The Age of European Exploration summary and notes



The Age of European Exploration summary and notes


The following texts are the property of their respective authors and we thank them for giving us the opportunity to share for free to students, teachers and users of the Web their texts will used only for illustrative educational and scientific purposes only.


All the information in our site are given for nonprofit educational purposes

The information of medicine and health contained in the site are of a general nature and purpose which is purely informative and for this reason may not replace in any case, the council of a doctor or a qualified entity legally to the profession.



The Age of European Exploration summary and notes

A.P. European History Notes
Session 6: “1400-1800 :: The Age of European Exploration”

  1. Vocabulary
    1. Bartolomeu Dias: early Portuguese explorer who summarized the European motives for exploration “to serve God and His Majesty, to give light to those who were in darkness and to grow rich as all men desire to do.”
    2. Prince Henry the Navigator: Son of the king and Portugal’s most influential supporter of overseas exploration, Prince Henry helped conquer the Muslim city of Ceuta in North Africa and subsequently funded a navigation school on the southwestern coast of Portugal where cartographers, instrument makers, shipbuilders, scientists, and sea captains worked to perfect their trade.
  2. Europeans Explore the East
      1. During the same period that Martin Luther was shaking up the Catholic Church, Europeans were laying the foundation to venture beyond their borders. 
        1. Encouraged by the Renaissance’s spirit of adventure and equipped with new technological advances, Europeans set out to explore the far reaches of the world, the consequences of which changed the world forever. 
  3. Factors that Encouraged Exploration
    1. Although 1400 – 1800 is considered “the Age of Exploration,” in fact, Europeans had previously been in contact with the outside world. 
      1. Beginning around 1100 European Crusaders battled Muslims for control of the Holy Lands in the Middle East.
      2. In 1275 Marco Polo made contact with Kublai Khan’s court in China.
      3. However, real age of European exploration began after an interesting nexus of circumstances converged. 
    2. Europeans seek Greater Wealth
      1. During the Crusades, Europeans were introduced to Asian spices and other luxury goods.  After the Crusades, Europeans continued to demand nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper to flavor their foods. 
      2. The extreme demand for these goods motivated European merchants and traders make in-roads into the market for these goods previously controlled by Muslims and Italians.
      3. Seeking to bypass the high fees charged by Italian middle-men, Europeans ventured out into the oceans to find a direct route to Asia.
      4. Mercantilism – the conscious pursuit by European governments of policies designed to increase national wealth – became the dominant economic theory during the 17th century. 
        1. Its primary objective was to create a favorable balance of trade by increasing exports and decreasing imports. 
        2. Colonies are then sought to serve as a source of cheap raw materials for the mother country, as well as to provide markets for excess goods.
    3. The Spread of Christianity
      1. Encouraged by the Great Commission, European nations felt that they had an obligation to convert non-Christians throughout the world.
      2. So in addition to obtaining goods from the peoples of Asia, Europeans also sought to Christianize them, as shown by Diaz’s quote.
      3. By 1550 Jesuit missionaries, such as Francis Xavier, were taking the Gospel India and Japan.
      4. Unhappy with the Anglican Church, the English south permanent settlements in North America early in the 17th century.
    4. Technological Advances
      1. The advent of the Caravel, with its triangular sails that enabled European ships to sail against the wind, made previously impossible travel possible.
      2. The astrolabe and the magnetic compass enabled Europeans to precisely determine their location and accurately track their direction at sea.
    5. The Population Explosion (to a much lesser extent)
      1. Having been stagnated by the Black Death, European population nearly doubled between 1500 and 1650.
      2. Cities grew much faster than the population as a whole, as evidenced when London’s population quadrupled from 50k in 1500 to 200k in 1650.
  4. Portugal Leads the Way
    1. Located on the Continental Europe’s Atlantic coast, Portugal led European exploration, establishing trading posts along Africa’s West Coast.
    2. Motivated by his discoveries of large quantities of cinnamon, cloves, silver, and gold, Prince Henry returned to Europe (from Ceuta) determined to establish a navigational school to train explorers to reach these sources of wealth in the east
    3. Portuguese ships made their way down the Western Coast of Africa, stopping to trade initially for gold and ivory, and subsequently engaging in the trade for human souls.
    4. In 1487 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the tip of Africa.
      1. In 1498 Vasco da Gama reached the port of Calicut, India, where his crew was amazed by the spices, silks, and gems of the local shops. Da Gama returned to Europe to a hero’s welcome.
  5. Spanish Exploration
    1. Envious of Portugal’s trading posts along the West African coast, the Spanish monarchs had long desired a direct route to Asia’s treasures.
      1. Conquests of the Aztecs by Hernando Cortes and the Incas by Francisco Pizarro bolstered Spain’s treasury. 
      2. In 1492, Christopher Columbus convinced Ferdinand and Isabella to finance his bold plan to reach India by sailing – you got it – WEST.
      3. Not to be outdone, E.G. Nerdenbachum, of French acclaim, tried desperately to dig his way to China through the Earth’s Core.  No word yet as to his success or failure, but word on the street has it that he had about as much luck as Steve Irwin with that manta-ray.  But I digress.
