Europe is one among the seven continents that exist in the world. It is the 6th largest continent on the planet earth, and it consists of forty seven countries and assorted dependencies, islands and territories. The recognized surface area is approximately 10 million sq. km.
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It covers about 2% of the entire earth’s surface. Europe lies on the eastern side of the Asian continent. There are various geographical features separating Europe from Asia. Examples of these features are Mt. Ural and Mt. Caucasus (Gibson, 2006).
The Arctic Ocean borders Europe to the North. On the western side, there is the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean Sea is located in the south, as well as the Black sea. Other connected waterways are located on the south eastern region.
It is the third continent with a high population of approximately 740 million people. Only Asia and Africa are ahead of Europe in terms of population. Europe has been argued to be the origin of the western culture (Stevens, 1997).
Age of discovery
The age of discovery also called the age of exploration in Europe was a period in history which started in the early 15th century and continued until early 17th century. During this period, the Europeans engaged in intensive exploration of the world.
They managed to establish contacts with other continents to begin trading activities and establish new trade routes. It was in this age that the “European sailors and ships left the coastal waters of the Old World and embarked on their adventure on the vast green sea of darkness” (Kreiss, 2011, para 1).
This age was very helpful to the Europeans because they gained new information that helped them to expand geographical knowledge (Kreiss, 2011).
The age of exploration or discovery can be said to have linked the Middle Ages and the modern era. The age of discovery together with the contemporary renaissance movement led to the early modern period. Also, this was a precursor to the establishment of the European nation-states (Duiker & Spielvogel, 2007).
End of the age of discovery
After the introduction of new ideas, technology, and new products to the world by the explorers; the age of discovery came to an end in early 17th century. The age of discovery left behind several things that have remained historic to date.
There was increased communication network and trade that improved drastically along the low areas that had been discovered. Therefore, there was no need to continue searching for new trading routes.
Although the age of discovery came to an end at this time, some of the areas like the eastern part of Australia had not yet been discovered by then. This area remained unexplored until 1770 with some of the arctic and Antarctic areas which were not discovered until 19th century (Flowers, 1999).
Lampros (1990) lists some of the famous explorers their accomplishments, achievements and voyages of discovery. There are several explorers who were involved in the age of discovery. These included the famous European explorers. These explorers came from various countries that in Europe such as England, Portugal, and Spain among others.
The voyages undertaken by these explorers were motivated by various factors. These factors included wealth, which was from gold, silver and spices from Asia and other countries. They also were out to search for trading opportunities that increased as the exploration age continued.
Also, these explorers were out to spread religion to various parts of the world. This motivated the European explorers to continue with the exploration. Again there was a lot of empowerment from the European countries. This motivated them to explore on other parts of the world.
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Some of the explorers in Europe included “Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco de Gama, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Hernando Cortes, John Cabot, and Samuel de Champlain” among others (McGeveran, 2004, p.14). There were also explorers from Canada.
These explorers discovered some of the great lakes in the world. The discovery of the new world led to the establishment of new colonies in Canada. Louis Joliet is considered as a famous Canadian explorer who discovered the Mississippi river as well as the great lakes in the world.
Explorers from Spain explored portions of Caribbean region and South America. Some of the explorers from Spain conquered the Aztecs as well as the Incas. Some of these explorers are “Hernando Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando De Soto, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, and Juan Ponce de Leon” (Hale, 1966, p. 36).
The English explorers had the mission of discovering voyages that were in existence when Queen Elizabeth I was in reign. They were nicknamed as privateers and pirates by their enemies. For example Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Martin Frobisher, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir John Hawkins.
There were also the famous Portuguese explorers. This is the group led the other explorers during the exploration period.
They were “Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Bartholomew Diaz and Gaspar, and Miguel Corte Real” (Washburn, 1966, p 5). France was also represented in the Age of Discovery. There were various notable explorers from France such as Jacques Cartier among others.
