Explorers reach the Americas summary and notes




Explorers reach the Americas summary and notes


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Explorers reach the Americas summary and notes


Explorers reach the Americas (1000-1535)


Section 1


A Changing Europe- the Norse in North America. Leif Erickson a Norseman landed in North America in the winter of 1001. He returned home with reports that America was a land with streams filled with salmon, and vines bent with weight of juicy grapes. He called the land Vinland.


The Norse did not create maps or write reports of where they had only records of their journey were Norse legends, known as sagas. Newfoundland in present day Canada is where they landed.


Europe and the Middle Ages- the fall of the Roman Empire in the year 476 marked the beginning of the middle Ages in Europe.


The Feudal System- when Roman rule disappeared, Europe broke up into hundreds of small kingdoms. The power of King and Queens- or monarchs who headed the kingdoms was weak. They often competed with large landowners- called lords- in their own kingdom.

Manors- were tiny independent kingdoms. People who lived on a manor performed services for the lord. In exchange the lord promised to protect them. This system of managing the land and its people is called the feudal system.


Landless peasants or surfs, which lived and worked on a manor farmed small plots and shared their harvests with the lords.


Decline of the Feudal System- many workers who had been tied to the manor were not happy with their lives moved into towns. They became craft workers or started businesses. But towns had their problems too. They were very crowded and dirty.


Between 1347 and 1352 a deadly disease spread throughout Europe, killed more than one-fourth of its population. It was the Black Death; the disease was carried by fleas on rats. The disaster broke down what remained of the feudal system.


Crusades to the Holy Land- between 1096 and 1270, the Christians and Muslims, fought a series of wars for the Holy Land, Palestine. Both Christians and Muslim believed the Holy Land to be sacred and too be their own.


During the first Crusades, Christians captured the city of Jerusalem. Although the Christians held the city for about 100 years, the Muslims eventually recaptured it.


The Crusades had an enormous impact on Europeans. They learned of riches of Asia, Spices, silk, porcelain, ivory, and jewels. They learned of medicines to cure the sick and new ways to use spices to prevent food from spoiling.


Stimulation Exploration


The Rise of Nations in Europe- France, England, Spain, and Portugal became world powers.


Italy- wealthy middle class merchants gained a monopoly or total control over trade with Muslim markets. From the Muslims they learned magnetic compasses and other sailing improvements. Europeans also shared the Muslim system of Math and styles of architecture.


Marco Polo- returned from China and told stories of “black stones”, or coal that fueled fires and of rubies the size of a man’s arm.


His book “Description of the World” stimulated interest in the world. This curiosity sparked a period of renewed interest in learning and knowledge called the Renaissance.


Europe’s Renaissance began in the middle 1300s and lasted until about 1600. The Renaissance was a time of creativity and experimentation. Artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci created beautiful paintings and drawings to show nature and people as they really looked.


William Shakespeare- produced great poems.


Section 2


Portugal and the Age of Exploration-


Prince Henry of Portugal- he was driven to make Portugal the worlds leading sea power. Two special goals for his country guided him.

  1. One goal was to find an ocean route around Africa to Asia.
  2. Was to locate the source of gold in Africa.


Navigation- science of piloting ships.


Caravel- triangular sails, for better sailing.


Prince Henry the Navigator-never commanded a ship, but because of knowledge and improvement in Navigation, his dream of making Portugal a leading sea power was to come true. Portugal led the rest of Europe into the great age of exploration. (1400-1500)


Three African Empires- Africa was a place with many people, languages, cultures, and long history of wealth and power. Search for Africa and its wealth begin.

Three large kingdoms- Ghana, Mali, and Songhai- controlled trade routes. Gold, Salt, Ivory, leather, iron, and other gold are passed back and forth through their markets.


Slavery begins- on the Slave Coast that the Portuguese developed a trade in human beings. They bought African’s back to Portugal and sold them as enslaved persons.


Enslaved Persons- is one forced to serve another person in ways decided by the slaveholder.


Important Portuguese explorers


Bartholomew Dias- sailed as far south as present day South Africa. He named the tip of Africa the Cape of Good Hope.


Vasco Da Gama- he rounded the Cape of Good Hope and crossed the Indian Ocean. In May of 1498 Da Gama landed in the west coast of India.


Section 3


Columbus Reaches the America’s


Columbus began his lifelong quest to reach Asia by sailing west, after reading Marco Polo, the description of the World. Columbus was turned down by King John of Portugal, he said that Columbus’ plan was to far to sail, lack of food, fresh water, and he believed the ships would not make it.


Columbus then took his plan to Spain to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, they agreed. On August 3rd 1492, Columbus left Spain with three small ships. The largest ship, his flagship was named the Santa Maria. The other two were the Pinta and Nina. After many days at sea the crew grew impatient. They demanded that Columbus turn back. If not, they would mutiny, or seize the captain and officers and take control of the ships. But after 70 days and 2400 miles of sailing, Columbus had found land. Columbus named the island, San Salvador for Spain.


Meeting with the Native Americans- Columbus met a Taino, a Native American who lived on the island. Because he was certain he had reached the Indies, Columbus called the people Indians.


Columbus also discovered Cuba. Columbus noticed the natives smoking a rolled up leave they called tobacco. Columbus and later explorers eventually introduced tobacco to Europe.


Columbus left Cuba and found his way to an Island he named Hispanido. Today this island is divided into the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.


A Hero’s Welcome- on March 4th, 1493 after 3 months of exploring the Caribbean, Columbus returned to Spain. Escorted by six Native Americans, Columbus brought to the king and queen gold jewelry and spices as proof that he had found what he still believed to be Indies. Columbus was rewarded with 3 more financed voyages. America was named after an Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, not Columbus.


Section 4


Early European Claims to the Americas- Spain conquers the Caribbean. The Spanish killed thousands of people. Those who survived were enslaved. They set up large plantations in the Caribbean Island, using the Native American’s as slaves to produce a crop (sugar cane, and cotton).


Columbian Exchange- the exchange of goods (slaves) and ideas between Europe and the America’s.


Spanish Priests in the Caribbean


Bartholome de Las Casas- worked among the Native Americans for 50 years.


Vasco Nunez de Balboa- was the first European to discover a way across the America’s. His route however was a land route. Balboa first sailed to Isthmus of Panama, the thin strip of land that joins North and South America. Balboa also claimed the Pacific Ocean.


Ferdinand Magellan- a Portuguese sea captain sailing for Spain. Magellan crossed the tip of South America and a treacherous straight- a narrow channel of water, later named the Straight of Magellan. Upon reaching the body of water, he named it Pacific Ocean, which means “peaceful”.


The English Sail West- John Cabot led England’s first voyage to America. Cabot took his first trip in 1497; he landed off the coast of Canada on present day Newfoundland. His second voyage however gave England its first claim to land in North America.


The French and the Northwest Passage- Giovanni Da Verrazano was the first Italian explorer in search of the Northwest Passage in 1524. He was the first European into the harbor of present day New York City.


French navigator Jacques Cartier made two voyages. He sailed partway up the St. Lawrence River and claimed present day Canada for France.



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