PinkMonkey Online Study Guide-World History
3.2 Causes of Geographical Discoveries
There were many factors that urged the Europeans to discover new trade routes and new lands. The basic reason why Europeans made geographical discoveries was that "Europe was hungry", as has been remarked. Young men were hungry for adventure, whereas kings were hungry for conquest. However, thousands of Europeans in the crowded parts of Europe, were hungry for land as well as for gain. Thus these motives drove people out of Europe in search of new lands.
After the fall of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, into the hands of the fanatical Ottoman Turks, the trade routes lying within the Turkish empire, were closed to European traders. Thus European countries were provoked into discovering new trade routes and thus even new countries.
There was a steady increase in Europe in the demand for Oriental Commodities, such as Asian Spices. The Europeans were traders who had to supply their economic needs, since their need was greater than the rest of the world.
Owing to the Crusades, a closer contact was established
between the Christians and the Muslims, during the middle ages.
Thus the European traders in general, and the Italians in particular,
had better avenues of trade and commerce available to them. Huge
profits were reaped from the oriental trade, by the new towns, which
sprang up in the medieval age. For example, Venice the "queen of
the Mediterranean", developed a rich commercial empire and was highly
envied for her strategic position and for her brisk commerce and
wealth. The desire to have profits thus formed a strong motive for
The monopoly of the distribution of the Asian articles of commerce on the European continent was in the hands of the Genoese and Venetian merchants. This had led the Italian merchants to purposely increase the prices and thus maximize their profits. Owing to this, there was a desire in the non-Italian traders to directly contact the Asiatic countries. By finding an all sea-route to the East, these traders could obtain their goods without paying any additional tolls.
Marco Poloís sojourn in the empire of Kublai Khan and the precious stones that he displayed to his friends created in them a desire to amass wealth. Europeans were ready to face great dangers in order to discover new trade routes and secure the fabulous riches of the East.
The love of adventure encouraged many Europeans to sail the unknown seas and to face costly risks, since the large ocean liners of the modern period, could not be built during the 15th century. Yet several Europeans come forward to do great deeds even at the cost of sacrificing their lives.
Christianity, the dominant religion of Europe, was also one of the most intensely missionary religions known to the world. Towards the end of the Middle Age, Christian missionaries had traveled all over Europe and were now turning in the direction of Asia. Thus it became a passion among many missionaries to propagate Christianity in new lands. Powerful missionary movements were organized in Europe, to carry the message of Christianity to every nook and corner of the world. The kings and nobles, who encouraged the search for new lands, also desired to spread Christianity in these lands. Thus merchants and missionaries left Europe together, eagerly following the explorers in their discovery of new routes.
The Renaissance had fostered a spirit of inquiry that had revolutionized geographical ideas. Though the church had supported the theory that the earth is flat, scholars established the fact that the earth is round. This new idea was highly useful for the geographical explorations.
It was not enough only to possess the willingness to go on dangerous voyages, to undertake risks, or to possess skill and experience. The European sailors already possessed skill in the art of navigation owing to maritime activities on the Mediterranean coast, and also along the indented coast of Africa. However certain aids to navigation were essential. The scientists and inventors of the Renaissance period provided aids such as the Marinerís compass. Scholars improve upon the art of map making and the knowledge of geography and astronomy. Powerful and rich men provided better economic facilities. An improvement in the technique of shipbuilding also helped the discoveries to a great extent.