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God, Gold And Glory: The Age Of Exploration

1167 words - 5 pages

God, Gold and Glory: The Age of Exploration

The decline of the Mongol Empire in the fifteenth century, as well as the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 was a major block to trade, making goods from the East harder to get and far more expensive. Actually, it seems the whole of the Age of Exploration was at least in part inspired by the Europeans’ dealings with the East. After Europe’s defeat by the Muslims for the Holy Land, the people began to question the ideas of the Church. This bout of questioning eventually led up to a period in European history known as the Renaissance—a word that stems from the Latin for “rebirth.” The exploration of new ideas which ...view middle of the document...

With the establishment of the first Reformation (Protestant) church in Germany, the movements began to spread to other parts of Europe so that by the time that the “New World” was discovered, the Catholic Church was desperate to remain the universalized religion. Religion was a means of control. The more people that were controlled by a religion, the more power said religion had, and thus had a greater chance at dominance. Europeans also believed that they could save souls through the salvation found in Christianity and that it was their duty to spread the word of God (as given evidence by the Crusades). Missionaries—people sent to spread religion in another land—had hoped to convert the Native Americans to Christianity. The Church had used the conversion of the natives as one motive to explore the unknown world. The spread of Christianity became a partial justification and major factor of the exploration of the Europeans.

But conversion of the natives and spread of Christianity was but one of motives during the Age of Discovery. Perhaps the main motivation—the reason that the “New World” was discovered to start with—was gold, but not just in the literal sense. Europeans were desperate to keep trading for silks and especially spices with Asia, but traders had to travel the Silk Road—which was not only very long, but dangerous and often blocked by wars between those in the East. Because the Silk Road was often closed due to wars, European rulers began to finance explorations to find a sea route to Asia so that they could get the goods more easily and for less expense. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal founded a school of navigation and financed the first voyages down the west coast of Africa. Progress was slow, but after Dias and his crew made it to the Cape of Good Hope, da Gama and his crew became the first to sail around Africa and to India (da Gama’s voyage to India made him approximately a 3000% profit). It was around this time that the idea of mercantilism—the idea that there is only so much wealth in the world, and to be the strongest you have to have more wealth than anybody else—emerged. Having seen the success of the Portuguese, Spain began looking for an even faster route to Asia. Columbus was just one of many explorers financed by the Spanish monarchy, and although he didn’t actually find...

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