The Age of Exploration



9 Questions

Who was the first European to land on Lintin Island in the Pearl River Delta?

Which was the world's only source of nutmeg and cloves in the 16th century?

Who was the first European to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the New World?

Who sailed down the east coast of South America from 1515 to 1516?

Which country seized Muscat and Hormuz in the Persian Gulf in 1507 and 1515, respectively?

Which was the most northerly point frequented by the Portuguese in the Red Sea?

Who led the first circumnavigation of the world in 1519-1522?

Which country established a trading post in Canton in 1517?

Who was the first European to reach Japan in 1543?


Period of European Global Exploration from the 15th Century to the 18th Century:

  • The Age of Discovery or the Age of Exploration was a period from approximately the 15th century to the 17th century in European history, during which seafaring Europeans explored, colonized, and conquered regions across the globe.

  • The Portuguese and Spanish were at the forefront of extensive overseas exploration, later joined by the Dutch, English, and French, which emerged as a powerful factor in European culture, most notably the European colonization of the Americas.

  • European exploration outside the Mediterranean started with the maritime expeditions of Portugal to the Canary Islands in 1336, and later with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and Azores, the coast of West Africa in 1434, and the establishment of the sea route to India in 1498 by Vasco da Gama.

  • A main event in the Age of Discovery took place when Spain made the transatlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus between 1492 and 1504, which saw the beginning of the colonization of the Americas, and the Spanish Magellan expedition made the first circumnavigation of the globe between 1519 and 1522.

  • European overseas exploration led to the rise of international trade and the European colonial empires, with the contact between the Old World and the New World producing the Columbian exchange, a wide transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases, and culture between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

  • The Age of Discovery and later European exploration allowed the mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact, but also led to widespread enslavement, exploitation, and military conquest of native populations.

  • The concept of discovery has been scrutinized, critically highlighting the history of the core term of this periodization, and the concept of "discovery" has been used to enforce colonial claiming and the age of discovery, but has been also vocally challenged by indigenous peoples and researchers.

  • The period alternatively called the Age of Exploration, has also been scrutinized through reflections on the understanding and use of exploration, like science more generally, has been discussed as being framed and used for colonial ventures, discrimination and exploitation.

  • The Portuguese began systematically exploring the Atlantic coast of Africa in 1418, and in 1498, a Portuguese expedition commanded by Vasco da Gama reached India by sailing around Africa, opening up direct trade with Asia.

  • Since 1495, the French, the English, and the Dutch entered the race of exploration after learning of these exploits, defying the Iberian monopoly on maritime trade by searching for new routes, first to the western coasts of North and South America, through the first English and French expeditions, and into the Pacific Ocean around South America, but eventually by following the Portuguese around Africa into the Indian Ocean; discovering Australia in 1606, New Zealand in 1642, and Hawaii in 1778.

  • Technological advancements that were important to the Age of Exploration were the adoption of the magnetic compass and advances in ship design.

  • Early geographical knowledge about Asia beyond the reach of the Byzantine Empire was sourced in partial reports, often obscured by legends, dating back from the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great and his successors.

  • Indian Ocean trade routes were sailed by Arab traders. Between 1405 and 142The Age of Discovery: European Exploration in the Middle Ages

  • European expeditions crossing Eurasia by land in the late Middle Ages allowed for exploration eastwards, with Italians taking advantage of safe trade routes and communication lines stretching from the Middle East to China.

  • Christian embassies were sent as far as Karakorum during the Mongol invasions of the Levant, with travellers such as Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, Russian prince Yaroslav of Vladimir, and Marco Polo dictating accounts of their journeys throughout Asia.

  • Religion played a critical role in motivating European expansionism, with Christian evangelism becoming a significant part of the military conquests of European powers such as Portugal, Spain, and France.

  • The Chinese had wide connections through trade in Asia and had been sailing to Arabia, East Africa, and Egypt since the Tang dynasty. Between 1405 and 1421, the third Ming emperor sponsored a series of long-range tributary missions in the Indian Ocean under the command of admiral Zheng He, which had a significant and lasting effect on the organization of a maritime network.

  • Muslim traders dominated maritime routes throughout the Indian Ocean, shipping for trading emporiums in India, mainly Kozhikode, westward to Ormus in the Persian Gulf and Jeddah in the Red Sea. Venetian merchants distributed the goods through Europe until the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

  • The Portuguese attempted to install a Mediterranean system of trade which used military might and intimidation to divert trade through ports they controlled. In 1415, Ceuta was conquered by the Portuguese, aiming to control navigation of the African coast.

  • Young prince Henry the Navigator invested in sponsoring voyages down the coast of Mauritania, gathering a group of merchants, shipowners, and stakeholders interested in new sea lanes. Soon the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores were reached, and systematic sailing overcame nautical myths of oceanic monsters or an edge of the world.

