European Exploration and Expansion
The five European powers comprised of Portugal, Spain, England, France, and the United Providence's had early projects of expansion. The Vikings in ninth and tenth century moved as bands of merchant pirates looting trade ships and discouraging trade on the seas. Because of threats from people like the Vikings, early trade was discouraged. However, the Crusades from eleventh to thirteenth century resurrected the desire to trade and explore. The systematic infiltration of the Middle East during the Crusades led countries to experience the joys of expansion.
From fourteen-fifty to sixteen-fifty there was a new project of expansion. Instead of the Mediterranean being were all the action is, the Atlantic Ocean became the popular spot. The Ottoman Turks drove people away from the Mediterranean, forcing them to discover somewhere new. In only 200 years Europe would go on to make itself around the globe. There were many reasons for expansion. The traditional explanations for expansion were "Gold, God, and Glory". But this was not the real reason for most of the expansion. What is the real reason??? Click on the to reveal the true motivation for exploration.
Money makes the world go around and it made Europe go around the world. The innovations in trade and finance made it possible to do on long voyages. Under the merchantilist society, one where there is a political coalition between central government and the merchant class, government encouraged Europeans to expand internal markets and overseas activity. This form of government set economic policies benefiting it and the merchant class. With policies such as this it was hard not to want to expand.
Portugal was the first to the go around the West African coast. They traded gold with the Ashanti people of Guinea. The carefully planned expeditions by King Henry enabled the trade with Guinea. Portugal soon established trading posts and forts on the Guinea coast up to Timbuktu. By 1500 Portugal controlled the flow of gold to Europe. As the result of Bartholomew Diaz trying, and Vasco da Gama rounding the Cape of Good Hope , Lisbon became the entrance port for Asian goods into Europe. In the early 1500's Portugal made regular voyages to South Asia for spice trade. By viewing the success of the Portuguese, the Spanish decided to get into the gold game. Christopher Columbus, a Gene's navigator, received support from Spain to voyage to what he though was an easier way to India.

Spain wanted to break the growing Portuguese monopoly on Asian spice trade and goods into Europe. Columbus was deeply religious and hoped to convert souls as well as find gold for his beloved Spain. Columbus made four trips to America, discoing the West Indies, Central America and South America. The Spanish set up colonies in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Puerto Rico and Cuba were good sources for gold. The search for gold determined the direction of Spanish exploration and expansion in South America. So it was not surprising that when resources in the Caribbean grew narrow, Spain began to look for new sources of gold and silver. In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan was commissioned by Spanish ruler Charles V to find a direct route to the Moluccan islands near Asia. Magellan died but proved that the earth was round and that is was much larger than Columbus had estimated. The same year Magellan departure on his voyage, Hernando Cortez, a Spanish adventurer, sailed to Mexico and conquered the rich Aztec Empire. Click on the anchor to see a quote from Hernando Cortez explaining his rational.


Like Cortez, Francisco Pizarro (1470-1541) conquered the Inca Empire in Peru. This Spanish domination over the native people was a demographic disaster. Forced labor, disease, and starvation killed the native people that were oppressed by the Spanish. When Columbus arrived in 1492 there were about 100,000 natives. By 1570 only about 300 remained. This lack of a good, cheap labor force led to the slave trade. Indian and Black slaves from Africa were imported to do the mining. More on slavery is discussed in the related slavery exhibit.
The English economy needed another source of income besides their wool
industry. Some of the English people saw America as a way to gain great wealth and others saw America as a place to escape religious confinement.