoms began to systematically engage the Arabs. Instead, the decline of the Fatimid caliphate's naval strength, which began before the First Crusade, helped Venice, Genoa, and Pisa dominate trade in the eastern Mediterranean, creating new political realities in which merchants dominated politics. The maritime republics were also able to take advantage of the decline in Byzantine naval power that followed the death of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1180), the last of a dynasty that had made several important treaties with the Italians, monopolizing the Byzantine trade network. The Norman conquest of England (1066) enabled peaceful trade in the North Sea. The Hanseatic League, a confederation of merchant guilds in northern Germany along the North Sea and the Baltic Sea was instrumental in the region's commercial development. In the 12th century, Flanders, Hainault and Brabant produced the best textiles in northern Europe, which encouraged Genoese and Venetian merchants to sail directly from the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar and up the Atlantic coast. Nicolòzzo Spinola made the first documented direct voyage from Genoa to Flanders in 1277.

Technology: the design of the ship and the compass

The technological advances that promoted the Age of Discovery were the adoption of the magnetic compass and the development of new types of ships.

The compass was an addition to the ancient method of navigation based on sightings of the sun and stars. Used by Chinese sailors since the 11th century, it had been adopted by the Arabs in the Indian Ocean. It spread to Europe in the late 12th or early 13th century. Its use for navigation in the Indian Ocean is first mentioned in 1232. The first mention of its use in Europe was in 1180. Europeans used a "dry" compass, with a needle on a pivot. The wind chart was also a European invention.

The evolution of ships was more "structural" and produced a new generation of vessels differing in propulsion and architecture. First, sail propulsion became predominant with the fundamental massive introduction of the triangular sail. The origin was definitely Asian. The Malays invented the so-called "junk sail," made from woven mats reinforced by bamboo, several centuries before the Christian Era. By the time of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.), the Chinese were using such sails, having derived the technology from their contacts with Malays visiting their southern coast. They also used sail to the third or tanja sails. Such instruments made it possible to sail against the wind along the West African coast. The innovation inspired the Arabs in the west and the Polynesians in the east in the development of the Latin sail proper and the "crab claw" sail, respectively.Also in Asia, ships grew in size. The Javanese built ocean-going merchant ships called Djong from at least the first century A.D., more than 50 meters long and with dead work of 4-7 meters. They carried 700 people along with more than 10,000 hú (斛) of cargo, about 250-1000 tons according to current estimates. Constructed with multiple planks to withstand storms, they had 4 sails plus a civada. The Javanese reached the Ghanaian Empire as early as the 8th century with these ships.

Crucial then was technological development of the rudder. The old "oar" rudders, descendants of the so-called "steering oar," were replaced by the rudder attached to the sternpost with iron hinges. The innovation (already witnessed in 12th-century England) reached its full potential only after the introduction of the vertical stern and the full-sailed ship in the 14th century. For years historians assumed that the technology of the stern-mounted rudder in Europe and the Islamic world, introduced by travelers in the Middle Ages, also came from China, but in recent times this assumption has been challenged by noting the objective differences between the Chinese rudder mounting system and the European one.This evolutionary process led to new ships that, net of their large size, required small crews and could travel long distances without stopping. Long-distance shipping costs would therefore decline significantly by the 14th century. More primitive but still more economical vessels, such as the North European coteries or the Mediterranean merchant galleys, nevertheless remained in use for a long time.

Early geographic knowledge and maps

The Periplus Maris Erythraei (A.D. 40 or 60) described a newly discovered route across the Red Sea to India, detailing markets in cities around the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and in the Indian Ocean, also along the east coast of Africa, states that "beyond these places the unexplored ocean curves westward, and traveling through the regions south of Ethiopia and Libya and Africa, it merges with the western sea (Atlantic Ocean?)." Medieval European knowledge of Asia beyond Byzantium was derived from partial accounts, often obscured by legends, dating back to the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Diadochi.

Another source was the Radhani Jewish trade networks established as intermediaries between Europe and the Muslim world during the period of the Crusader states.

In 1154, the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi created a description of the world and a map of the world, the Tabula Rogeriana, at the court of King Roger II of Sicily but Africa was only partially described there because the Arabs themselves had only partial knowledge of it. There were reports of the great African Sahara but knowledge was limited for Europeans to the Mediterranean coast and little else because the Arab blockade of North Africa precluded inland exploration. Knowledge of the African Atlantic coast was fragmented and derived mainly from ancient Greek and Roman maps in turn based on Carthaginian knowledge and Roman exploration of Mauritania. The Red Sea was little known, and only the trade contacts of the maritime republics (fond. Venice) facilitated the collection of accurate maritime knowledge.

Indian Ocean trade routes were a monopoly of the Arabs. Between 1405 and 1421, Emperor Yongle of Ming China sponsored a series of long-range tributary missions under the command of Zheng He (Cheng Ho). The fleets visited Arabia, East Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Thailand but the voyages, reported by Ma Huan, a Muslim traveler and translator, were abruptly discontinued after the emperor's death and were not followed up as the Ming dynasty initiated the so-called Haijin, a policy of isolationism (see below).

In 1400 a Latin translation of Ptolemy's Geographia arrived in Italy from Constantinople. The rediscovery of Roman geographical knowledge was a revelation, both for map-making and worldview, although it reinforced the idea that the Indian Ocean was landlocked with other seas.

Medieval European trade (1241-1438)

The prelude to the Age of Discovery were the European expeditions across Eurasia by land in the late Middle Ages. The Mongols had threatened Europe but the Mongol states also unified much of Eurasia and, from 1206 onward, the Pax Mongolica allowed safe trade routes and extended lines of communication from the Middle East to China. European merchants took advantage of this to explore the East. Most were Italian, as trade between Europe and the Middle East was a monopoly of the maritime republics. Italy's close ties with the Levant aroused great curiosity and commercial interest in the easternmost countries.

There are few records of merchants from North Africa and the Mediterranean region active in the Indian Ocean in the late Middle Ages.

Christian embassies sent to Karakorum during the "Mongol Invasions of Syria" obtained more geographical information about the world. It was first John of Pian del Carpine, sent by Pope Innocent IV to the Great Khan, who traveled to Mongolia and back (1241-1247). At the same time, Russian Prince Yaroslav of Vladimir, and later his sons Alexander Nevsky and Andrew II of Vladimir, traveled to the Mongolian capital. Although their trips had strong political implications, they left no detailed accounts. Other travelers followed, such as the Frenchman André de Longjumeau and the Flemish William of Rubruck, who reached China via Central Asia. The Venetian Marco Polo dictated an account of travels throughout Asia from 1271 to 1295, claiming to have been a guest at the court of Kublai Khan's Yuan dynasty known as The Million whose publishing success was European in scope.

The Muslim fleet guarding the Strait of Gibraltar was defeated in 1291 by the Genoese, who then attempted the first Atlantic exploration: brothers Ugolino and Vadino Vivaldi sailed from Genoa with two galleys but disappeared off the Moroccan coast, fueling fears of ocean voyages. From 1325 to 1354, a Moroccan scholar from Tangier, Ibn Battuta, traveled through North Africa, the Sahara Desert, West Africa, Southern Africa, Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Asia to China. He then dictated an account of the enterprise, The Travels, to a scholar he met in Granada. Between 1357 and 1371, a book of supposed voyages compiled by John Mandeville gained extraordinary popularity. Despite the unreliable and often fanciful nature of its accounts, it was used as a reference for the East, Egypt and the Levant in general, affirming the ancient belief that Jerusalem was the Axis mundi, the "center of the world."

After the period of Timurid relations with Europe, in 1439 Niccolò Da Conti published an account of his travels as a Muslim merchant in India and Southeast Asia, and later in 1466-1472, the Russian Afanasij Nikitin of Tver' traveled to India and collected his experience in Choždenie za tri morja (it. "Journey across the three seas").

These overland journeys had little immediate effect. The Mongol empire collapsed as quickly as it had formed, and the route eastward became difficult and dangerous again. The Black Death of the 14th century contributed to blocking travel and trade. Ultimately, the rise of the Ottoman Empire further limited the possibilities of European land trade with Asia.

Chinese oceanic expeditions (1405-1433)

The Chinese had extensive land and sea trade links with Asia, the Middle East (especially Egypt) and East Africa since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Between 1405 and 1421, the third Ming emperor, Yongle, sponsored a series of long-range tributary missions to the Indian Ocean under the command of Admiral Zheng He. Although important, these voyages did not lead to permanent connections with overseas territories due to China's later isolationist choice that ended the voyages and their knowledge.

A large fleet of new junks was prepared for these expeditions. The largest of these junks-what the Chinese called bao chuan (treasure ships)-may have measured 121 meters (400 feet) from stern to bow and had thousands of sailors. The first expedition set out in 1405. At least seven well-documented expeditions were launched, each larger and more expensive than the last. The fleets visited Arabia, East Africa, India, the Malay archipelago and Thailand (then called Siam), trading goods along the way. They brought gifts of gold, silver, porcelain and silk, which they exchanged for ostriches, zebras, camels, ivory and giraffes. After the emperor's death, Zheng He led a final expedition starting from Nanjing in 1431 and returning to Beijing in 1433. It is very likely that this last expedition reached as far as Madagascar. The voyages described by the Muslim translator Ma Huan who accompanied Zheng He on three of the seven expeditions: the account was published as Yingya Shenglan ("Reconnaissance of the Oceanic Coasts") in 1433.

The voyages had a significant and lasting effect in organizing a maritime network, using and creating nodes and pipelines, thus restructuring international and cross-cultural relations and exchanges. It was particularly effective because no other political system had exercised naval dominance over all sectors of the Indian Ocean before these voyages. The Ming promoted alternative nodes as a strategy to establish control over the network. For example, because of Chinese involvement, ports such as Malacca (in Southeast Asia), Kochi (on the Malabar coast), and Malindi (on the Swahili coast) had grown as key alternatives to other major and established ports. The appearance of the Ming fleet generated further economic-political competition among the potentates involved in trade with China.

The voyages also led to the regional integration of the Western Ocean and increased international movement of people, ideas and goods. It provided support for cosmopolitan discourses that blossomed aboard the Ming treasure fleet, in the Ming capitals of Nanjing and Beijing, and at banquets organized by the Ming court for foreign representatives. Various groups of people from all ports gathered, interacted, and traveled together as the Ming treasure fleet sailed to and from China. For the first time in its history, the maritime region from China to Africa was under the rule of a single imperial power that created a cosmopolitan space.

These long-distance voyages did not follow up due to the introduction of the Haijin of the Ming soon after Yongle's death, as the Chinese lost interest in what they called barbarian lands, involvment, and successor emperors deemed the expeditions detrimental to the state. Emperor Hongxi ended the expeditions, and Emperor Xuande suppressed much of the information about Zheng He's travels.

