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Age of Exploration

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Age of Exploration

Beginning in the 15th century and ending in the 17th century, Europeans became fascinated with exploring new lands, discovering new sea routes, and accomplishing what was once considered impossible. What sparked this sudden interest in the land beyond their home? Who was the most memorable of the explorers? What did they find? What was the outcome of this exploration? Let's find out what the European Exploration was really about!

Age of Exploration Timeline

This timeline of events starts with Prince Henry the Navigator and ends with the creation of the Dutch East India Company. This chart will help us understand the order of events then we can look into the exploration of Africa and the Americas to know how they connect!

Year
Name
Description
1419
Henry the Navigator innovated sailing and sponsored voyages.
1488
Bartolomeu Dias
Sailed around the Cape of Good Hope.
1492
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus's first voyage lands in the Caribbean.
1493
The Line of Demarcation
Pope Alexander VI divided the non-European territory into two parts, one for Spain and the other for Portugal.
1494
Brazil
The Treaty of Tordesillas revisited the Line of Demarcation and gave Brazil to Portugal.
1497
Amerigo Vespucci
After exploring the Northern coast of South America, he claimed it was not Asia but a new continent!
1497
John Cabot
Arrived in New World and claimed it for England.
1498
Portuguese-Indian Trade Route
Vasco de Gama sailed around Africa and found a trade route to India.
1502
Portuguese-Indian Trade Deal
Vasco de Gama forces a trade deal onto India.
1507
Naming America
Martin Waldseemüller, a German mapmaker, named the "New World" on his map America after Amerigo Vespucci.
1521
Hernán Cortés
Defeats the Aztecs.
1522
The Vittoria
The Vittoria circumnavigates the world.
1533
Francisco Pizarro
Executed the last great Incan emperor.
1652
John van Riebeeck
Founded Dutch colony at Cape of Good Hope.
1600
East India Company
England launches the East India Trading Company.
1602
Dutch East India Company
Dutch founds the Dutch East India Trading Company.

Age of Exploration Map

Reference Map. Source: Wikimedia Commons (Edited by S. Oxendine)

Christopher Columbus and John Cabot made multiple voyages across the ocean. The map above illustrates their trips. Since these voyages took different routes, they are listed. Vasco da Gama took two expeditions, but they were on the same route, so only one was listed!

European Sailors During the Age of Exploration

The Ottomans controlled the trade routes between Europe and Asia. They heavily taxed the Europeans who wanted to trade with India. India had luxury items like spices, sugar, and teas, which were precious to Europeans. Because of this, the Europeans were racing to find a new trade route to India. Whoever found it first would generate wealth for their nations.

Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator was a Portuguese prince who sponsored voyages to explore the coast of Africa. His goal was to find new routes to India by having a crew sail around Africa. The prince hired mathematicians, sailors, mapmakers, shipbuilders, and more to improve Portuguese sailing. One of his most notable contributions to sailing was the caravel.

After Prince Henry died in 1460, Bartolomeu Dias would sail around the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. This feat put Portugal ahead in the race to find a sea route to India.

Age of Exploration Caravel StudySmarter

Caravel. Source: Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

What Made the Caravel Special?
The caravel was a smaller ship which meant that it could sail quicker than larger ones. It also had a lateen sail–based on a Muslim design. This triangular-shaped sail allowed sailors to sail with or against the wind.

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, an Italian voyager, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and landed on the island of Hispaniola (La Española), what is modern-day Haiti, in 1492. Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Argon, the Spanish queen and king, sponsored Columbus in an attempt to find a westward passage to Asia. He made four voyages but never found the westward passage. He did "discover" several islands inhabited by indigenous people–although he never set foot on the continent.

The Spanish Crown made Columbus governor of Hispaniola, and he established a colony on the island in 1493. It was not long before he enslaved the Taino people and forced them to find gold. In 1500, Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus for his mismanagement of the colony and the mistreatment of the colonists and indigenous people. Columbus was released when he returned to Spain but was not given back the colony.

Who were the Taino People?

The Taino people lived on the island of Hispaniola and spoke Arawak, like many of the Caribbean islanders. When Columbus first arrived on the island, the Taino were kind and traded with him. When Columbus returned, he enslaved them. The islanders had to find a certain amount of gold dust, and if they could not, then Columbus had their hands chopped off. There wasn't much gold on Hispaniola, but he did not unburden them from his demand for riches.

Vasco da Gama

In 1498, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to Calicut, India. Da Gama could not strike a trade deal with the Indians because they preferred to trade with the Ottomans. He returned in 1502 with a fleet of ships which he used to capture and burn a pilgrimaging Muslim ship, murdering four hundred men, women, and children.

After da Gama continued to terrorize the Indian coast, Calicut's ruler signed a trade deal in exchange for peace. Da Gama returned to Portugal as a hero, but people in India tell another story, as they suffered his most ruthless side–even some considered him to be a murderous villain. However, he is a national hero in Portugal because he won the European race to India by sea, which made them very wealthy.

