The Age of Exploration
Countries along the Atlantic seaboard were the leader in exploration these included Spain, Portugal and later England, France and the Netherlands. They all started exploring for one reason to find a quick and easy way to the Far East that provided them with silks, spices, and other valuable Chinese and Japanese products. They all knew about these wonderful products through the stories of Marco Polo but were unable to trade directly with the Far East. The Moslem distributor controlled the direct land and water routes between India and the Mediterranean.
The long overland route through central Asia was impractical for regular use. The Italians had a monopoly over the Eastern trade route and were happy with it even though the distributor took most of the profits. Before the 1400’s governments did not get involved in exploration as they had been in the middle of the crusades and could not afford the manpower or expenses that would accompany it. They started to explore not out of greed but out of necessity as the gold mines of Ireland, and the silver mines of Germany were running out.
And they needed the spices not to living their food up but to make it edible as they had no other ways to preserve their meats. Also after the Crusades they wanted to convert all the natives to their religion of Christianity, and they found out that it was necessary to become financially independent and that wars were costly. The early explorers were able to get the backing of their monarchies as estimates of the size of the world were greatly inaccurate on the small side.
It was relatively easy to get sailors as the average life expectancy was around 30 years of age nd the pay was better for exploration voyages compared to voyages in familiar waters. Most captains were not in for money or riches but for the honor, fame and recognition of discovering a new place and naming it after yourself. The ship of choice early on was a caravel, it was a European version of an ancient Arab ship. 1 It had three triangular sails instead of two round ones and it was seventy feet long with room for 20 men and their supplies.
Its most important feature was that it could turn into the wind and come home. They usually traveled in groups of three to five with one of them being strictly a supply ship, and another being a faster ship that could fetch help or be first back home with news. 2 The ships were also improved by new arrangements of sail and masts that permitted the ship to be larger. The steering oar was replaced by a rudder, with the overall boat being narrower improving its speed, maneuverability and performance.
Sailors’ confidence improved as they past points were there boats were supposed to burst into flames, fall off the earth as well as numerous ther myths about the oceans that did not come true. Maps, charts, and tables improved. By the early 1500’s useful maps of Africa, South Asia, South America and the Caribbean existed. Soon maps of west Africa, India, Newfoundland, and the West Indies existed. Maps were also becoming less distorted by drawing areas around equator in proper proportions while extreme northern and southern areas are distorted.
This is compensated for by two polar projections in the corners. With the invention of the printing press more people learned about these discoveries, and were quicker to join he ever increasing rush to stake claims in the new world. In 1515 the first picture of the southern sky was made as no European had been south of the equator before now. Mediterranean ports became secondary to the northern European ports and cities that would rise to both economic and political importance. The everyday person benefited by not only expanding their knowledge of the world but by also having extravagant furnishings, architecture, inter decorations, and utensils.
A variety of foods either entered their everyday diet r old-favorites became cheaper and more readily available. The Europeans had the highest standard of living during this time and the technological, economical, and psychological superiority to carry out a sustained program of exploration. They dominated the new worlds as they found people that were either too primitive, too ill armed, too caught up in local rivalries or too indifferent to oppose them. That is why the age of exploration happened in Europe and while they were at peace after gaining valuable exploring techniques during the Crusades.