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PinkMonkey Study Guide - American History

1. 2 Voyages of Exploration

The Europeans by then had a general idea that the Earth was round. Several expeditions were made to find an alternative sea-route around Africa to the East. This would enable them to ignore the Turks, establish trade relations with Africa and go on to the Orient. Prince Henry took the initiative to explore the possibility of new trade routes to the East.

This venture involved a lot of risk. Prince Henry gathered sailors, astronomers, shipbuilders and mapmakers from all over Europe. His men were able to develop smaller and stronger ships called the caravel. Its new hull design and sail helped the ship to sail faster with the wind. The Prince sponsored several expeditions to the coasts of Africa. However, his dream of a new sea route to the Orient was fulfilled 20 years after his death.

In 1497, Vasco da Gama set out in the quest of spices and reached India. He returned 2 years later, with a ship full of spices.

Before Vasco da Gama’s celebrated voyage, several other mariners tried and failed in their attempts to find a sea route to the Indies. One of them was Christopher Columbus. He was a native of Genoa, who had worked under Prince Henry in Portugal. Columbus believed that, since the Earth was round, it was possible to find another course by sea to the East. But as no one knew the existence of America then, he like many Europeans underestimated the Earth’s circumference. The result was that Columbus reached San Salvador in the West Indies. Columbus believed that he had touched the Oriental coast. In fact, he had discovered a new continent. Thus, Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492.


Christopher Columbus made four voyages to the new continent. They were between 1492-93, 1493-96, 1498 -1500 and from 1502-04. But until his death in 1506, Columbus continued to believe that he had reached Asia through an alternate route. It was Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian working under the Spanish monarch, who cleared this misconception. Between 1497 and 1505, Amerigo visited the new continent four times. From here, he wrote a series of letters to his friend in Italy describing the New World. Published in 1507, these letters provided valuable information to Europeans on the shape, size, flora and fauna of the continent. It was Amerigo’s pioneering study and exploration of the New World, that the continent got its name: America - after Amerigo.


Exhibit 1.2

A model of the "Santa Maria," the ship in which Christopher Columbus made his first Atlantic voyage in 1492.

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Table of Contents

"Verdana" 1.0 - Chronology of Major Events in this Period
1.1 - The Discovery of America
1.2 - Voyages of exploration
1.3 - The Indians
1.4 - Points to Remember

Chapter 2





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