Age of Exploration Explorers

The vast amount of land and possible riches being discovered, both Spain and Portugal felt entitled to those territories and began arguing over who got what. These peninsular empires called Pope Alexander VI in to divide the non-European world. He gave Spain what is on the left of the orange line on the map, and Portugal got the right. Portugal was upset it got much less so the Pope redrew the line in 1494 in the Treaty of Tordesillas (the pink line on the map).

Age of Exploration Line of Demarcation Map StudySmarter

Map of the Line of Demarcation. Source Wikimedia Commons (Edited by S. Oxendine)

John Cabot

John Cabot, a Genevan man like Christopher Columbus, was commissioned by Henry VII of England to find a Northern sea route to India. Cabot didn't find any sea routes to India, but he was the first European that discover North America during the Age of Exploration. In 1497, Cabot claimed the land that he found for England. This claim allowed the English colonies to settle in North America in 1607.

Cabot returned with three Inuit men who were assimilated into English culture. Their assimilation convinced the English that indigenous people of the Americas could be "civilized."

Assimilation:

Forcefully removing someone's culture and replacing it with one's own make them more like oneself.

Hernán Cortés

In 1519, Conquistador Hernán Cortés went to Central America intending to find gold, even disobeying the Spanish kings who ordered him to return. He gambled his destiny on finding riches no matter the cost for him and others. The price was the destruction of the Aztec empire and the decimation of the indigenous people–more than 90% of the original population of Mesoamerica would die after that exchange.

In the first contact, the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma II, displeased with Cortés's arrival, sent Cortés gold as a peace offering so that the conquistador would leave, but this only encouraged him to go further. Cortés was invited to the capital city Tenochtitlan in the second contact, where Montezuma welcomed him. Cortés had Montezuma kidnapped and then forced him to pledge loyalty to the King of Spain.

The Spanish treacherously slaughtered their hosts during a religious ceremony in which no Aztec warrior bared arms. This action was clear evidence for the population of the Spaniards' belligerent intentions. They revolt against the invaders, winning an ephemeral victory.

After some clashes against Cortés forces and his indigenous allies, a smallpox plague that annihilated the indigenous population, and the starving 93 days siege of the capital in which the Aztecs could not reprovision or ask their confederate tribes for help, Cortés claimed control of the Aztec capital and found a new realm there in 1521: New Spain.

Age of Exploration Montezuma II StudySmarter

Monetzuma II. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Outcomes of the Age of Exploration

The European explorations of this era linked nations together in a completely new way. European countries were profiting from new business ventures and even began creating companies like the Dutch East India Company, abbreviated to the VOC. This was all great for European countries but what about everyone else?

What was the Dutch East India Company?

The Dutch East India Company was a company founded by the Netherland government to create a monopoly (when one company controls the market of a supply) over the spice trade. The VOC even had its army that was used to force spice cultivators to deal exclusively with the company.

Vasco da Gama set a trend when he employed Portugal's military might to shock and demoralize India, coercing it into a trade deal. When European countries wanted to trade with foreign countries, they forced their way into the market. These foreign countries had little to no choice but to agree with the Europeans who had superior weapons.

When conquistadors and explorers came into contact with indigenous people, they brought diseases that the indigenous people had no immunities to. Many of these explorers slaughtered native people without cause. When they weren't murdering them, they were trying to assimilate them, to remove their cultures and anything that made them different.

Europeans needed labor with all of these new markets and colonies, so they turned to slavery. Importing indigenous people and Africans to work excruciating jobs, living as property until they died. The Age of Exploration connected humanity in a way that had never been done before but was the human price worth it?

Age of Exploration - Key takeaways

  • The Age of Exploration took place between the 15th and 17 centuries.
  • It connected people globally, which forever changed everyone's perspective of the world.
  • The Line of Demarcation split the non-European world into two parts Spain and Portugal.
  • The Age of Exploration came at the cost of human suffering.

Frequently Asked Questions about Age of Exploration

The Age of Exploration took place when Europeans began to explore Africa, the Americas, Africa, and Asia to a lesser extent. 

The Age of Exploration was when Europeans began to explore Africa, the Americas, Africa, and Asia to a lesser extent. 

The age of exploration took place between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The age of exploration allowed an exchange of information and goods between Europeans and people from all over the world. It also brought slavery, genocide, and cultural erasure to the rest of the world. 

The Renaissance contributed to the age of exploration by fostering Europeans' interest in natural sciences and exploration. It brought new tools and techniques that made longer sea journeys possible.

Final Age of Exploration Quiz

Question

When did the War of the Roses begin?

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Answer

1455

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Question

What year did the War of the Roses end?

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Answer

1485

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Question

Who was NOT a member of the Yorkist faction?

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Answer

Margaret of Anjou

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Question

Who was NOT a member of the Lancastrian faction?

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Answer

Edward IV

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Question

Which house represents the White Rose?

