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In Western history, the time period dating from 1500 to 1800 can be considered a time of great change for Europe as they embarked on voyages of exploration and discovery. This time period was brought about through numerous causes, such as the centralization of power, and several motives. Not only did they have the motives to expand, but they also had the means to do it. Throughout their course of voyages, they experienced several new things with both positive and negative consequences. In the end, as a result of these voyages, new policies among leading states and rivalries occurred as five major European powers rose to the top.
In the time period of the voyages, there were five major powers—Portugal, Spain, Dutch Republic, England and France. However, they did not all rise at the same time. With one’s fall came another’s rise. This was a repetitive event during the times of exploration.
Although they all had different courses, they were all pushed by similar causes. One cause is the centralization of power by the monarchy. Because they were centralized, they were able to focus their attention abroad, as opposed to dealing with internal turmoil. They were in a position to expand. Not only that, but with the centralization of power in classes also came great military power as the monarchs needed protection. As a result of this, they were able to use their armies and force to push their way into new territories.
Cause: Blockage and Stories
- Another cause of their expansion, however, was the blockage of trade in-land by the Ottomans and the breakup of the Mongol Empire. Because people wished to reach the Spice Islands, but could not reach it inland, their only other resort was overseas. This drove their expansion overseas.
- Other causes prompted people to desire to explore, such as tales of fantastic lands. For example, in The Travels of John Mandeville, lands were depicted as extremely different with giants, cruel and evil women, magical and Christian communities, such as Prester John in Africa, etc. These led people to desire to go. The root cause of this was through the printing press, which enabled the spread of this literature.
One more cause: Europe vs. China (from notes)
Europe, in 1410, didn't know how to get around the Cape. Therefore, they took routes that led them to various new places. Not only that, but they were not centralized. Because they were fractured, it led to political pluralism, which led to competition and struggles among hte states to compete. This competition led to inventions They also needed money to supplement the development of their armies and knew they could get it in the east
Although the causes were small, there were also underlying motives for expansion. For example, Catholic Europe was confined to one area. After their attempt at expansion in the Crusades, which resulted in their utter failure, they were unable to expand anymore. However, they managed to keep in contact with Africa and Asia through goods, and with Muslims and Vikings. Another motive was economically driven. For a very long time, Muslim control of Central Asia had cut Europe off from countries. With the Mongols came an open door to trade and correspondence, such as the Polos of Venice, who visited Khubilai Khan in 1271 and captured their experiences in Marco Polo’s Travels. When the Ottomans broke the trade to the east, the Europeans, who had already experienced trade westward, had an unquenchable thirst for trade and sought numerous other means to reach the Spice Trade. This led to overseas routes as the Europeans sought new areas of trade and gold and other precious metals.
Motive: Renaissance and Religion
- Another motive may have been the influence of the Renaissance, which promoted change and new thinking. Not only htat, but the scientific revolution, which are beginning to be in evidence in the 15th century are contributing factors.
- One last motive was religiously driven. In Portugal and Spain, there was a highly crusading mentality that wished to completely destroy the Muslims. To Spain, the Reconquista was not enough. The Muslims had taken their land at one point; and, even though they had regained it, they were in no way opposed to making the Muslims feel their wrath. Portugal’s dilemma with the Muslims was that they wished to remove them out of trade completely. Aside from that, several of the powers wished to bring God to the New World and convert the natives through their missionaries.
- While the primary motives for expansion were God, glory, and gold, they had means to supplement their motives. These means were able to occur because the centralized monarchs were able to increase authority and resources for expansion. First, they had great technology, such as the portolani, which, although not the best, depicted distances between ports, contours on the coast, and distances between ports and compass readings. Although it depicted the world as flat, it was still very useful. Another map was the Toscanelli map with a very inaccurate circumfarence that really started expansion. He simply slapped a grid on the map. Other inventions that made it possible were the compass and astrolabe instead of relying on the North Star. Not only that, but they mastered the westerly winds. This enabled them to plan their trips ahead of time so that they would be able to catch the winds that will carry them back to their mainland. One great rediscovery greatly enhanced man’s ability to venture beyond their coast. This was Ptolemy and his map. Although inaccurate, it was an extremely large motivating factor for expansion. Aside from these, there were also new ships that were able to sail against the wind and engage in naval warfare. Not only that, but they were also able to carry heavy loads, such as cannons, long distances. Through these means, man was able to embark on voyages of exploration of discovery. Other means that enabled their success was through new technology in terms of guns and weapons.