From the 8th to the 15th century, the maritime republics held a monopoly on the European trade with the Middle East in silk and spices (i.e., food spices, frankincense, herbs, drugs, and opium), reaping enormous benefits. Spices were among the most expensive and sought-after products of the Middle Ages, as they were used in medieval medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics and perfumery, as well as food additives and preservatives. They were all products imported from Asia and Africa.

Muslim traders from Yemen and Oman monopolized the Indian Ocean sea routes, from Ormus in the Persian Gulf and Jeddah in the Red Sea to the great trading emporiums of India, mainly Kozhikode, to the Far East. From the Middle East, caravan routes reached the Mediterranean coast. Venetian merchants distributed goods in Europe until the rise of the Ottoman Empire, which conquered Constantinople in 1453 and excluded Europeans from important combined land-sea routes.

Forced to reduce their activities in the Black Sea because of the conflict with Venice, Genoa focused on the North African trade in wheat and olive oil (also valued as a source of energy) and on the search for silver and gold, of which the Europeans had a constant deficit as currency went was unilaterally consumed to import products from the East. Several European mines were concurrently exhausted, and the shortage of bullion led to the development of a complex banking system to manage risks in trade. The very first state bank, the Banco di San Giorgio, was founded precisely in Genoa in 1407. Sailing as far as Bruges (Flanders) and England, the Genoese eventually established communities in Portugal that knew how to profit from their enterprise and financial expertise.

European navigation had until then been reduced to simple cabotage guided by pilot books, nautical charts indicating only proven ocean routes guided by coastal landmarks: sailors started from a known point, followed the compass course, and tried to identify their position based on other landmarks. For early ocean exploration, Western Europeans used the compass, advances in cartography and astronomy: Arabic navigational instruments such as the astrolabe and quadrant facilitated celestial navigation.

Portuguese exploration

In 1297, King Dionysius of Portugal took a personal interest in exports, and in 1317 he made an agreement with the Genoese merchant Emanuele Pessagno (pt. Pessanha), appointing him the first admiral of the Marinha Portuguesa, with the aim of defending the country from Muslim pirate raids. Bubonic plague epidemics led to severe depopulation in the second half of the 14th century: only the sea offered alternatives, and most of the population settled in coastal areas to fish and trade. Between 1325 and 1357 Alfonso IV of Portugal encouraged maritime trade and ordered the first explorations. The Canary Islands, already known to the Genoese, were declared officially discovered under Portuguese patronage but in 1344 Castile disputed them, widening the rivalry between the two Iberian kingdoms to the sea.

To secure their monopoly on Mediterranean trade, Europeans (starting with the Portuguese) tended to install a trading system based on military force and intimidation to divert trade to controlled ports where they could tax it. Thus it was that in 1415 John I of Portugal conquered Ceuta, the nerve center of trans-Saharan trade routes and trade along the African coast. One of John's sons, Infante Henry the Navigator, realized in Ceuta itself the profit possibilities of the spice, gold and slave trade that for centuries had been a monopoly of the North African Moors.

Henry wanted to know how far Muslim territories in Africa extended, hoping to circumvent them and trade directly with West Africa by sea and to find allies in the legendary Christian lands to the south such as that of the mythical Priest Gianni and to probe the possibility of reaching the Indies, the source of the lucrative spice trade, by sea. He therefore sponsored voyages along the coast of Mauritania, bringing together merchants, shipowners and other interested parties in the search for new sea routes. Soon the Atlantic islands of Madeira (1419), colonized by João Gonçalves Zarco, and the Azores (1427) were reached. At that time, Europeans did not know what lay beyond Cape Non (present-day Cape Chaunar) on the African coast and whether it was possible to return once they had crossed it. Nautical myths warned of ocean monsters and a world boundary, but Henry's expeditions defied such beliefs and, beginning in 1421, systematic navigation overcame it, reaching the far more hostile Cape Bojador, which in 1434 one of Henry's captains, Gil Eanes, rounded, debunking its black legend.

Huge benefits brought the introduction of the caravel in the mid-15th century, a small ship that could sail on the wind more than any other in Europe at the time. Evolved from fishing vessels, caravels were the first to be able to abandon cabotage and sail safely in the open Atlantic. For astronomical navigation, the Portuguese used the Ephemerides, which experienced considerable popularity again in the fifteenth century: they were astronomical charts that plotted the position of the stars over a distinct period of time. Published in 1496 by the Jewish astronomer, astrologer and mathematician Abraham Zacuto, the Perpetual Almanac included some of these tables for the movements of the stars, which revolutionized navigation by allowing the calculation of latitude. The exact longitude, however, remained elusive and sailors struggled to determine it for centuries. Using the caravel, systematic exploration continued further and further south, advancing an average of one degree per year. Senegal and the Cape Verde Peninsula were reached in 1445, and in 1446 Álvaro Fernandes pushed almost as far as present-day Sierra Leone.

In 1453 the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople was a major blow to Christendom and the established trade relations linking it with the East. In 1455 Pope Nicholas V issued the bull Romanus Pontifex that strengthened the earlier Dum Diversas (1452), granting the lands and seas discovered beyond Cape Bojador to Alfonso V of Portugal and his successors, with rights of trade and conquest against Muslims and pagans, laying the foundation for the Lusitanian political vision of the Atlantic as Mare clausum. Alfonso commissioned the famous "Mappamondo di Fra Mauro" in 1459.

In 1456 Diogo Gomes reached the Cape Verde archipelago, and in the following decade several captains in Henry's service (e.g., the Genoese Antonio de Noli and the Venetian Alvise Da Mosto) discovered the remaining islands, occupied during the century, and by 1460 reached the Gulf of Guinea.

In 1460 Pedro da Sintra reached Sierra Leone. Henry the Navigator died in November of that year after which, given the meager revenues, the Crown entrusted the exploration to Lisbon merchant Fernão Gomes (1469) who, in exchange for a monopoly on trade in the Gulf of Guinea, was to explore 161 kilometers of coastline per year for five years. With his sponsorship, explorers João de Santarém, Pêro de Escobar, Lopo Gonçalves, Fernão do Pó, and Pedro de Sintra went far beyond their goal: They reached the Southern Hemisphere (they were now using the Southern Cross as a reference for celestial navigation) and the islands of the Gulf of Guinea, including São Tomé and Príncipe and Elmina in what came to be called the "Gold Coast" in 1471 (present-day Ghana) because a thriving alluvial gold trade was found there among Arab and Berber natives and traders.

In 1478, during the War of the Castilian Succession, a major battle was fought near the coast of Elmina between a Castilian fleet of 35 caravels and a Portuguese fleet for hegemony in the Guinea trade (gold, slaves, ivory and pepper). Victory accrued to the Portuguese, followed by the Catholic Monarchs' official recognition of Lusitanian sovereignty over most of the disputed West African territories, enshrined in the 1479 Treaty of Alcáçovas. It was the first "colonial war" between European powers.

In 1481, the newly crowned John II of Portugal built Elmina Castle to oversee the gold harvest. In 1482, the Congo River was explored by Diogo Cão, who continued on to Cape Cross (present-day Namibia) in 1486.

The next breakthrough was in 1488, when Bartholomew Diaz rounded the southern tip of Africa, which he called the "Cape of Storms" (pt. Cabo das Tormentas), anchoring at Mossel Bay and then sailing eastward to the mouth of the Great Fish River, proving that the Indian Ocean was accessible from the Atlantic contrary to Ptolemy's claims. At the same time, Pêro da Covilhã had secretly reached Ethiopia after gathering important information on the Red Sea coast and Quenia, in support of the impending search for the sea route to the Indies. The Cape itself was renamed "Cape of Good Hope" (pt. Cabo da Boa Esperança) by King John because of the great optimism that pervaded the Portuguese.

Based on later stories about the so-called "Ghost Island" or Bacalao and engravings on Dighton's Rock, some speculate that Portuguese João Vaz Corte-Real arrived in Newfoundland in 1473 but these are unreliable sources and

Spanish exploration: Columbus' landing in the Americas

Portugal's Iberian rival, the Kingdom of Castile and León, had begun to establish its rule over the Canary Islands in 1402 unless it then became embroiled in civil strife and reopened conflict with the Muslims for much of the 15th century. At the end of the century, abetted by the unification of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, Spain engaged in a search for new overseas trade routes. The Crown of Aragon had been an important maritime potentate in the Mediterranean, controlling territories in eastern Spain, southwestern France, Sicily, Malta, the Kingdom of Naples, Sardinia, and even continental possessions in Greece. In 1492 the Catholic Monarchs of Spain conquered the Sultanate of Granada, which supplied Castile with African goods through tribute, and decided to finance Christopher Columbus's expedition in the hope of bypassing Portugal's monopoly on West African sea routes by reaching "the Indies " (East and South Asia) by a route to the west. Twice, in 1485 and 1488, Columbus had presented the project to John II of Portugal, who rejected it.

On the evening of August 3, 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships: a nau, Santa María (also Gallega, i.e., "Galician"), and two caravels, Pinta ("Painted") and Santa Clara later known as Niña ("Little"). She reached the Canary Islands, where she refueled for what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the ocean, crossing a section of the Atlantic that became known as the Sargasso Sea.

Land was sighted on October 12, 1492, and Columbus named the island (one of the islands in the Bahamas archipelago but which is still disputed) San Salvador, in what he thought was the East Indies. Columbus then explored the northeastern coast of Cuba (Oct. 28) and the northern coast of Hispaniola by Dec. 5. He was received by the cacicco of the Guacanagaríx who allowed him to build a settlement. Columbus left behind 39 men and founded La Navidad in what is now Haiti. Before returning to Spain, he kidnapped 10

On his return, a storm forced Columbus to dock in Lisbon (March 4, 1493) but after a week in Portugal he set sail for Spain and on March 15, 1493, he arrived in Barcelona, where he reported to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. News of his discovery of new lands quickly spread throughout Europe.

Columbus and other Spanish explorers were initially disappointed by their discoveries: unlike Africa or Asia, Caribbean islanders had little to trade. The islands thus became the focus of colonization efforts. It was only when the continent was explored that Spain found the wealth it was seeking.

Treaty of Tordesillas (1494)

Shortly after Columbus' return from what would later be called the West Indies, a division of influence became necessary to avoid conflict between the Spanish and Portuguese. On May 4, 1493, two months after Columbus' arrival, the Catholic Monarchs received the bull Inter Caetera from the Spanish Pope Alexander VI, which stated that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of the Azores or Cape Verde Islands belonged to Castile and, thereafter, to all the continents and islands then belonging to India. It did not mention Portugal, which could not claim newly discovered lands east of the line.

