The Age of Exploration
The age of exploration was filled with courageous voyagers and conquistadores from all
over Europe, much like today, there was much competition for land rights. The main
disputes were between Spain and Portugal. And these are the representatives from not only
these two countries, but surrounding ones as well.
Christopher Columbus was a sea captain from Genoa. He first tried to convince Portugal,
then Spain to sponsor a voyage to Asia across the Atlantic. Columbus thought that the
voyage would take two months, others said four months, but he left with enough food and
supplies for only two months. He landed in the West Indes (Bahamas, Haiti, Cuba) when the
two months of supplies ran out. Their voyage began on August 3, 1492, from Palos, Spain
and ended on October 12 when land was sighted at the Americas.
Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian that represented the Medici Bank in Spain, chartered the
coastline of Central America and described this as the "Mundus Novus", meaning
"New World". In 1507, a German cartographer labeled the continent America named
after Amerigo Vespucci. He also explored the coastline of Central America.
Juan Ponce de Leï¿½n set out to find the Fountain of Youth. He never did find the
fountain, but he discovered the land that he named "Florida". Vasci de Balboa
was the first to push through the jungle of Central America, On the other side he
discovered a vast body of water that he named "South Sea", because he thought
that it was South of Asia. This Ocean was named the "Pacific".
Magellan, of Portagual, founded the narrow straits at the Southern tip of South
America. It was later named the "Strait of Magellan". He was later killed by
Philippine Natives and four of his ships were destroyed. Only one ship made it back to
Spain, making it the first voyage around the World in 1522.
Eventually, Columbus claimed Cuba and Hispanola, which is now more commonly known as
Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The Spanish Government never harmed the natives. In fact, they supported them on the
newly claimed America lands for labor purposes. Eventually, the natives were tied to the
land and lost freedom. They also had to pay taxes and were required to devote labor.
Instead of financing expeditions dirrectly, Spanish rulers granted conquistadores the
right to establish outposts in the Americas. In exchange, these conquerors gave the crown
1/5 of any treasure they discovered.
Eventually, there was strong competition between Spain and Portugal for land and wealth
in the Americas. The Pope settled land disputes by declaring a "Line of
Demarcation". It said that everything on the coast of this line was Portuguese and
everything west was Spanish. The Portuguese got cheated, because all they were able to
claim was a portion of present day Brazil. Spain claimed 95% of the Americas.
Technology aided European exploration, such as more precise travel with the refinement
of the compass and new sale designs and development. The growth of a middle class sparked
curiosity about the World. Sources: World History: Patterns of Civilization by Prentice
Hall The Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia Prodigy Membership Services Inc.