The initial courses taken by the powers varied greatly in the beginning. The very first empire to expand was Portugal. Under Prince Henry the Navigator, they sailed down the coast of Africa on their way to the Spice Islands. Although they did not find spices in Africa, they did find slaves and brought them back to Portugal. Afterwards, they began to venture farther downward until they discovered gold. Eventually, they set up forts in Africa.
Courses- Portugal and Spice Trade
Not long after their voyages to Africa, they received knowledge of the Spice Trade in India; and, under Vasco de Gama, they sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached Calicut, where they revisited constantly. These constant visits led to conflicts with India, leading to karma against the Muslims, as the Portuguese blocked off spice flow to Muslim rulers. Eventually, Afonso de Albuquerque saw a need for a headquarters at Goa and displayed an overzealous desire to destroy the Arabs. Afterwards, a headquarter was set up in Goa by Albuquerque. Albuquerque was a man of great zeal to destroy the Muslims. His means of doing this was obtaining Malacca. This would also provide them with a route to the Spice Islands. Eventually, they obtained it after a bloody battle and dominated the Spice Trade.
Unlike the Portuguese, who sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, the Spanish sailed across the Atlantic, searching for new land. Their power and wealth enabled them to establish an even larger empire than Portugal could create. Their voyages began with Columbus, who discovered each of the islands of the Bahamas, but assumed they were the East Indies. Afterwards, other explorers began venturing out, such as John Cabot, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, and Magellan.
Spanish and Mesoamerica
Similar to the Portuguese, in the New World, the Spanish established themselves by force. Their voyages led them to Mesoamerica, where they experienced numerous new natives. However, they did not admire them. Instead, they wiped them out. For example, Hernan Cortes, in 1519, led a Spanish expedition and landed in Vera Cruz. There, he marched into Tenochtitlan, and, after being honored by Moctezuma as a god, they “returned the favor” by completely destroying the Aztec civilization, killing them and destroying temples. This demonstrates the carelessness and disregard of tradition for the Spanish. If you were not a Christian, you were not worthy to live. Not only were the Aztecs in the way of the course of Spain’s expansion, but the Incas also fell prey to them. Although the Incas were led by powerful leaders, such as Pachakuti and Topa Inca, who centralized the state, they were unable to combat the Spanish under Francisco Pizarro. First, their inability to battle disease led to their decline. Furthermore, a civil war broke their barrier down and allowed the Spanish to come in and destroy them.
After they established themselves in the New World, the Spanish ruled by misguided paternalism, confusion, and cruel exploitation. Declaring the natives to be the property of theCrown of Castile, they were exposed to the encomienda system, which was an economic and political system in which the natives paid tribute and were used for labor in return for protection. However, the Spanish were the ones the natives should have feared; it was impossible for the Spanish to protect the natives against the Spanish people themselves. As a result, they mistreated the natives and used them for things such as work in mines or plantations. Eventually, the Spanish divided the land into two units with viceroys—at Lima and New Mexico. They also forced Catholicism on the natives.
Dutch and English Course
Alhtough the Portuguese and Spanish laid claim to the lands of the New World, dividing it between them by the Treaty of Tordesillas, other powers began to make their presence known. In Southeast Asia, since Portugal was unsuccessful in establishing themselves, and the Spanish only established themselves in the Phillipines, where Magellan had established himself, the Dutch and English rose to prominence. The Dutch were the first to shift the power to themselves when they seized Portuguese forts along the coast of West Africa and took control of Portuguese trade, creating the Dutch East Indian Company and occupying Portuguese coastal forts along trade routes throughout the Indian Ocean, even limiting England. Eventually, they established a fort at Batavia and were successful in bringing almost the entire Indonesian peninsula under their control.