John II of Portugal was not satisfied with the agreement: it gave him too little land and hindered his route to India, his main goal. He negotiated directly with Ferdinand and Isabella to move the line west and thus claim the newly discovered lands east of it.

The agreement was reached in 1494 with the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas, which divided the world between the two powers. The Portuguese received everything outside Europe east of a line running 370 leagues west of Cape Verde to the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage, claimed for Castile and called Cipangu (present-day Cuba) and Antilia (present-day Hispaniola). This granted them control over Africa, Asia and eastern South America (Brazil). The Spanish received everything west of this line. At the time of negotiation, the treaty divided the known Atlantic islands roughly in half, with the dividing line about halfway between Portuguese Cape Verde and the Spanish Caribbean.

Pedro Álvares Cabral encountered in the 1500s what is now known as the Brazilian coast, originally thought to be a large island. Because it lay east of the demarcation line, he claimed it for Portugal with Spanish approval. Portuguese ships sailed west into the Atlantic to get favorable winds for the voyage to India, and that was how Cabral came to Brazil. Some suspect that the Portuguese had secretly discovered Brazil earlier and that is why they moved the line westward but there is no reliable evidence of this. Others suspect that Duarte Pacheco Pereira discovered Brazil as early as 1498 but this is not considered credible by mainstream historians.

Later Spanish territory would turn out to include vast continental areas of North and South America, while Portuguese Brazil would expand across the line. Other European powers then came to occupy territories already covered by the Treaty of Tordesillas, ignoring its provisions.

The Americas: the New World

Very little of the area divided by Tordesillas had actually been explored, as it was divided only by geographical parameters and not by actual political-military control. However, Columbus' first voyage in 1492 stimulated maritime exploration of the western Atlantic routes, and from 1497 a number of explorers headed there.

The minor voyages or also called Andalusian voyages were a series of voyages of exploration during the Age of Discovery, spanning from 1499 to 1500. Some historians extend this period to 1510, others to 1521.

They are identified as minor because they were not funded by the great empires but had a private initiative, with the goal of finding gold and expanding trade. Another goal was to verify the claims of Christopher Columbus, who was firm in his thesis that he had reached Cipango, thus the East Indies, sometimes calling these lands as paradise on earth, but that the accounts of these voyages did not match.

In 1497 the Italian Giovanni Caboto obtained letters patent from King Henry VII of England. Setting sail from Bristol, probably supported by the local Society of Merchant Venturers, he crossed the Atlantic from a northern latitude hoping that the voyage to the "West Indies" would be shorter and landed somewhere in North America, perhaps in Newfoundland. In 1499 João Fernandes Lavrador, with Pêro de Barcelos, sighted and baptized the Labrador on behalf of Portugal. He then went perhaps to Bristol to sail on behalf of England. Almost simultaneously (1499-1502) the brothers Gaspar and Miguel Corte-Real explored and baptized the coasts of Greenland and Newfoundland. Both explorations are reported in Cantino's Planisphere of 1502.

In 1497, the newly crowned Manuel I of Portugal sent an exploratory fleet beyond the Cape of Good Hope, fulfilling John II's plan to find a route to the Indies. In July 1499, word spread that the Portuguese had reached the "real Indies," when King Manuel informed the Catholic Monarchs of the happy (or near-happy) return of Gama's fleet.

Columbus' third expedition in 1498 meanwhile marked the beginning of the first successful Spanish colonization in the West Indies, on the island of Hispaniola. Despite growing doubts, Columbus refused to accept that he had not reached the Indies. During the voyage he discovered the mouth of the Orinoco River on the northern coast of South America (present-day Venezuela) and thought that that huge body of fresh water came from a continental landmass that he was certain was Asia.

As navigation between Seville and the West Indies increased, knowledge of the Caribbean islands, Central America and the northern coast of South America grew. One of these Spanish fleets, that of Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci in 1499-1500, reached the coast of present-day Guyana, where the two explorers separated. Vespucci sailed south, discovering the mouth of the Amazon in July 1499, and reaching 6°S, in present-day northeastern Brazil.

In the early 1500s, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was blown off course by a storm and reached what is now the northeastern coast of Brazil on January 26, 1500, exploring as far south as the present state of Pernambuco. He was the first to fully enter the Amazon estuary, which he named Río Santa María de la Mar Dulce ("Santa María River of the Freshwater Sea"). The land was too far east to be claimed by the Spanish according to Tordesillas but the discovery enticed Spain: a second voyage by Pinzon was organized in 1508 (he skirted the northern coast to the Central American coast in search of a passage to the East) and a voyage in 1515-16 by Juan Díaz de Solís already a navigator of Pinzon. The 1515-16 expedition was stimulated by reports of Portuguese exploration of the region (see below). It ended when Solís and some members of his crew disappeared while exploring a Río de la Plata by boat but what he found rekindled Spanish interest and colonization began in 1531.

In April 1500, the Portuguese Second Armada of India, led by Pedro Álvares Cabral, with a crew of experienced captains, including Bartolomeu Dias and Nicolau Coelho, encountered the Brazilian coast as it swung westward into the Atlantic while executing a great "vault do mar" to avoid the becalming in the Gulf of Guinea. On April 21, 1500 a mountain was sighted and named Mount Pascoal, and on April 22 Cabral landed on the coast. On April 25 the entire fleet entered port, christening it Porto Seguro (it. "Porto Sicuro"). Cabral understood that the new land lay east of the Tordesillas line and sent Pêro Vaz de Caminha's famous "Letter on the Discovery of Brazil" to Portugal. Believing the land was an island, he named it Ilha de Vera Cruz ("Island of the True Cross"). Some historians have suggested that the Portuguese may have encountered the South American bulge earlier while sailing on the "volta do mar," hence John II's insistence on moving the line west of Tordesillas in 1494, so his landing in Brazil may not have been an accident; although John's motivation may have been simply to increase the possibility of claiming new land in the Atlantic. From the east coast, the fleet then turned eastward to resume its voyage to the southern tip of Africa and India. Cabral was the first captain to touch four continents, leading the first expedition to link and unite Europe, Africa, the New World, and Asia.

At the invitation of King Manuel I of Portugal, Amerigo Vespucci, a Florentine who had been working for a branch of the Medici Bank in Seville since 1491, set up ocean expeditions and traveled twice to the Guianas with Juan de la Cosa in the service of Spain as an observer on these exploratory voyages to the east coast of South America. The expeditions became widely known in Europe after two accounts attributed to him, published between 1502 and 1504, suggested that the lands he had just discovered were not the Indies but a "New World" (lat. Mundus novus) as written by Vespucci to Lorenzo the Popolano in a letter that became very popular in Europe. It soon became clear that Columbus had not arrived in Asia but had found a new continent, the Americas, as they were named in 1507 by cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann in honor of Vespucci.

In 1501-1502, one such Portuguese expedition, led by Gonçalo Coelho (e

In 1503, Binot Paulmier de Gonneville, defying the Portuguese mare clausum policy, led one of the first French Norman and Breton expeditions to Brazil. He intended to sail to the East Indies but near the Cape of Good Hope his ship was diverted to the west by a storm and landed in what is now the state of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil) on January 5, 1504.

In 1511-1512, the Portuguese João de Lisboa and Estevão de Fróis reached the estuary of the Río de la Plata, between Uruguay and Argentina, and went as far as the San Matias Gulf at 42°S, a feat recorded in the Newen Zeytung auss Pressilandt ("New News from the Land of Brazil"). The expedition reached a cape extending from north to south that they called "Cape Santa Maria" (after 40°S they found a "Cape" or "a point or place extending into the sea," and a "Gulf" in June and July. After sailing nearly 300 km (186 mi) to round the cape, they sighted the continent on the other side again and headed northwest but a storm prevented them from making any progress. Repelled by the north wind, they turned back. He also gives the first news of the White King and the "people of the mountains" in the interior (the Inca Empire), and a gift, a silver axe, obtained by the Charrúa on their return ("to the coast or side of Brazil "), and "to the West" (along the coast and estuary of the Rio de la Plata), and offered to King Manuel I. Christopher de Haro, a Flemish Sephardic Jew, financier of the expedition along with Dom Nuno Manuel, then in the service of the Spanish Crown after 1516, believed that the navigators had discovered a southern strait to the west and Asia.

In 1519, an expedition sent by the Spanish Crown to find a route to Asia was led by the experienced Portuguese navigator Magellan. The fleet explored rivers and bays while charting the South American coast until they found a way to the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Magellan.

In 1524-1525, Alejo García, a Portuguese conquistador (possibly a veteran of Solís' 1516 troop), led a private expedition of Castilian and Portuguese adventurers and about 2,000 Guaraní Indians. They explored the territories of present-day southern Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, using the native trail network, the Peabiru. They were the first Europeans to cross the Gran Chaco and reach the outer territories of the Inca Empire in the hills of the Andes, near Sucre.

Vasco da Gama's route to India

Protected from direct Spanish competition by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Portuguese exploration and colonization eastward continued apace. Twice, in 1485 and 1488, Portugal officially rejected Columbus's plan to reach India by sailing westward: both because King John II's advisers believed Columbus's estimate of a travel distance of 2,400 miles (3,860 km) was low, and because Bartholomew Diaz set out in 1487 to round the southern tip of Africa, a route they believed was shorter to India. Diaz's return from the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and Pêro da Covilhã's voyage to Ethiopia by land revealed that the riches of the Indian Ocean were accessible from the Atlantic, and an ad hoc expedition was therefore prepared.

Under the patronage of King Manuel I of Portugal, a small exploratory fleet of four ships and about 170 men left Lisbon in July 1497 under the command of Vasco da Gama. In December the fleet crossed the Great Fish River, where Diaz had stopped, and sailed into waters unknown to Europeans. In the Indian Ocean, Gama entered a maritime region that had three different and well-developed trade circuits. The one Gama encountered connected Mogadishu on the east coast of Africa; Aden, at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula; the Persian port of Hormuz; Cambay, in northeast India; and Calicut, in southeast India. On May 20, 1498, he arrived in Calicut, but there his efforts to obtain favorable trading terms were hampered by the low value of his goods compared to the valuable goods traded there. Two years and two days after departure, Gama and a surviving crew of 55 men returned in glory to Portugal as the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India.

The Second Army of India (Cabral, 1500), strong with thirteen ships and about 1,500 men, first landed in Brazil, then reached India and discovered Madagascar (1501), which was partially explored by Tristão da Cunha in 1507. Mauritius was discovered in 1507. Socotra occupied in 1506. In the same year Lourenço de Almeida landed in Sri Lanka, the eastern island called "Taprobane" in remote accounts by Alexander the Great and the 4th century B.C. Greek geographer Megasthenes. On the Asian continent, the first feitorias were established in Kochi and Calicut (1501) and then in Goa, conquered by the Portuguese in 1510.

