Human history has been characterized by the desire to explore the unknown. From the earliest documented accounts, ancient civilizations have explored the world around them. the great age of civilization which was between 15th century to mid-16th century was a very crucial era in the exploration and land developments. The early adventures were cultivated by the desire to conquer, the quest for trade, motivation from religious believes and the unending hunger for gold. The explorers sought new routes to Asia and other foreign countries in pursuit for economic supremacy, spread Christianity and conquer territories and colonize them. although these motivations were the force behind these voyeurs, their discoveries had remarkable changes and improvements in economic practices, social being and cultural practices. These changes opened a door to a new civilized world for all of Europe. If it were not for these discoveries, the world as we know it, it would not exist. The age of exploration was not only an era of discoveries, it was an era of massive change.
During the age of exploration, cultural changes were very evident. As people travelled through the Europe and came into contact with other cultures, there was cultural diffusion. People tried to hold their cultures but it was hard since each day they encountered many diverse cultures. People got new ideas from others and adopted them to their cultures and their own societies. From the book ‘a land so strange’ written by Andres Resendez (2007), talks about an epic journey of cabeza de vaca who set out from Spain to go and colonize Florida. Cabeza talks of how he has been eating, gathering food, and living like the Americans. This shows that cabeza has been assimilated in the culture of the natives. He understands their way of life not as an observer but someone who participates in it.
The age of exploration had a lot of effects on geography. Explorers travelled widely to different regions such as Africa and they brought their knowledge with them. from history, Christopher Columbus sailed west across Atlantic Ocean, but he ended in Americas. Ferdinand Magellan set out and crossed Pacific Ocean from south America, his guess was right but he didn’t know exactly how big the ocean was. This shows how undeveloped navigation and mapping was. During exploration period, methods of navigation were improved and mapping enhanced. From Resende’s books, after their ships succumbed to hurricane, cabeza de vaca built five rafts out of logs which would help them continue sailing. They had to kill their horses so that they could use their mane to make rope to lash the logs together. This was an evidence of how the sailors lacked knowledge.
The Spanish and Portuguese explorers were the first ones to build nautical maps. Cabeza de vaca stayed in the sea for long time trying to locate their way home. The Portuguese and the Spanish when they were exploring, they found the seaward routes and ocean currents. As they advanced in technology and known territory expanded, mapmaking advanced and became more sophisticated.
Economic trade had to do with trade. Many explorers travelled around the world in search of goods of trade and partners. Countries traded with each other for the things that they didn’t have or produce by themselves. Cabeza de vaca in the book ‘a land so strange’ set out from his country Spain to go and find gold, create ties so that he could enhance trade between those involved. Portuguese sailors such as vasco da Gama went to India and brought back spices such as pepper, cinnamon and other products of trade such porcelain, jewels and silk. The explorers from Portugal took control of eastern sea routes to Asia. In the war of who should control trade, the Portuguese killed the Muslim defenders at the main port of Asian islands. They took control of Asian spice trade from the Muslims and the Italians. They lowered the prices of Asian goods such as spices and jewels such that most people in Europe were able to afford then. In order to have enough raw materials to control the trade, the Portuguese also started slavery.
Conquering states and exercising power over them were another part of age of exploration. Caveza de vaca conquers a Americans violently and takes their lands. Caveza de vaca becomes an emperor. This shows how the explorers did what they wanted wherever they go without even considering the perspectives of the natives. Explorers were also ethnographic. From the book “a land so strange” cabeza de vaca details the native’s tribes and their way of life. The author articulates the notion that calamitous events shaped colonial identity and Europeans’ comprehension of their selves. Whenever the explorers met any stable kingdom. They conquered these kingdoms with help of allies and controlled it as if it was theirs. Spanish conquer helped Spain expand in foreign trade and oversees colonization. Wealth from Americans at one time made Spain the world’s richest and powerful country.
As much as the era of exploration came with the awakening of the world, it also had negative impacts on people. It is during this time that slavery was introduced. In order to produce raw material for the fast growing and overwhelming industries, there was a need for massive labor to work in the fields. This led to slavery as many Africans were taken to work in the fields. The effects of colonization and fall of many established kingdoms was as a result of explorations. Increase in food supply also led to population boom. Gold and silver trade from Americas hurt Spain’s economy, there was a problem of inflation. Monarchs and wealthy people spent their wealth wastefully instead of building up Spain industries. English explorations also lead to war between them and Spain. Some English captains started stealing gold from Spanish ships and this led to war at the sea between the explorers.
In conclusion, this era was not only an era of exploration but also an era of massive change. The aggressive competition that was seen during this time brought about a new form of economy known as mercantile system and market economy. Aims of this system was to grow unity, power, wealth and self-sufficiency through the accumulation of money, balance of trade, establishment of trade monopolies, development of agriculture and manufacturing methods and also colonizing of other lands. These achievements are as a result of technology advancement, religious philosophy and the individuality to enlightment in the 15th and 16th centuries.
A land so strange, Andres Resendez, 2007.
Krieger, Alex D. We Came Naked and Barefoot: The Journey of Cabeza De Vaca across North America. N.p.: Univ Of Texas Press, 2014.
Elliott, J. H. Imperial Spain 1469-1716. London: Penguin, 2002.
Evans, Brad. Before Cultures: The Ethnographic Imagination in American Literature, 1865-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Columbus, Christopher. Journal of Christopher Columbus (during His First Voyage, 1492-93): And Documents Relating to the Voyages of John Cabot and Gaspar Corte Real. Translated by Clements R. Markham. New York, NY: Burt Franklin, 1971