Motives behind the age of discovery
According to Hale (1966), the Europeans had some several motives as to why they began this in their continent. There are various motives behind the age of discovery which have been discussed below.
Trade and desire for wealth: Before the age of discovery came to be trade was controlled by Muslim traders and hence the European group was not able to get their achievements. It is during this age that the Europeans wanted to avoid the Muslim and the Italian group of people in order to get things like silk, spices, and other luxury items in Asia.
Advancement in technology: during this time, there were new developments. Therefore, this age of discovery was meant also to advance the technology especially in ship construction and also in the aids that were used in navigation.
There was a new compass that was discovered during this period which overthrew the use of the old magnetized needle used in the earlier centuries. The astrolabe used to determine longitude and latitude before was found to be less accurate. Therefore, this pushed the need for making discoveries.
Spread of Christian religion: The Europeans were dominated by the Christian religion which is a missionary religion and with this age of discovery they had an intention to spread Christianity to the rest of the world. Religion was held in high esteem by the Europeans and wanted to spread Christianity to all people of the world.
Achievement of geographical knowledge of the world: this was one of the main reasons that made the Europeans start the exploration of the world.
The Europeans did not know much about the world since the early centuries’ maps still remained inaccurate. Also, the European map only contained few continents like Europe, Asia, and the northern part of Africa hence most Europeans did not have any knowledge regarding other parts outside Europe.
Again, the explorers who explored the world and added some geography knowledge were still limited. Therefore, the Europeans had to take the position and carry out an exploration so as to increase the geography knowledge.
Desire for new products like gold, silver and precious stones: Some of these things had a lot of value in the world. Therefore, the Europeans decided to explore the world so as to get rich and gain more wealth through gold. They also explored the world because they needed precious stones that they could sell to earn income.
In search of great and larger empires: the Europeans wanted to claim as much big land as they could manage. Therefore, there was need to explore the entire world so as to acquire a lot of natural resources and get slaves from the countries they explored.
In search of spices: Spices like pepper were used for covering taste in food products after preservation like salting was done because refrigerators could not be found in any part of the world. These spices were only found in other continents, and they could not grow within Europe.
Therefore, the Europeans explored the world in search of such spices. Nonetheless, these spices were very expensive to be moved to Europe from continents like Asia. The Europeans could not use the land route because it was cut off by the Turkish Empire which they used to fight against. The only they could use was the sea route.
In such of animal fur: Lastly, Europeans explored the world so that they could get animals fur. This fur could not be found in their continent. Groups of people, like the French, had discovered that animal fur was very valuable in Europe. Therefore, they had to look for this fur in order to sell it for money.
Contributions of the age of exploration to European dominance
The beginning of age of exploration caused several changes to the world because when it began the world began to change. The age of exploration is what has shaped the world into what it is at the moment. The spread of religion, trade and many other effects, the economy of Western Europe began to raise hence had a great advantage over other countries in the world.
This spreading belief gave many other ideas other than the church. As it continued, the age of discovery or exploration in the 16th century had a great influence to Europe with the trading ideas with other countries (Arnold, 2002).
The people also believed it was spreading at a high rate in the world. During the 16th century, people in most of the countries obtained money by means of trade which was meant to cause economic growth in a certain country. Exploration by the Europeans found out a faster route which made trading easy and transportation to other foreign countries also became cheap.
As a result, the Europeans was the only continent that grew stronger in its economy because the exploration of Asia to Europe route during the search for spices and other precious products made easy access of goods at fair prices hence the growth of the economy in the European continent. Religion also grew faster due to the increasing spread of trade. In this case, denominations like the Catholic began to emerge.
Catholic was the most significant denomination that dominated Western Europe. This drew people in other countries closer to the Europeans because it gave them ideas and points of view of other people and other countries. This made other people become aware of their rights and have the confidence to air their views when there was a need to do so (Newton, 1970).