The "Spice Islands" and China

The Portuguese continued to sail eastward from India, entering a second Indian Ocean trade circuit that from Calicut and Quillon in India pointed to Southeast Asia: basically Malacca and Palembang. In 1511, Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, then the center of Asian trade, and then sent diplomatic missions further east: e.g., Duarte Fernandes was the first European envoy to Siam (present-day Thailand).

Europeans thus learned the location of the phantom "Spice Islands": the Moluccas, mainly the Banda Islands, then the world's only source of nutmeg and cloves. Reaching these islands became the ultimate goal of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean. Albuquerque sent an expedition led by António de Abreu to Banda (via Java and the Small Sunda Islands) that arrived there in early 1512, after touching the islands of Buru, Ambon, and Seram. From Banda, Abreu returned to Malacca, while his vice-captain Francisco Serrão, after a separation forced by a shipwreck, headed north and reached Ambon where he sank off Ternate but obtained license to build a Portuguese fortress-factory: the Fort São João Baptista de Ternate that inaugurated the Portuguese presence in the Malay archipelago.

In May 1513, Jorge Álvares reached China. Although he was the first to land on the island of Lintin in the Pearl River Delta, however, it was Rafael Perestrello, a cousin of Christopher Columbus, who was the first European to land on the southern coast of mainland China and trade in Canton in 1516, commanding a Portuguese ship with a Malaysian crew taken from a Malacca junker. Fernão Pires de Andrade visited Canton the following year (1517) and opened trade with China. The Portuguese were defeated by the Chinese in 1521 at the Battle of Tunmen and in 1522 at the Battle of Xicaowan, during which the Chinese captured Portuguese rear-loading cannons and decoded their technology, calling them the Cannons of the FranksT, 佛郎機P from the name "Folangji" (probably derived from the Persian "Farang") used by the Chinese to refer to the Portuguese. After several decades, hostilities between the Portuguese and Chinese ceased, and in 1557 the Chinese allowed the Portuguese to occupy Macau.

To enforce a trade monopoly, Mascate and Hormuz in the Persian Gulf were seized by Albuquerque in 1507 and 1515, respectively. He also entered into diplomatic relations with Persia. In 1513, while attempting to conquer Aden, an expedition led by Albuquerque crossed the Red Sea inside the Bab el-Mandeb and took refuge on Kamaran Island. In 1521, a force under António Correia conquered Bahrain, ushering in a period of nearly eighty years of Portuguese rule of the Gulf archipelago. In the Red Sea, Massawa was the northernmost point touched by the Portuguese in 1541, when a fleet under the command of Estevão da Gama reached Suez.

Balboa's expedition to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1513, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Acandí, in present-day Colombia, Spaniard Vasco Núñez de Balboa received unexpected news of an "other sea" rich in gold. With few resources and using information provided by cacques, he crossed the Isthmus of Panama with 190 Spaniards, some indigenous guides and a pack of dogs.

Using a small brig and ten canoes, they sailed along the coast and landed. On September 6, the expedition was reinforced by 1,000 men. It fought several battles, entered a dense jungle and climbed the mountain range along the Chucunaque River from where this "other sea" could be seen. Balboa continued on and, before noon on September 25, saw an unknown sea on the horizon, becoming the first European to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World. The expedition went down to the coast for a reconnaissance: they thus became the first Europeans to sail into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the New World. After traveling more than 110 km (68 mi), Balboa named the bay where they ended up "San Miguel." He called the new sea Mar del Sur (South Sea) since they had traveled south to reach it. Balboa's main purpose in the expedition was to search for gold-rich kingdoms. For this purpose, he crossed the cacques' lands to the islands, naming the largest Isla Rica (present Isla del Rey). He named the entire group Archipiélago de las Perlas, which they still preserve today.

Subsequent developments in the east

In 1515-1516, the Spanish fleet led by Solís sailed along the east coast of South America to the Río de la Plata, which Solís named shortly before his death while trying to find passage to the "South Sea."

First circumnavigation

In 1516 several Portuguese navigators, in conflict with King Manuel I, gathered in Seville and offered their services the newly crowned King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles of Habsburg: explorers Diogo and Duarte Barbosa, Esteban Gómez, Juan Serrano and Ferdinand Magellan; cartographers Jorge Reinel and Diego Ribero; cosmographers Francisco and Ruy Faleiro; and Flemish merchant Christopher de Haro. Magellan had sailed in India until 1513 and knew both the route to the Moluccas and Francisco Serrão, who lived there, Hypothesized that the islands were in the Spanish area of Tordesillas, leaning on studies by the Faleiro brothers.

Aware of Spanish efforts to find a route to India by sailing west, Magellan presented his plan to King Charles, who, with de Haro, financed the expedition for him. A fleet was formed and Spanish navigators such as Juan Sebastián Elcano joined the venture. On August 10, 1519, they set out from Seville with a five ships (the flagship Trinidad under Magellan's command, San Antonio, Concepcion, Santiago and Victoria, the first was a caravel and all the others classified as caracas or "nau") and a crew of about 237 men from different regions of Europe, with the goal of reaching the Moluccas by traveling westward and bringing them under the economic-political sphere of Spain.

The fleet sailed further and further south, avoiding Portuguese Brazil, and was the first to reach Tierra del Fuego at the tip of the Americas. On October 21, starting from Cape Virgenes, it began an arduous voyage through a 373-mile (600-kilometer) strait that Magellan named Estrecho de Todos los Santos, present-day Strait of Magellan. On November 28, three ships entered the Pacific, then called the Pacífico Sea because of its apparent immobility, and crossed it. Magellan died in the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines, leaving Elcano to complete the voyage to the Moluccas reached in 1521. On September 6, 1522, the Victory returned to Spain, thus completing the first circumnavigation of the globe: only one of the five ships that left returned home with only 18 crewmen! Another 17 men later arrived in Spain: 12 captured by the Portuguese in Cape Verde a few weeks earlier, and, between 1525 and 1527, 5 survived the Trinidad. The Venetian Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's assistant, kept an accurate journal of the voyage that is now the main source on the subject.

The circumnavigation gave Spain valuable knowledge of the world and its oceans that later helped in the exploration and settlement of the Philippines. Although this was not a realistic alternative to the Portuguese route around Africa (the Strait of Magellan was too far south and the Pacific Ocean too vast to be covered by a single voyage from Spain) subsequent Spanish expeditions used this information to explore the Pacific and discover routes between Acapulco, New Spain (present-day Mexico) and Manila in the Philippines-the so-called "Manila Galleons."

Westward and eastward explorations meet.

As seen, having passed Magellan, the Portuguese rushed to capture its surviving crew and built a fort at Ternate. In 1525, Charles I sent another expedition westward to colonize the Moluccas, claiming they were in his Tordesillas area. The fleet of 7 ships and 450 men was led by García Jofre de Loaísa and included Spain's most distinguished navigators: Juan Sebastián Elcano and Loaísa, who lost their lives, and the young Andrés de Urdaneta.

Near the Strait of Magellan, one of the ships was driven south by a storm, reaching 56° S, where they believed they saw "the end of the earth": Cape Horn was crossed for the first time. The expedition reached the Moluccas with great difficulty and docked at Tidore. Conflict with the Portuguese in Ternate was inevitable and opened a decade of skirmishes.

Since there was no eastern limit established by Tordesillas, both kingdoms organized meetings to resolve the issue. From 1524 to 1529 Portuguese and Spanish experts met in Badajoz-Elvas to find the exact location of the antimeridian of Tordesillas that would divide the world into two equal hemispheres. Each crown appointed three astronomers and cartographers, three pilots and three mathematicians. Lopo Homem, Portuguese cartographer and cosmographer was on the council, along with cartographer Diego Ribero of the Spanish delegation. The council met several times, without reaching an agreement: knowledge at that time was insufficient for accurate longitude calculations, and each group gave the islands to their sovereign. The issue was only resolved in 1529, after a long negotiation, with the signing of the Treaty of Zaragoza, which attributed the Moluccas to Portugal and the Philippines to Spain.

Between 1525 and 1528, Portugal sent several expeditions around the Moluccas. Gomes de Sequeira and Diogo da Rocha were sent north by the governor of Ternate, Jorge de Menezes, and were the first Europeans to reach the Caroline Islands, which they called "Sequeira's Islands." In 1526, Menezes landed on the Biak and Waigeo Islands in New Guinea. The Portuguese discovery theory of Australia is based on these explorations, one among many theories of the early discovery of Australia, supported by Australian historian Kenneth McIntyre that it was discovered by Cristóvão de Mendonça and Gomes de Sequeira.

In 1527, Hernán Cortés, conqueror of Mexico, set up a fleet to find new lands in the "South Sea" (Pacific Ocean), asking his cousin Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón to take command. On October 31, Saavedra sailed from New Spain, crossed the Pacific and headed north to New Guinea, then called Isla de Oro. In October 1528, one of the ships reached the Moluccas. In his attempt to return to New Spain he was diverted by the northeast trade winds, which repelled him, so he tried to turn back south. He returned to New Guinea and sailed northeast, where he sighted the Marshall Islands and the Admiralty Islands, but was again surprised by the winds, which took him a third time to the Moluccas. This westward return route was difficult to find, but was eventually discovered by Andrés de Urdaneta in 1565.

Rumors of unknown islands northwest of Hispaniola had reached Spain by 1511, and King Ferdinand was interested in preventing further exploration. While the Portuguese were making huge gains in the Indian Ocean, the Spanish invested in inland exploration for gold and other valuable resources. The members of these expeditions, the famous conquistadores, were not regular soldiers but soldiers of fortune: they came from a variety of backgrounds (artisans, merchants, clerics, lawyers, petty nobility, and even freed slaves), had to privately procure equipment, possibly with a credit on shares of the spoils, and usually had no professional military training, although some had previous experience on other expeditions.

In the American interior the Spanish encountered indigenous empires as large and populous as European ones. Relatively small expeditions of conquistadores allied with native rebels against these empires. Once Spanish sovereignty was established and major sources of wealth identified, the Spanish crown focused on replicating European state and church institutions in the Americas. A first key element was the so-called "spiritual conquest" of the natives through Christian evangelization. The economy was structured with the so-called encomienda in which the conquistadores received goods in tribute and the natives were forced into forced labor. Once the vast silver deposits were discovered, not only were the colonial economies of Mexico and Peru transformed but also the European economy. The Spanish empire became a major world power. Global trade networks were established that included high-value crops from the Americas while Hispano-American silver became the engine of the world economy.