The English, although limited by the Dutch, were increasing their presence in India, where they had trading posts where ships carried Indian goods to the East Indies for spices. Their successes led to rivals, especially with the French. However, they were saved by the unsupportive government tof the French and by Sir Robert Clive, who consolidated British control in the Bengal and in 1757 defeated 3000 Mughals at the Battle of Plassey. Although successful in the West Indies, their success was more evident in the Americas, where they were successful in establishing the Massachusetts Bay Colony and even seizing some Dutch land, such as New York. Eventually, they established thirteen colonies that answered to England.
The French also increased their presence in the Americas as they occupied Canada. It was due to Jacque Cartier, who discovered the St. Lawrence River and claimed Canada for the French, that the French began interest in Canada. It was increased when Samuel de Champlain settled at Quebec. By 1663, Canada became a property of French crown and administered by French government like French province. It was their inefficient administration that led them to lose it, however, to Britain.
India in terms of Courses
- Portuguese were first to insinuate selves in east, but did not dominate because they were too small to govern their vast empire. The Dutch replaced them, where their attention to Spice Islands, led to their domination and establishment of Java.
- Britis )came next and at the Battle of Plessey (1757, the British East India Company, led by Robert Clive,defeats about 30,000 troops. They then set up British hospitals and schools, etc.
Less impacted areas
Although these were the courses taken, there were areas that were impacted less drastically. For example, as opposed to the Malay Peninsula, other Southeast Asian mainlands were able to resist the force of the Europeans, such as China and, in some respects, Japan, who, although at first influenced by the Europeans eventually managed to overcome them as Tokugawa expelled them from his country. In China, the Brits however tried to dominate, but were only allowed to occupy Canton.
Consequences for conquered
The consequences of expansion varied greatly for both the conquerors and the conquered. For the conquered, their lives were greatly impacted. For the native Americans, their numbers greatly declined as they were ravaged by disease and violence and their culture was destroyed. In Africa, although the effects on families and societies were terrible in that it deprived tribes of their strongest men and women. Not only that, but it also led to great violence and devastating effects of cultures, such as that which occurred in Benin, where the people lost faith in God, their art deteriorated, and their culture destroyed. Although it was terrible, one positive implication was that it taught the Africans how to defend themselves. They were no longer vulnerable as they were fighting and defending themselves against invaders.
Consequences: Conquered in Latin America
In Latin America, multiracial people came about, such as mestizos and mulattos as the natives, due to lack of women, were intermarrying and reproducing with the natives. In terms of religion, many of the natives were converted and taught in Christian schools. In the New World, the Church played a dominant role in the lives of the natives as new schools and hospitals were created.
In terms of the conquerors, Europe also experienced great change. There was a new triangular trade occurring between Europe, Africa, and America. Europe experienced new foods and crops, such as maize and chocolate. Furthermore, the Colombia Exchange came about, with cattle going to the Americas and agricultural products, like potatoes being brought back. Also, new Chinese furniture and porcelain, as well as ideas, were spread. Women were also allowed freedom in the New World as they became rich when their husbands died. Not only that, but they became increasingly hostile towards one another.
With expansion came new policies, such as the encomienda system by the Spanish. Furthermore, a new policy that was set on converting the natives by the missionaries gave the Catholci Church an important role in the New World. Trade policies were developed, such as the hoarding of precious metals, promotion of colonial development, and mercantilism came about. In this time period, it is also clear that commercial capitalism and a global economy were coming about. Rivalries were also prominent as it led governments to encourage piracy and fighting between the groups. Not only that, but it would lead to hostility later on as they begin to jostle for power.
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