Although the Empires of Spain and Portugal were short lived, they are worth a mention, because they changed Europe economically and had a great impact on other European countries.
Historians call the period from 1450 to 1650 the ‘Age of Discovery”.
FYI: Did you know that in the 15th century, Europeans knew little more about earth’s surface than the Romans had known?
By 1650, however, Europeans made an extensive reconnaissance and sketched fairly accurately the physical outline of the whole earth.
In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks had a strong presence in Europe. They imposed a military blockade on Eastern Europe, thus forcing Europeans’ attention westward.
Portugal, situated on the extreme southwestern edge of the European continent, got a start on the rest of Europe. When it took the city in northern Morocco, it marked the beginning of European exploration and control of overseas territories. The objectives were the search for gold, an overseas route to the spice markets of India as well as the Christianization of Muslims.
FYI: “Prince Henry “The Navigator” financed expeditions to Africa, since that’s where most European gold came from.
You could say that Portugal had a monopoly on gold trade, since the Portuguese ships brought the gold in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. The golden century of Portuguese prosperity has begun.
Figure 2. Caravels were newly developed Portuguese ships. They were light, good in battle and could travel long distances very quickly.
Political centralization in Spain helped to explain why the country tried to push outward. In the 15th century, the king and queen of Spain has consolidated their several kingdoms to achieve a more unified Spain. The Spanish monarchy was stronger than ever before and in a position to support the foreign ventures, since it could bear the costs and dangers of exploration. Such explorers as Christopher Columbus were supported to sail and find the East.
Figure 3. Columbus, with his three ships, is seen here on his voyage to, what he believed, was India. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand financed many expeditions like these.
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