During this period, Eurasian pandemics such as smallpox decimated Native Americans.

In 1512, to reward Juan Ponce de León for the exploration of Puerto Rico (1508), King Ferdinand urged him to search at his own expense for new lands of which he would make him governor. With 3 ships and about 200 men, Léon set out from Puerto Rico in March 1513. In April he sighted Florida, so named because it was the Easter season ("Florida" in es.), which he believed to be an island but which earned him the title of the first European to touch American continental soil. The landing site is disputed between St. Augustine, Ponce de León Inlet and Melbourne Beach. He headed south for further exploration and on April 8 encountered a current so strong that it pushed him backward: this was the first encounter with the Gulf Stream that would soon become the main route for eastbound ships leaving the Spanish Indies for Europe. He explored the coast reaching Biscayne Bay, Dry Tortugas, and then sailed southwest in an attempt to round Cuba, reaching Grand Bahama in July.

Mexico: Cortés and the Aztec empire.

In 1517, Cuba's governor Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar sent a fleet under the command of Hernández de Córdoba to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. They reached the coast where the Maya invited them ashore to attack them at night and nearly exterminate them. Velázquez set up another expedition led by his nephew Juan de Grijalva that sailed south along the coast to Tabasco, part of the Aztec empire.

In 1518, Velázquez entrusted the mayor of the capital of Cuba, Hernán Cortés, with the command of an expedition to subdue the interior of Mexico, except that he later retracted due to personal differences. In February 1519, Cortés set out anyway: with about 11 ships, 500 men, 13 horses and a small number of cannons he landed in Yucatán, Mayan territory, claiming land for Spain. From Trinidad he went to Tabasco and won a battle against the natives: among the prisoners was Marina (La Malinche), his future mistress, who knew both Nahuatl (Aztec) and Mayan and became a valuable adviser as well as interpreter. It was she who told Cortés about the Aztec riches.

In July, Cortés took control of Veracruz and placed himself under the direct orders of the new King Charles I of Spain. He demanded a meeting with the Aztec emperor Montezuma II, which he repeatedly refused. Cortés then set his sights on the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, and along the way allied himself with several tribes tired of the bloody Aztec tyranny. In October, accompanied by some 3,000 Tlaxcalteca, the conquistador marched toward Cholula, the second largest city in central Mexico. Either to instill fear in the waiting Aztecs or (as he later claimed) wishing to set an example for the natives, he massacred thousands of unarmed notables gathered in the central plaza and partially burned the city.

Arriving in Tenochtitlan with a large army, he was received peacefully on November 8 by Montezuma II, who purposely let Cortés into the heart of the Aztec empire, hoping to get to know him better and then annihilate him. The emperor gave him lavish gifts of gold that induced him to plunder large quantities. In his letters to King Charles, Cortés claimed that the Aztecs believed him to be an emissary of the god Quetzalcoatl or the god himself, a belief disputed by some modern historians. Upon learning, however, that his men on the coast were being attacked by the Aztecs, he took Montezuma hostage in his palace, demanding a ransom as tribute for King Charles.

Velasquez sent another expedition in April 1520, 1,100 men led by Pánfilo de Narváez, to oppose Cortès, who left 200 men in Tenochtitlan and took the rest to confront Narvaez, defeating him and persuading his men to join him. In Tenochtitlán, however, one of his lieutenants committed a massacre in the Great Temple, sparking a rebellion. Cortés quickly returned and attempted to exploit Montezuma as a peacemaker but the Aztec emperor was killed, possibly stoned to death by his subjects. The Spaniards fled during the so-called "Noche Triste," at the cost of the massacre of their rear guard and losing much of the treasure they had hitherto accumulated. After a battle at Otumba, they reached Tlaxcala, having lost 870 men. Assisted by Cuban allies and reinforcements, Cortés besieged Tenochtitlán and captured the new emperor Cuauhtémoc in August 1521. Having defeated the Aztec empire, Cortés claimed the city for Spain and renamed it Mexico City.

Peru: Pizarro and the Inca Empire.

An early attempt to explore western South America was undertaken in 1522 by Pascual de Andagoya. The natives told him of a territory rich in gold around a river called "Pirú." After reaching the San Juan River (Colombia), Andagoya fell ill and returned to Panama, where he spread news about the Pirú as the legendary El Dorado. These, along with Cortés' reports of success, attracted Pizarro's attention.

Francisco Pizarro had accompanied Balboa Balboa on the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama. In 1524 he formed a company, the "Empresa del Levante," with the priest Hernando de Luque and the soldier Diego de Almagro to explore the south, agreeing to share the profits: Pizarro was the commander, Almagro the furier and Luque the financier.

On September 13, 1524, the first of three expeditions to conquer Peru left with about 80 men and 40 horses. It was a disaster. They arrived in Colombia and succumbed to bad weather, starvation and skirmishes with the natives, in one of which Almagro lost an eye. The place names bestowed along the way, Puerto deseado (desired port), Puerto del hambre (port of hunger) and Puerto quemado (burned port), attest to the difficulties of the journey. Two years later, in August 1526, a second expedition set out with the reluctant permission of the governor of Panama: two ships, 160 men and several horses. After reaching the San Juan River they parted company, Pizarro stayed to explore the marshy coastline and Almagro went back to ask for reinforcements. Pizarro's main pilot sailed south and, after crossing the equator, captured a raft from Tumbes: it contained textiles, pottery and, most importantly, gold, silver and emeralds. When Almagro returned with reinforcements, they set sail again and, after a difficult journey against strong winds and currents, reached Atacames where they found a large native population subject to the control of the Inca Empire but did not land.

Pizarro remained safely near the coast, while Almagro and Luque returned to ask for additional reinforcements with proof of the presence of gold. The new governor refused a third expedition and ordered two ships to take everyone back to Panama. Almagro and Luque took the opportunity to join Pizarro. When they arrived at Isla de Gallo, Pizarro drew a line in the sand, saying, "There lies Peru with its riches; here, Panama and its poverty. Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian." Thirteen men decided to stay and became known as the famous thirteen. They headed for Isla Gorgona where they stayed seven months before supplies arrived.

They decided to sail south and, in April 1528, reached the northwestern Peruvian region of Tumbes where they were warmly welcomed by the indigenous Tumpis. Two of Pizarro's men reported stories of incredible riches, including gold and silver decorations around the chief's house. They first saw a llama that Pizarro called "little camels." The natives called the Spaniards "Children of the Sun" because of their fair complexions and shining armor. They then decided to return to Panama to prepare a final expedition. Before leaving they sailed south through territories they named as Cabo Blanco, Payta Harbor, Sechura, Punta de Aguja, Santa Cruz and Trujillo, reaching the 9th S.

In the spring of 1528, Pizarro set sail for Spain, where he had talks with Charles of Habsburg, who promised to support him after finally hearing of lands rich in gold and silver in South America. The Capitulación de Toledo authorized Pizarro to proceed to conquer Peru. Pizarro then managed to convince many friends and relatives to support him: his brothers Hernándo Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, Gonzalo Pizarro, and even Francisco de Orellana, who would later explore the Amazon, as well as his cousin Pedro Pizarro.

Pizarro's third and final expedition left Panama on December 27, 1530: 3 ships and 180 men. They landed near Ecuador and sailed for Tumbes, finding it destroyed. They marched inland and founded the first Spanish settlement in Peru, San Miguel de Piura. One of the men returned with an Inca envoy and an invitation for a meeting. The Incas were in the midst of civil war, and Atahualpa had repaired to northern Peru after the defeat of his brother Huáscar. After marching for two months, the conquistadors reached Atahualpa. However, the latter refused their help, saying he would be "tributary to no one." There were fewer than 200 Spaniards for his 80,000 soldiers, but Pizarro attacked and defeated the Inca army at the Battle of Cajamarca, capturing Atahualpa in the so-called "Hall of Ransom." Despite fulfilling his promise to fill one room with gold and two with silver, Atahualpa was convicted of killing his brother and plotting against Pizarro and was executed.

In 1533, Pizarro invaded Cusco with indigenous troops and wrote to Charles I: "This city is the largest and most beautiful ever seen in this country or anywhere in the Indies. it is so beautiful and has such fine buildings that it would be remarkable even in Spain." After the Spanish destroyed the Inca empire, Jauja in the fertile Mantaro valley was established as the provisional capital of Peru but it was too high up in the mountains and Pizarro then founded the city of Lima on January 18, 1535, an act he considered one of the most important of his life.

In 1543 three Portuguese traders accidentally became the first Westerners to reach and trade with Japan. According to Fernão Mendes Pinto, an alleged witness to the events, they arrived in Tanegashima where the natives were so impressed by the firearms that they immediately replicated the technology and then went on to mass produce it.

The Spanish conquest of the Philippines was ordered by Philip II of Spain and Andrés de Urdaneta was the designated commander. Urdaneta agreed to accompany the expedition but refused to command and Miguel López de Legazpi was appointed. The expedition set sail in November 1564. After spending some time on the islands, Legazpi sent Urdaneta back to find a better way back. Urdaneta sailed from San Miguel to Cebu on June 1, 1565 but had to go as far as the 38th parallel North to find favorable winds.

He then reasoned about the hypothesis that the Pacific trade winds would draw a vortex like those in the Atlantic, thus making it possible to replicate the Volta do mar in the Pacific as well, pointing north and catching favorable eastward winds for the Americas. It thus reached the coast near Cape Mendocino, California, and then descended subcoastally to the south. He reached the port of Acapulco on October 8, 1565 after traveling 12,000 miles (19,312 kilometers) in 130 days: fourteen crewmen had died and only Urdaneta and Felipe de Salcedo, López de Legazpi's nephew, had enough strength to drop anchors.

A Spanish route across the Pacific between Mexico and the Philippines was thus established. For a long time these routes were used by Manila galleons, thus creating a trade link that connected China, the Americas, and Europe through the combined transpacific and transatlantic routes.

European nations did not recognize the Treaty of Tordesillas, nor did they recognize Pope Alexander VI's donation of the New World to the Spanish. France, the Netherlands and England each had a long maritime tradition of both commercial and privateering activities, and they were able, in due course, to get their hands on new Iberian technologies and maps.

After the failed marriage of Henry VIII of England and Catherine of Aragon, Tudor broke with the Roman Catholic Church and established himself as head of the Church of England, adding religious conflict to political conflict. When much of the Netherlands became Protestant, he sought political and religious independence from Catholic Spain. In 1568 the Dutch rebelled against the rule of Philip II of Spain by starting the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648), which was soon joined by the Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604). In 1580 Philip II became king of Portugal creating the so-called "Iberian Union." Although he ruled Portugal and its empire as separate from the Spanish empire, the union of the crowns produced a Catholic superpower that England and the Netherlands challenged.