  • Caravels were extensively used from 1440 onwards for the exploration of the coast of Africa, with their shallow draft and good sailing performance making them particularly useful.

  • The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between Portugal and Spain along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, with Portugal gaining control of Asia and the Indian Ocean and Spain gaining control of the Americas.

  • Columbus departed with three ships to find a westward route to Asia in 1492, landing in the Caribbean, and returned to Europe with gold, spices, and slaves. He made three more voyages, but his brutal treatment of the indigenous population led to his removal as governor of Hispaniola and his eventual arrest and imprisonment.

  • Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498, establishing a direct sea route to Asia that allowed for the import of spices and other goods at a fraction of the previous cost. This led to the decline of the Venetian and Genoese monopolies on trade with the East.

  • In 1507, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the new continent America, after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who had made several voyages to the Americas.

  • The Age of Discovery had a significant impact on the world, with the exchange of goods, ideas, and people leading to the creation of a cosmopolitan space and theExploration and Colonization of the New World

  • Portuguese used ephemerides for celestial navigation, which allowed the calculation of latitude, while longitude remained elusive for centuries.

  • The fall of Constantinople was a blow to Christendom, initiating a mare clausum policy in the Atlantic, granted to Portugal by Pope Nicholas V in the bull Romanus Pontifex.

  • Portuguese exploration continued ever more southerly, advancing on average one degree a year, reaching Senegal and Cape Verde Peninsula in the 1440s.

  • Exploration in the Gulf of Guinea led to the discovery of the thriving alluvial gold trade among the natives and Arab and Berber traders, leading to the first colonial war among European powers in 1478.

  • In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa, anchoring at Mossel Bay and then sailing east as far as the mouth of the Great Fish River, proving that the Indian Ocean was accessible from the Atlantic.

  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships, discovering San Salvador, Cuba, and the northern coast of Hispaniola.

  • Columbus left 39 men and founded the settlement of La Navidad in what is now Haiti.

  • Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 divided the world between Portugal and Spain, giving Portugal control over Africa, Asia, and eastern South America (Brazil), while Spain received everything west of the line.

  • In 1497, King Manuel I of Portugal sent an exploratory fleet eastwards, fulfilling his predecessor's project of finding a route to the Indies.

  • In 1499-1500, Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci reached land at the coast of what is now Guyana, while Vicente Yáñez Pinzon discovered the northeast coast of Brazil.

  • Exploration of the region reignited Spanish interest, and colonization began in 1531.Exploration of the New World and Indian Ocean by the Portuguese and Spanish

  • The Portuguese expedition led by Cabral landed on the Brazilian coast in 1500 while trying to avoid becalming in the Gulf of Guinea.

  • Cabral sent an envoy to Portugal with the discovery of the new land, which he believed to be an island, and named it Ilha de Vera Cruz.

  • Amerigo Vespucci participated as an observer in Portuguese exploratory voyages to the east coast of South America and suggested that the newly discovered lands were a "New World."

  • Portuguese expeditions, including one led by Gonçalo Coelho, sailed south along the coast of South America to the bay of present-day Rio de Janeiro, and one led by Binot Paulmier de Gonneville landed in the present-day state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil.

  • The Spanish expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan explored the South American coast until it found a way to the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Magellan.

  • Aleixo Garcia, a Portuguese conquistador, led a private expedition of adventurers that explored the territories of present-day southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia, using the native trail network, the Peabiru.

  • Vasco da Gama, in 1497, led a small exploratory fleet of four ships and about 170 men from Lisbon, Portugal, that sailed into the Indian Ocean, passing the Great Fish River, where Dias had turned back.

  • In 1511, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, the center of Asian trade, and learned about the "spice islands," which were the Maluku Islands, mainly the Banda, then the world's only source of nutmeg and cloves.

  • The Portuguese continued sailing eastward from India, reaching China in 1513, where Jorge Álvares was the first to land on Lintin Island in the Pearl River Delta.

  • In 1513, Spanish Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to navigate the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the New World.

  • Juan Díaz de Solís sailed down the east coast of South America from 1515 to 1516.

  • The Portuguese seized Muscat and Hormuz in the Persian Gulf in 1507 and 1515, respectively, and conquered Bahrain in 1521, ushering in a period of almost eighty years of Portuguese rule of the Gulf archipelago.

  • In the Red Sea, Massawa was the most northerly point frequented by the Portuguese until 1541, when a fleet penetrated as far as Suez.


Test your knowledge on the Age of Exploration, a period from the 15th to the 18th century during which European explorers sailed across the globe, colonized new regions, and established trade routes. This period saw the rise of European colonial empires and the exchange of goods, ideas, and people between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Learn about the major expeditions, technological advancements, and the impact of exploration on the world with our quiz on the Age of Exploration.

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