European Exploration: c. 1450 - c. 1750

AP Concept: 4.1 Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange
Key Concepts
  • European technological innovations built on classical, Islamic, and Asian maritime technologies, allowing maritime exploration and reconnaissance
New Technology
  • Trade and cultural exchange introduced Europeans to the following maritime technologies:
  • Magnetic compass - allowed them to determine latitude
  • Sternpost rudder - improved steering capabilities
  • Triangular lateen sail - improved maneuverability
  • Europeans also developed their own technology that helped with navigation, such as the Portuguese caravel - useful for maneuvering the challenging winds and waters off west Africa
  • Europeans used advances in military technology to conquer territories and establish footholds once they reached their destination
  • Used gunpowder from China in large and small cannons, which could be mounted in ships
  • Exploration
    • Through exploration, Europeans hoped to discover new resources and trade routes to lucrative Asian markets, and to spread Christianity
    • Portugal led European exploration beginning in the 1450s
    • Established trading posts and sugarcane plantations along the West African coast
    • Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa in 1488
    • Vasco da Gama became the first European mariner to reach the Indian Ocean in 1498, and established a Portuguese foothold in the lucrative Indian Ocean trade network
    • Spain became another key player in European exploration, beginning in the late 1400s
    • Christopher Columbus sailed west in an attempt to find a new trade route to Asia, but instead landed in the Bahamas in 1492
    • His discovery opened the so-called "New World" (the Americas) to European exploration, colonization, and exploitation
    • Ferdinand Magellan sailed around South America to the Philippine Islands between 1519 and 1520; after he was killed, his crew finished traveling back to Europe through the Indian Ocean and became the first to circumnavigate the globe in 1522
    • Other European powers entered the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in order to take part in the lucrative trade networks at the end of the 16th century
    • English explorers began searching for a Northwest Passage through North America, beginning with Martin Frobisher's failed expedition from 1576-8

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