In the eighty years of the Dutch War of Independence, Philip's troops captured the important trading cities of Bruges and Ghent. Antwerp, then the most important port in the world, fell in 1585. The Protestant population had two years to settle their affairs before leaving the city. Many settled in Amsterdam. These were mainly skilled artisans, wealthy merchants from the port cities, and refugees who had fled religious persecution, particularly Portuguese and Spanish Sephardic Jews and French Huguenots. The Pilgrim Fathers also spent time there before leaving for the New World. This mass immigration was an important driver: a small port in 1585, Amsterdam quickly became one of the world's most important trading centers. After the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588 there was a huge expansion of maritime trade but the defeat of the so-called "English Armada" confirmed Spanish maritime supremacy over its competitors.

The emergence of Dutch maritime power was rapid and remarkable: in fact, for years the Dutch had participated in Portuguese voyages eastward, both as skilled sailors and as cartographers. In 1592, Cornelis de Houtman was sent by the Dutch to Lisbon to gather as much information as possible about the Spice Islands. In 1595, merchant and explorer Jan Huygen van Linschoten, having traveled the Indian Ocean in the service of the Portuguese, published a travel report in Amsterdam, the "Reys-gheschrift vande navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten" ("Report of voyage through the navigations of the Portuguese in the East") with extensive travel directions from Portugal to the East Indies to Japan. In the same year, Houtman led the first Dutch exploratory voyage and discovered a new sea route, from Madagascar to the Sunda Strait in Indonesia, and signed a treaty with Sultan Banten.

Dutch and British interest, fueled by new information, led to a movement of commercial expansion and the founding of English (1600) and Dutch (1602) Privileged Trading Companies. The Dutch, French and English sent ships that opposed the Portuguese monopoly, concentrated mainly in coastal areas, which proved unable to defend themselves against such a vast and dispersed enterprise.

Exploration of North America

The English expedition of 1497 authorized by Henry VII of England was led by the Venetian Giovanni Caboto-the first in a series of French and English missions that explored North America. Italian sailors played an undoubtedly important role in the early explorations, notably the Genoese Christopher Columbus whose discoveries paved Spain's access to Central and South American silver mines. Northern European expeditions aimed to locate the so-called "Northwest Passage" for Asian trade. It was never discovered but allowed for the development of new possibilities, though nothing on the scale of the Spaniards' spectacular ones. In the early 17th century settlers from many northern European states began to settle on the east coast of North America. In 1520-1521 the Portuguese João Álvares Fagundes, accompanied by pairs from mainland Portugal and the Azores, explored Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, probably reaching the Bay of Fundy in the Minas Basin, and established a fishing colony on Cape Breton Island that would last at least until about 1570.

In 1524, the Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed for Francis I of France, motivated by indignation over the division of the world between the Portuguese and the Spanish. He explored the Atlantic coast of North America, from South Carolina to Newfoundland, and was the first European to visit what would later become the colony of Virginia and the United States. In the same year Esteban Gómez, a Portuguese cartographer formerly in Magellan's fleet, explored Nova Scotia, sailing south through Maine, where he entered present-day New York Harbor, into the Hudson River, and finally reached Florida in August 1525. As a result of his expedition, Diego Ribero's 1529 world map almost perfectly delineates the east coast of North America. From 1534 to 1536, Frenchman Jacques Cartier, who is believed to have accompanied Verrazano to Nova Scotia and Brazil, was the first European to travel inland North America, describing the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which he called "The Country of the Canadas, " after Iroquois Names, claiming what is now Canada for Francis I of France.

Europeans explored the Pacific coast beginning in the mid-16th century. Spaniard Francisco de Ulloa explored the west coast of Mexico, including the Gulf of California, showing that Lower California (e.g., Baja California) was a peninsula. Despite his report based on first-hand information, the myth persisted in Europe that California was an island. It was still Ulloa who first used the name "California." Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese in the service of Spain, was the first European to set foot there on September 28, 1542 on the shores of San Diego Bay and claiming it for Spain. He then landed at San Miguel Island, one of the Channel Islands, and continued north to Point Reyes on the mainland. After his death, the crew continued exploring as far as Oregon.

Privateer Francis Drake sailed along the coast in 1579 north of Cabrillo's landing site while circumnavigating the world. Drake had a long and highly successful career attacking Spanish settlements in the Caribbean and the American mainland. He also played an important role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada at Gravelinga except for later leading the English armada that tried in vain to wrest the Caribbean from Spain and was soundly defeated. On June 5, 1579, Drake briefly landed at South Cove, Cape Arago, just south of Coos Bay in Oregon, then sailed south in search of a suitable harbor to repair his damaged ship. On June 17, he found a sheltered bay on the Northern California coast near Point Reyes. While ashore, he claimed the area for Queen Elizabeth I of England, christening it New Albion ("New Albion") and leaving an engraved brass plate there. Drake's landings on the west coast of North America are a small part of his 1577-1580 circumnavigation of the globe. The privateer died in 1596 off the coast of Panama as a result of injuries sustained in a raid.

Between 1609 and 1611, after several voyages on behalf of English merchants in search of the Northwest Passage, Henry Hudson, under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), explored the region around present-day New York City. He explored the Hudson River and laid the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region. Hudson's last expedition moved further north in search of the "Passage," leading to the discovery of Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay. After wintering in James Bay, Hudson attempted to continue his voyage in the spring of 1611 but his crew mutinied and killed him, casting him adrift.

The search for the "Northwest Passage" (1533-1611)

France, the Netherlands and England, inhibited from sailing along South America and Africa, had no route to Asia. Having ascertained that there was no route through the American hinterland, attention turned to the possibility of a passage through northern waters. The desire to chart such a route, the so-called "Northwest Passage," guided much of the European exploration of the Arctic coast of North America and Russia. In Russia, the idea of a possible sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific was first advanced by diplomat Dmitry Gerasimov in 1525, although Russian settlers on the White Sea coast, the Pomory, had been exploring parts of the route since the 11th century.

In 1553 English explorer Hugh Willoughby and chief pilot Richard Chancellor were sent with three ships in search of passage from the London Company of Merchant Adventurers to New Lands. During the voyage across the Barents Sea, Willoughby thought he saw islands to the north, and islands called Willoughby's Land were shown on maps published by Plancius and Mercator in 1640. The ships were separated by "terrible whirlwinds" in the Norwegian Sea, and Willoughby sailed into a bay near the present Finnish-Russian border. His ships with their frozen crews, including Willoughby and his journal, were found by Russian fishermen a year later. Chancellor dropped anchor in the White Sea, came overland to Moscow to the court of Tsar Ivan IV of Russia and started trade with Russia, making the Company of Merchant Adventurers the Moscow Company.

In June 1576, Englishman Martin Frobisher led an expedition of three ships and 35 men in search of a northeast passage around North America. The voyage was supported again by the Muscovy Company. Violent storms sank one ship and forced another to turn back, but Frobisher and the other ship reached the Labrador coast in July. A few days later they arrived at the mouth of what is now Frobisher Bay. Frobisher believed it was the entrance to the Northwest Passage and named it "Frobisher Strait" and claimed Baffin Island for Queen Elizabeth. After some preliminary exploration, he returned to England. He commanded two subsequent voyages in 1577 and 1578 but failed to find the "Passage." He returned to England with ships loaded with ore but was deemed useless and damaged his reputation as an explorer. He remains an important historical figure in Canada.

On June 5, 1594, Dutch cartographer Willem Barentsz set out from Texel with three ships to enter the Kara Sea, hoping to find the Passage over Siberia. At Williams Island the crew first encountered a polar bear: they brought it aboard but the bear became enraged and was killed. Barentsz reached the west coast of Novaja Zemlja and followed it north before being forced back by icebergs.

The following year, Maurice of Nassau appointed him chief pilot of a new expedition of six ships, loaded with goods the Dutch hoped to trade with China. The group ran into the "wild men" of Samoyed, but eventually turned back after discovering that the Kara Sea was frozen. In 1596, the States General offered a high reward to anyone who found the Passage. Amsterdam purchased and equipped two small ships, captained by Jan Rijp and Jacob van Heemskerck, to search for the elusive channel, under the command of Barents. They left in May and in June discovered Bear Island and Spitsbergen, sighting its northwest coast. They saw a large bay, later called Raudfjorden and entered Magdalenefjorden which they called Tusk Bay, sailing into the northern entrance of Forlandsundet which they called Keerwyck, but were forced to turn back because of a shoal. On June 28 they rounded the northern tip of Prins Karls Forland, which they called Vogelhoek because of the large number of birds, and headed south, passing Isfjorden and Bellsund, shown on the Barentsz chart as Grooten Inwyck and Inwyck.

The ships reached Bear Island again on July 1 and disputes arose. They separated, with Barentsz continuing northeast, while Rijp headed north. Barentsz reached Novaja Zemlja and, to avoid being trapped in the ice, headed toward the Vaigatch Strait but became stuck inside icebergs and shoals. Stranded, the 16-man crew had to spend the winter on the ice. They used the ship's lumber to build a shelter they called Het Behouden Huys (The Kept House). Facing the extreme cold, they used merchant fabrics to make extra blankets and clothing and caught Arctic foxes in primitive traps as well as polar bears. When June arrived and the ice had not yet loosened its grip on the ship, the scurvy survivors launched two small boats. Barentsz died at sea on June 20, 1597 while studying nautical charts. It took another seven weeks for the boats to reach Kola where they were rescued by a Russian merchant ship. Only 12 crew members survived, reaching Amsterdam in November. Two of Barentsz's crew members, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten who had accompanied him on the first two voyages and Gerrit de Veer who had served as the ship's carpenter on the last, later published their diaries of the misadventure.

In 1608, Henry Hudson made a second attempt, trying to pass from over Russia: he arrived at Novaja Zemlja but was forced to turn back. Between 1609 and 1611, after several voyages for the British to find the route from the North Sea to India, he explored the environs of modern New York City as he sailed in search of the Passage for account sought a western route to Asia under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

Dutch Australia and New Zealand

Terra Australis Ignota (it. "Unknown Southern Land") was a hypothetical continent that appeared on European maps from the 15th to 18th centuries theorized centuries earlier by Aristotle. Depicted in the Dieppe Maps of the mid-16th century, its coastline appeared just south of the East Indian Islands and was often elaborately plotted, with a wealth of fictitious detail. Discoveries reduced the area in which this continent could be found; however, many cartographers supported the Aristotelian view, such as Gerardus Mercator (1569) and Alexander Dalrymple even until 1767 argued for its existence, arguing for the need for a large continental mass in the Southern Hemisphere as a counterweight to the northern continental masses. As new lands were discovered, they were often thought to be part of this hypothetical continent.

