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1.3 The Geographical Explorations of the 15th and the 16th Centuries
Geographical exploration holds a very important place in the history of Europe and even in the world history. It was due to these discoveries that the world became a smaller place. By the beginning of the 15th century, big ships were built and the magnetic compass was invented.
The goods from Asia were transported to Europe through the Red Sea via Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Although there was another route to Asia through the Gulf, owing to the monopoly of Arabs over it, it was very insecure to use. After the capture of Constantinople by the Turks even the land-routes were cut off. Now it became essential for Europeans to find out new and safe routes to Asia, because European trade flourished with Asia.
The spices of Asian countries had high commercial value in the Western world. The Portuguese took the lead but it was the Spanish took greater interest in this mission. Sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, Vasco da Gama landed in India around 1498. As a result of these discoveries the attitude of people broadened. The new life-style, latest discoveries and routes to new lands, etc. became the talk of the people. As these European people were exposed to the world. Due to the flourishing trade with these Asian countries the wealth of Europe also increased remarkably.
Columbus ‘discovered’ America, and the Spanish established their colonies in America. Later on other European countries also established their colonies in America like England, France, Holland etc.
On the other hand, the Portuguese came over to India, where they established their well-organized trade in Goa. Following their footsteps other European countries also came over to the East. Their aim was to monopolize the trade and other economic activities. Later on the intentions of these countries drifted towards the political sphere. As the country was not politically strong and stable, very soon they carved out a kingdom for themselves.
Practically a complete Renaissance was brought about in Europe as they toured the world. As they discovered America and Asia their wealth and economic condition improved and their political importance increased.
1.3a Impact of Geographical Discoveries
The discoveries in geographical areas brought about far-reaching effects on the minds and hearts of the people. Several people acutely felt the consequences of these. The impact of geographical discoveries that had far-reaching effects on the minds and hearts of the people as their life underwent complete changes in their socio-economic and political aspect.
The main area where the effect was noticed was in the intellectual area which was the root of the changes and which impacted other areas. As the discoveries expanded the learning and knowledge of the world the outlook and the attitude of men changed. When the ideas of the New World influenced the Europeans the effects were seen in their understandings of the human kind. The spirit of learning and inquiry brought revolutionary changes in the lives of the people throughout Europe.
The discoveries laid open a large wealth, both actual as well as potential of the new lands. This wealth helped them in participating in European wars and among maritime supremacy. Most of the wars taking place in 17th to 18th centuries that their cause in clash of interest and rivalries among nations. The main result of this was seen when the Europeans set to ‘Europeanize’ the humanity.
There were commercial and economic reasons behind the search of new lands. Due to this, the impact of the discoveries was greatest on the economic front. The rapid economic changes then brought about a commercial revolution. The impact of revolution was seen on the methods of commodities of trade the change in routes were even seen along with the method of their creation.
There is a popular belief among historians that "Rome was the hub of universe, Venice and Geneva the emporium of its trades and Florence the home of its arts and letters." The people started looking away from Italy and the Mediterranean, after the invasion by the Turks. Slowly the countries that were near the coast became important centers of commerce and business. Portugal and Spain became important gateways to the vast New World.
As the medieval moneylender could not meet the requirements of trade and commerce, the banking system was evolved. Joint stock companies also came into existence, which made large-scale operations possible.
The commercial ambitions of traders and merchants led the way for the establishment of colonies in Asia, Africa, America etc. With the establishment of colonies, there began the slave trade. This was mainly with the Africans. Later on the English as well as Dutch fostered it. The expansion of trade and commerce led to industrialization and modernization of agriculture.