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Answer

York

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Which house represents the Red Rose?

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Answer

Lancaster

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Question

What was the first battle of the War of the Roses?

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Answer

The Battle of St. Albans

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Question

What was the final battle of the War of the Roses?

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Answer

The Battle of Bosworth Field

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Question

Who was Henry Tudor?

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Answer

The last Lancastrian, who overthrew Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and became King Henry VII, the first Tudor King.

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Question

Who was Richard III?

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Answer

Brother of King Edward IV. After Edward's death, he declared his brother's sons illegitimate and seized the crown for himself.

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Question

Who was Margaret of Anjou?

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Answer

As Henry VI's queen, Margaret led the Lancastrian faction against Richard of York. She was the major political player for her side due to Henry VI's frequent illnesses.

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Question

Who was the fictional king that caught the attention of Henry the Navigator?

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Answer

Prester John

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Question

True/False

Henry the Navigator is known for his exploration and sailing abilities.

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of these was not a reason for Henry's patronage of expeditions?

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Answer

Spreading Christianity 

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Question

What is the name of the triangular shaped sail that allowed boats to sail against the wind? 

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Answer

Lateen 

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Question

Which instrument allowed sailors to find their location using stars?

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Answer

Astrolabe  

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Question

Which instrument was used to find latitude and longitude? 

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Answer

Quadrant  

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Question

What trade did the Portuguese enter once they began exploring coastal Africa?

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Answer

Slave Trade

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Question

Which of these island chains was not a stepping stone for explorers? 

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Answer

Cape Verde Islands

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Question

Which explorer was the first to sell around the Cape of Africa? 

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Answer

Bartholomew Dias

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Question

Who was the first European to sail around Africa and to India?

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Answer

Vasco de Gama

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Question

What did Vasco da Gama discover?  

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Answer

A sea route from Europe, around Africa, and to India.  

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Question

Which of these was not one of Vasco da Gama's boats?

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Answer

São Rafael 

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Question

Who taxed the Portuguese when they tried to trade with India?

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Answer

Muslims

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Question

Where was Vasco da Gama trying to sale to?

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Answer

India

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Question

Why did the Indians dislike da Gama?

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Answer

He was seen as a violent imperialist. 

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Question

Who made a trade deal with Calicut after da Gama failed?

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Answer

Pedro Alvares

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Question

Why did da Gama go back to India with a fleet? 

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Answer

The Indians destroyed the Portuguese trade ports in India.

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Question

Why did da Gama burn his ship, São Raphael? 

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Answer

To stop the spread of scurvy 

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Question

What is someone who was given permission by their government to attack the ships of foreign governments? 

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Answer

Privateer 

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Question

What was a Portuguese noble title that is the same as a "count"? 

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Answer

Dom

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Question

What was a person who rules a colony on behalf of his king/queen? 

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Answer

Viceroy

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Question

Why was Vasco da Gama's voyage to India important? 

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Answer

It opened trade between India and Portugal 

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Question

What was an illness caused by a lack of vitamin C?

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Answer

Scurvy 

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Question

On his way to India, why did Vasco da Gama sail far west into the Atlantic Ocean to go around Africa? 

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Answer

The currents along the African coast are dangerous.

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Question

Which king tasked Vasco da Gama with sailing to India?

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Answer

King Manuel

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Question

In what country was Ferdinand Magellan born? 

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Answer

Portugal 

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Question

Was Ferdinand Magellan the first man to circumnavigate the globe? 

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Answer

No 

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Question

What does circumnavigate mean? 

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Answer

To completely travel around something (especially in reference to sailing). 

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Question

How did Magellan obtain his knowledge and experience in sailing? 

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Answer

He was a page to the Portuguese Queen, giving him ample opportunity to study, and he was later a sailor in the Portuguese navy. 

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Question

Why did the Portuguese royalty refuse to support his expedition in search of the Spice Islands? 

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Answer

Magellan had earlier been accused of illegal trade in Morocco, though he was found not guilty. 

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Question

Where is the Strait of Magellan located? 

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Answer

The southern tip of South America 

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Question

What was not a problem that Magellan faced during his travels? 

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Answer

Harsh winds blowing against his sails 

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Question

Of Magellan's original five-ship fleet, how many returned to Spain? 

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Answer

Just one, with only 18 men on board. 

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Question

How did Ferdinand Magellan die? 

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Answer

Ferdinand Magellan was killed while intervening in a battle between rival Filipino lords. 

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Question

Of the following items, what did Ferdinand Magellan discover for the Europeans? 

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Answer

The Pacific Ocean 

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Question

What year did Christopher Columbus sail to the Caribbean? 

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Answer

1492


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Question

Which country funded Columbus's voyages?

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Answer

Spain


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Question

Which monarchs funded Columbus's voyages? 

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Answer

Isabel and Ferdinand


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Question

What was the first island that Columbus landed on?

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Answer

Guanahani 

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