Juan Fernandez, sailing from Chile in 1576, claimed to have discovered the southern continent. Galician Luis Váez de Torres demonstrated the existence of a passage south of New Guinea, now known as Torres Strait. Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, a Portuguese in the service of Spain, saw a large island south of New Guinea in 1606 that he called La Australia del Espiritu Santo. He described it to the king of Spain as Terra Australis incognita. In reality, it was not Australia but an island in present-day Vanuatu.

Dutch navigator and colonial governor, Willem Janszoon sailed from the Netherlands to the East Indies for the third time on December 18, 1603, as captain of the Duyfken (or Duijfken, meaning "Little Dove"), one of twelve ships in Steven van der Hagen's great fleet. Once in the Indies, Janszoon was sent in search of other trading outlets, particularly in the "great land of New Guinea and other eastern and southern lands." On November 18, 1605, the Duyfken sailed from Bantam to the coast of western New Guinea. Janszoon crossed the eastern end of the Alphuri Sea, without seeing Torres Strait, into the Gulf of Carpentaria. On February 26, 1606, he landed at the Pennefather River on the western shore of Cape York in Queensland, near the modern town of Weipa-the first recorded European landing on the Australian continent. Janszoon proceeded to chart some 320 kilometers (199 miles) of coastline that he thought was a southern extension of New Guinea. In 1615, Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten's tour of Cape Horn showed that Tierra del Fuego was a relatively small island.

In 1642-1644 Abel Tasman, also a Dutch explorer and merchant in the service of the VOC, circumnavigated New Holland proving that Australia was not part of the mythical southern continent. He was the first known European expedition to reach Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and New Zealand and to sight Fiji in 1643. Tasman, his navigator Visscher and his merchant Gilsemans also mapped substantial portions of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands.

In the mid-16th century the Tsar of Russia conquered the Tatar Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, thus annexing the entire Volga region and paving the way to the Ural Mountains. The colonization of Russia's new easternmost lands and further eastward assault were led by the wealthy Stroganov merchants. Tsar Ivan IV granted vast estates near the Urals and tax privileges to Anikey Stroganov, who organized large-scale migration to these lands. The Stroganovs developed agriculture, hunting, salt pans, fishing and mineral extraction on the Urals and established trade with Siberian tribes.

Conquest of the Khanate of Sibir

Around 1577, Semyon Stroganov and other sons of Anikey Stroganov hired a Cossack chief named Ermak Timofeevič to protect their lands from attacks by Küçüm of the Sibir Khanate. In 1580 Stroganov and Ermak had the idea of a military expedition to Siberia to fight Küçüm in his own land. In 1581 Ermak began his journey into the depths of Siberia. After some victories over the khan's army, Ermak's people defeated Küçüm's main forces on the Irtysh River in the 3-day battle of Cape Čuvaš in 1582. The remnants of the khan's army retreated to the steppes and Ermak conquered the khanate including its capital, Qashiliq, near modern Tobol'sk. Küçüm was still strong enough to counterattack, however, and in 1585, in a night attack, he massacred his enemies. Wounded, Ermak tried to swim across the Wagay River, a tributary of the Irtysh, but drowned under the weight of his chain mail. The Cossacks had to retreat completely from Siberia, but thanks to Ermak's exploration of all the main river routes in western Siberia, the Russians successfully recaptured all these lands years later.

Siberian river routes

In the early 17th century, the eastward movement of Russians was slowed down by the country's internal problems during the so-called "Turmoil Period" (1598-1613). With the rise of the Romanov Dynasty, exploration and colonization of the vast territories of Siberia soon resumed. The Cossacks, hunting for valuable furs and ivory, continued with their land penetration from the southern Urals. A second exploratory vector came, however, from the Arctic Ocean by the Pomorys of northern Russia, who had long been trading furs by sea with Mangazeja in northern West Siberia. In 1607 the settlement of Turuchansk was established on the northern Enisej River near the mouth of the Lower Tunguska, and in 1619 the ostrog (lit. "Fort") of Enisejsk was founded on the middle Yenisei at the mouth of the Upper Tunguska. Taking advantage of a ship type in use since the 11th century, the Koč, the Pomory had laid the foundation for circumpolar maritime exploration. Thanks to its leather hull planking (ru. koca) and special hull and rudder configuration, the koč could sail without damage in waters with floating ice blocks and ice floes-it was the only vessel of its kind for centuries, the ancestor of modern icebreakers.

Between 1620 and 1624, a group of fur trappers led by Demid Pyanda left Turuchansk and explored about 1 430 miles (2 301 kilometers) of Lower Tunguska, wintering near the Viljuj and Lena rivers. According to later legendary accounts, Pyanda discovered the Lena River. Supposedly, he explored about 1 500 miles (2 414 kilometers) of its length, reaching as far as central Yakutia. He returned to the Lena until it became too rocky and shallow and moved into the Angara River. Pyanda may have been the first Russian to encounter jakuti and buriati. He built new boats and explored about 870 miles (1 400 kilometers) of the Angara, eventually reaching Yeniseysk and discovering that the Angara (a Buryat name) and the Upper Tunguska (ru. Verkhnyaya Tunguska) were the same river.

In 1627 Pyotr Ivanovič Beketov was appointed Yenisei Voivoda in Siberia. He successfully traveled to the Zabaykalye Buryat to collect taxes there, becoming the first Russian to set foot in Buryatia. Here he founded the first Russian settlement, Rybinsky ostrog. Beketov was sent to the Lena River in 1631, where he founded Jakutsk in 1632 and sent his Cossacks to explore the Aldan and lower Lena to establish forts and collect taxes there. Jakutsk soon became the starting point for further Russian expeditions to the east, south and north. Maksim Perfilyev, already one of the founders of Enisejsk, founded Bratsky's ostrog on the Angara in 1631 and in 1638 became the first Russian to enter Transbajkal, traveling from Yakutsk. In 1643 Kurbat Afanas'evič Ivanov led a group of Cossacks from Jakutsk south to the Baikal Mountains and discovered Lake Baikal, visiting Ol'chon Island. Subsequently, he made the first chart and description of Baikal.

Russians reach the Pacific

In 1639 a group of explorers led by Ivan Jur'evič Moskvitin were the first Russians to reach the Pacific Ocean and discover the Ochotsk Sea, having built a winter camp on its shore at the mouth of the Ulya River. The Cossacks learned from the natives of the great Amur River to the south. In 1640 they apparently sailed south, explored the southeastern coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, perhaps reaching the mouth of the Amur and perhaps discovering the Šantar Islands on their way back. Based on Moskvitin's account, Kurbat Afanas'evič Ivanov drew the first Russian map of the Far East in 1642.

In 1643, Vasily Danilovič Poyarkov crossed the Stanovoy Mountains and reached the upper Zeya River in the country of the Daur paying tribute to the Manchus. After wintering, in 1644 Poyarkov descended the Zeya and was the first Russian to reach the Amur, which he sailed to its mouth. Because his Cossacks provoked the enmity of the natives, Poyarkov chose another route back. They built boats and in 1645 sailed along the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk to the Ulya River and spent the following winter in the huts that had been built by Ivan Jur'evič Moskvitin six years earlier. In 1646 they returned to Yakutsk.

In 1644 Michail Staduchin discovered the Kolyma River and founded Srednekolymsk. A merchant named Fedot Alekseevič Popov organized an expedition eastward, and Semën Ivanovič Dežnëv became captain of one of the kočs. In 1648 they sailed from Srednekolymsk to the Arctic and after some time rounded Cape Dežnëv, thus becoming the first explorers to pass through the Bering Strait and discover the Chukci Peninsula and the Bering Sea. All their koč and most of their men (including Popov himself) were lost in storms and clashes with the natives. A small group led by Dezhnyov reached the mouth of the Anadyr River and sailed up it in 1649, after building new boats from the wreckage. They founded Anadyrsk and were stranded there until Stadukhin, arriving from Kolyma by land, found them. Stadukhin pointed south in 1651 and discovered Penžina Bay on the northern coast of the Ochotsk Sea. He may also have explored the western coast of Kamčatka.

In 1649-50 Erofey Pavlovič Chabarov became the second Russian to explore the Amur River. Crossing the Olëkma, Tungur, and Šilka rivers he reached Amur (Transbajkal), returned to Jakutsk and then back to Amur with a larger force in 1650-1653, encountering armed resistance. He built winter quarters in Albazin, then sailed down the Amur and found Achansk preceding present-day Chabarovsk, defeating or evading large armies of Chinese and Koreans, Daurians and Manchus along the way. He traced the Amur in his Amur River Project. The Russians held the Amur region until 1689, when the Treaty of Nerčinsk assigned it to the Chinese Empire (it was returned by the Treaty of Aigun in 1858).

In 1659-1665 Kurbat Afanas'evič Ivanov was the head of Anadyrsky ostrog after Dežnëv. In 1660 he sailed from Anadyr' Gulf to Cape Dežnëv. Ivanov is credited with the creation of the first map of the Chukci Peninsula and the Bering Strait, which was the first to show on paper (in a very schematic way) the as yet unknown Wrangel Island, the Diomede Islands and Alaska, based on data collected from Chukotka natives.

By the mid-17th century, the Russians had more or less mapped out the present borders of their country and explored almost all of Siberia except eastern Kamchatka and some regions north of the Arctic Circle. The conquest of Kamchatka would be achieved in the early 1700s by Vladimir Vasil'evič Atlasov, while the discovery of the Arctic coast and Alaska would be completed by the Second Expedition to Kamčatka in 1733-1743.

European expansion overseas led to contact between the Old and New Worlds producing the so-called "Columbian Exchange." The first trade globalization was related to silver (16th-18th centuries) and had as its aftermath European involvement in the Chinese porcelain trade. Unique goods began to be transferred en masse from one hemisphere to the other. Europeans brought cattle, horses, and sheep to the New World and obtained tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, and corn. Important items and raw materials in global trade were tobacco, sugar cane and cotton from the Americas, along with gold and silver brought from the American continent not only to Europe but elsewhere in the Old World.

The formation of new transoceanic ties and the subsequent expansion of European influence led to the era of imperialism, a historical period that began during the Age of Discovery in which European colonial powers gradually subjugated most of the planet. European demand for trade, goods, colonies and slaves drastically impacted the rest of the world: during the European colonization of the Americas, European powers conquered and colonized numerous indigenous nations and cultures, conducted forced conversions and attempted forced cultural assimilation. Combined with the introduction of infectious diseases from Europe, these events led to a drastic decrease in the indigenous American population. Indigenous accounts of European colonization have been summarized by scholar Peter C. Mancall as such: "the arrival of Europeans brought death, deportation, grief, and despair to Native Americans." In some areas such as North America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina, indigenous people were mistreated and driven from most of their lands, being reduced to small, dependent minorities.