      4. In October of 1492, Columbus landed in the Caribbean.
        1. Dude was really convinced that he was in India, so he mis-diagnosed the locals and gave them a name which has subsequently become very non-PC. So we now call them First Americans, (or as I refer to them - poor disease infested, land taken away from, reservation living, intermingled with every subsequent ethnic group, but still denied your rightful place in the history textbooks and excluded from any significant SOL content strand so we skip right over your history and move on to British colonization-Americans).
        2. Tensions grew as Portugal thought Columbus had claimed for Spain lands that had previously been discovered by the Portuguese.  So Pope Alexander VI established a line of demarcation via the Treaty of Tordesillas
  6. Trading Empires in the Indian Ocean
    1. After da Gama’s voyage, European nations clashed as they competed to establish trading outposts along the shores of South and Southwest Asia (the Middle East).
    2. Portugal’s Trading Empire:  The Portuguese built a thriving trading empire throughout the Indian Ocean after da Gama’s voyage.
      1. By 1509, they had taken control of the spice trade previously dominated by Muslims.
      2. In 1510, the Portuguese captured the city of Goa, located on India’s west coast, and made it the capital city of their trading empire.
      3. In 1511, Alfonso de Albuquerque led a Portuguese fleet that seized control of the city of Malacca and the Straits of Malacca.  This waterway gave them control of the Moluccas, an island network that would come to be known as the Spice Islands.
      4. Having cut out the Italian and Muslim middle men, Portuguese merchants brought Asian luxuries to Europe at 20% of the previous cost, affording much wanted goods to larger and larger amounts of people.  The increased demand then served to spur further exploration from other European nations.
    3. Ferdinand Magellan led an expedition to the Philippines in 1521, claiming the islands for Spain.
      1. By 1565, Spanish settlers inhabited the islands.
      2. By 1600, several European nations had begun to explore Asia in attempts to establish their own trading empires in the East.
  7. The Portuguese are Driven Out
    1. By 1600, the English and the Dutch (the Netherlands) both posed a threat to Portuguese domination of the Indian Ocean market.
    2. Equipped with the world’s largest fleet of ships, the Dutch (with help from Britain) wrestled control of the Asian region from the Portuguese.
    3. The Dutch and English then competed with one another for control of the region.
      1. The Dutch East India Company had more wealth and power than England’s East India Company, although each could coin money, make treaties with foreign powers, and raise their own armies.
      2. The Dutch expelled the British from the region and established themselves as the dominant force in Asia with trading headquarters at Batavia on the island of Java. From there, they seized the Port of Malacca and the Spice Islands from Portugal. By 1700, the Dutch ruled large portions of Indonesia and they controlled the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.
      3. The influx of goods from Asia transformed Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, into a thriving commercial center.
      4. Not to be outdone, the English concentrated its commercial energies on India, where they successfully traded for fine cloth.
      5. Ever the copycat, France created its own East India company and established a small outpost in India by the 1720s.  Per usual, the French company did not make a huge profit, providing comedians the world over with yet another opportunity to point out that France is not really worth mentioning in the same breath with the other great European powers, much less the United States.  But again, I digress.
  8. China Rejects European Outreach
    1. Although Europeans establish several port cities throughout Asia, their influence did not penetrate deep into continental Asia, with particularly minor impact on China and Japan.
  9. Long Term Consequences of European Thought on Exploration
    1. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans developed a quasi caste system whereby people, usually as members of groups, were ranked from highest to lowest relative to their power, wealth, or status.
    2. This view will have an immeasurable impact on the peoples in which Europeans come in contact during exploration – particularly the African and Native American people groups.
    3. As you already know, European diseases killed approximately 25 million Native Americans (roughly 80%). Native Americans were seen as an inferior people group. Coupled with their distinctly different views on land ownership and their penchant for warring amongst one another, Native Americans easily fell prey to subjugation and enslavement.
    4. High mortality rates among Native Americans necessitated another labor force to work the sugar plantations in Brazil and the Caribbean, as well as to cultivate cash crops of rice, tobacco, and indigo in the American colonies.  As such, Europeans began transporting slaves from Africa to the Americas. 


Source :

Web site link:

Google key word : The Age of European Exploration summary and notes file type : doc

Author :

Davis & Bakkal, Adapted from World History: Patterns of Interaction. McDougal Little, 1999


not clearly ndicated on the source document of the above text

If you are the author of the text above and you not agree to share your knowledge for teaching, research, scholarship (for fair use as indicated in the United States copyrigh low) please send us an e-mail and we will remove your text quickly.


The Age of European Exploration summary and notes


If you want to quickly find the pages about a particular topic as The Age of European Exploration summary and notes use the following search engine:




The Age of European Exploration summary and notes


Please visit our home page Terms of service and privacy page




The Age of European Exploration summary and notes