Similarly, in West and East Africa, local states satisfied the appetite of European slave traders, changing the structure of coastal African states and substantially altering the nature of slavery in Africa, with drastic impacts on inland societies and economies.

Native Americans lived in North America at the time of colonization and still do today. They had many conflicts with Europeans, almost always to the benefit of the colonizers. Native exposure to Old World diseases wiped out 50-90% of their population ( History of the Population of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas).

Corn and cassava were introduced to Africa in the 16th century by the Portuguese. They are now important staple foods, alternatives to native crops. Alfred W. Crosby hypothesized that increased production of maize, cassava and other New World crops led to greater population concentrations in the slaveholders' hunting areas.

In the global silver trade from the 16th to the 18th century, the Ming were stimulated by trade with the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch. Much of the global silver trade ended up in the hands of the Chinese, and China dominated silver imports, receiving, between 1600 and 1800, an average of 100 tons of silver per year. A large population near the Lower Yangzte averaged hundreds of taels of silver per family in the late 16th century. Overall, more than 150,000 tons of silver were shipped from Potosí by the end of the 18th century. From 1500 to 1800, Mexico and Peru produced about 80 percent of the world's silver, of which more than 30 percent ended up in China, largely due to European merchants using it to buy exotic Chinese products. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Japan also exported heavily to China and in foreign trade in general. Trade with European powers and the Japanese brought huge amounts of silver, which then replaced copper and paper bills as the common medium of exchange in China. During the last Ming decades the flow of silver into China declined significantly, thus undermining state revenues and the entire Chinese economy, a damage compounded by the effects on agriculture of the incipient Little Ice Age, natural disasters, poor harvests, and sudden epidemics. The resulting collapse of authority and livelihood allowed rebel leaders such as Li Zicheng to challenge central imperial authority.

New crops that came to Asia from the Americas via the Spanish in the 16th century contributed to the growth of the Asian population. Although most of the imports to China were silver, the Chinese also purchased provisions from the New World: sweet potatoes, corn, and peanuts. These foods could be grown in lands where traditional Chinese staple crops (wheat, millet, and rice) did not grow, thus facilitating an increase in the Chinese population: by the time of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), rice had become the staple food of the poor but was supplanted by sweet potatoes introduced around 1560.

The arrival of the Portuguese in Japan in 1543 initiated the so-called "Nanban Trade Period" of Japanese history. The Japanese adopted various European technologies and cultural practices: the arquebus, plate armor, European ships, Christianity, decorative art, and language. After the Chinese had banned their merchants from direct trade with Japan, the Portuguese filled this void as intermediaries between China and Japan: they bought Chinese silk and sold it to the Japanese in exchange for their silver, highly valued in China and able to secure the purchase of larger quantities of silk. In 1573, after the Spanish established a base in Manila, the Portuguese intermediary trade was crushed by the arrival of Spanish-American silver in China. Although China acted as a cog in the wheel of global trade in the 16th and 18th centuries, Japan's enormous contribution in silver exports to China was critical to the world economy and to the liquidity and availability of Chinese goods.

Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was the first European to enter the Forbidden City. He taught the Chinese how to build and play the spinet, translated Chinese texts into Latin and vice versa, and worked closely with Chinese Xu Guangqi (1562-1633) on mathematical studies.

Economic impact in Europe

As a wider variety of global luxury goods entered European markets by sea, previous European luxury markets stagnated. The Atlantic trade largely supplanted the maritime republics and hanse and their trade network with Baltic, Russian, and Islamic. The new raw materials also caused social development, as sugar, spices, silks and porcelain entered the luxury markets of Europe.

Europe's economic center shifted from the Mediterranean to Western Europe. The city of Antwerp, part of the Duchy of Brabant, became "the center of the entire international economy," and the richest city in Europe at this time. Concentrated first in Antwerp and then in Amsterdam, the so-called "Dutch Golden Age" was closely linked to the Age of Discovery. Francesco Guicciardini, a Venetian envoy, stated that hundreds of ships passed through Antwerp every day and that 2,000 wagons entered the city every week. Portuguese ships laden with pepper and cinnamon were unloading there. With many foreign merchants residing in the city and a dominant oligarchy of banker-aristocrats who were forbidden to engage in trade, Antwerp's economy was controlled by foreigners, which made the city very international, with merchants and traders from Venice, Ragusa, Spain, and Portugal and a policy of tolerance that attracted a large Orthodox Jewish community. The city experienced three booms during its Golden Age, the first based on the pepper market, the second on New World silver from Seville (ended by the Spanish bankruptcy of 1557), and a third, after the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), on the textile industry.

Despite initial hostilities, by 1549 the Portuguese were sending annual trade missions to Shangchuan Island, China. In 1557 they succeeded in convincing the Ming to agree to a legal port treaty establishing Macau as an official Portuguese trading colony. The Portuguese friar Gaspar da Cruz (c. 1520, Feb. 5, 1570) wrote the first comprehensive book on China and the Ming dynasty to be published in Europe; it included information on its geography, provinces, royalty, official class, bureaucracy, navigation, architecture, agriculture, handicrafts, mercantile affairs, clothing, religious and social customs, music and instruments, writing, education and justice.

From China, the major exports were silk and porcelain, adapted to European tastes. Chinese export porcelain was held in such high regard in Europe that, in English, china became a commonly used synonym for porcelain. Kraak porcelain, which is believed to take its name from the Portuguese caracas in which it was transported, was among the first Chinese ceramics to arrive in Europe en masse. Only the very wealthy could afford these early imports, and Kraak was often featured in Dutch still lifes. Soon the Dutch East India Company established a brisk trade with the East, importing 6 million porcelain wares from China to Europe between the years 1602 and 1682. Chinese workmanship impressed many. Between 1575 and 1587 the Medici Porcelain of Florence was the first successful attempt to imitate kraak. Although Dutch potters did not immediately imitate Chinese porcelain, they began to do so when the supply to Europe was disrupted by the death of Emperor Wanli in 1620. Kraak, mainly the blue and white type, was imitated worldwide by potters in Arita, Japan, and Persia, where Dutch merchants turned when the fall of the Ming made Chinese originals unavailable, and finally in Delftware. Dutch and later English Delft wares inspired by Chinese designs persisted from about 1630 until the mid-18th century, along with European designs.

Antonio de Morga (1559-1636), a Spanish official in Manila, listed an inventory of goods that were traded from Ming China at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, noting that there were "rarities that, I refer to all of them, I would never run out of, nor would I have enough paper to do so." After noting the variety of silk goods traded with Europeans, Ebrey writes of the considerable size of trade transactions: In one case a Spanish galleon from the New World carried over 50,000 pairs of silk stockings. In return, China imported from Manila mainly silver from Peruvian and Mexican mines. Chinese merchants were active in these trade ventures, and many emigrated to places such as the Philippines and Borneo to take advantage of the opportunities.

The increase in gold and silver experienced by Spain coincided with a major European-wide inflationary cycle known as the price revolution. Spain had accumulated large quantities of gold and silver from the New World. Large-scale silver mining from Guanajuato began in 1540. With the opening of the Zacatecas and Potosí silver mines in Bolivia in 1546, large shipments of silver became the legendary source of Spanish wealth. During the 16th century, Spain held the equivalent of US$1.5 trillion (1990 estimates) in gold and silver from New Spain. As the most powerful European monarch in an era filled with wars and religious conflicts, the king of Spain spent the wealth on wars and arts throughout Europe. "Here I learned a proverb," said a French traveler in 1603: "Everything is dear in Spain except silver." The spent silver, suddenly widespread in a previously money-starved Europe, caused widespread inflation, compounded by population growth with static output, low wages and a rising cost of living to the detriment of local industry. Spain became increasingly dependent on revenue from the mercantile empire in the Americas and experienced its first bankruptcy in 1557 due to rising military costs. Philip II of Spain defaulted on debt payments in 1557, 1560, 1575, and 1596. Rising prices due to monetary circulation fueled the growth of the commercial middle class in Europe, the bourgeoisie, which came to influence the politics and culture of many countries in the following centuries.

One effect of inflation, particularly in Britain, was a decrease in rent for tenant farmers who held long-term leases from the lords. Some lords chose to sell their land for rent, generating a new class of small farmers such as the Yeoman and "country gentlemen."


  1. Age of Discovery
  2. Età delle scoperte
  3. ^ Major ports in their respective regions included Palembang on the Malaccan Strait, Calicut on the Malabar coast, and Mombasa on the Swahili Coast (see Sen 2016).
  4. ^ L'importanza delle spezie per i principi dell'umorismo medievale della medicina era tale che poco dopo essere entrati nel commercio, speziali e medici come Tomé Pires e Garcia de Orta (Burns 2001, p. 14) furono inviati in India dopo aver studiato le spezie in opere come Suma Oriental (Pires 1512, p. lxii) e Colóquios dos simples e drogas da India ("Conversazioni sui semplici, le droghe e la materia medica dell'India).
  5. Mancall 1999, pp. 26—53.
  6. Parry 1963, pp. 1—5.
  7. Arnold 2002, p. 11.
  8. Со смертью открывшего Гавайские острова для европейцев Джеймса Кука год спустя, связывают и окончание эпохи Великих географических открытий [1] Архивная копия от 18 апреля 2023 на Wayback Machine.
  9. Houben, 2002, pp. 102—104.
  10. Este asunto trajo de cabeza a los matemáticos y navegantes durante siglos, así como a los Imperios del momento. La cuestión de la longitud se convirtió en materia de Estado: la cada vez más frecuente. La navegación oceánica carecía de algo tan elemental como poder determinar con precisión una de las coordenadas de la posición de un buque en alta mar. Las consecuencias eran pérdidas de tiempo, de cargas, y, como no, naufragios frecuentes. No será sino hasta el siglo XVIII cuando el relojero inglés John Harrison resuelve el problema al construir un cronómetro eficaz. A partir de entonces cualquier nave conocía la hora del puerto de salida, en cualquier momento, de modo que comparándola con la hora de a bordo al culminar el Sol -mediodía-, u otro astro conocido, la longitud de la posición, el meridiano, se calculaba inmediatamente.
  11. También conocidos como bromas, los teredos son unos moluscos marinos que taladran la madera sumergida, excavando túneles en ella. Podían ser devastadores en las naves de entonces, destruyendo, literalmente, los cascos.

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