All these benefits kept their countries strong and raise the economic growth and had great influence to countries especially the Western Europe. This made Europe be regarded as an advantageous continent over other continents. All this contributed to European dominance over most of the countries.
Problems faced by explorers during the age of discovery
During exploration by the Europeans, there were several challenges that they faced in an attempt to explore the world. Some of these challenges arose from the people in the countries they explored. In addition, some other challenges were from amongst the Europeans themselves. However, this depended on the country which they were exploring.
Poor maps and poor navigation systems which they used misled them to the places where they had not intended to explore. They needed better equipment in order to make the navigation easy and tracing of positions hence lead them to the right place of exploration.
Due this poor navigation system exploration was not easily done hence causing a lot of delay and even some of the countries were not explored. A good example of such countries is the African countries.
Diseases and lack of the food was one of the major challenges the European people faced as they explored the world. Some of the countries they visited had no food. This caused starvation which could lead to death. Again, diseases were common in some countries.
This was a major challenge to the explorers because they were not resistance to such diseases. Some of these diseases could cause death hence some of the areas were not explored successfully.
Another major challenge was fear of the unknown. Since the Europeans were exploring foreign countries, they had a lot of fear. This is because they could be attacked and get killed by people in the foreign countries that they explored.
For example, during the exploration of Australia and Japan, it was easy for the Europeans to explore these countries because of attacks from the aboriginal tribes.
Inadequacy in supplies was also major challenges that led to delay during the exploration age. This also made some of the countries be left unexplored where exploration was done later.
A good example is Africa which remained unexplored until the 19th century and some other African countries were also unexplored in 20th century. Lastly was piracy which was also a major challenge. This is because the explorers were prone to pirate attacks and ambushes while they carried their missions.
Effects of the age of discovery
This age of discovery had a lot of effects which were both positive and negative especially on the continents that the Europeans explored (Jackson & Weidman, 2006). Some of these effects have been discussed below.
One of the motives of this age of exploration was to search for great empires around the world. Most of the people during this period were made slaves. Most of the American tribes were oppressed by the European people and the land on which they dwelt was taken hence they remained landless.
Others in these countries also lost their lives due to wars that emerged during this period. Additionally, due to introduction of trade and more ideas to people in other countries by the Europeans, the age of exploration gave a lot of power in Europe to be able to discover new trading ideas and opportunities.
The age of exploration led to change of the African culture. This is because when the Europeans came to explore the African countries, they introduced new ideas. These new ideas changed the ways of living of the African people. The Africans were affected in terms of language and religion where they were converted to Christians, while others adopted new languages.
The age of exploration benefited the Europeans and other people on the knowledge of the world where they began to realize the size and shape of the entire earth. The increased contact of the Europeans with most of the countries made them get new ideas and new products were also brought to Europe.
This contributed to a high growth of the economy. Another effect of the exploration age was that it led to the domination of Europeans in most of the countries. After this age, most of the world countries were converted to European colonies.
The age of exploration also had a direct impact on the scientific revolution. The people who used to navigate the high seas and oceans used the sky in trying to understand their position. This technology was not possible during the night or times of fog.
Therefore, they needed better equipment that could direct them to the position. Therefore, the age of exploration introduced equipment that made it easy for navigators to understand their position. This improved navigation, shipping, and associated crafts. The age of exploration also brought the biological and cultural exchanges all over the world.
During this time, there were biological exchanges that involved various aspects. The elements exchanged included diseases, animals, and plants. The biological exchange was between the explorers and the countries that were explored. Some of the examples of biological exchanges during the age of exploration affected people differently in the various continents.
1. To the Americas
The explorers brought many new plants to countries like the Americas. They brought crops from various parts of the world including from Europe, Middle East and Asia.
The introduction of new plants led to the establishment of new economies especially in the Americas. Other than the introduction of new crops and plants the Europeans also brought in domesticated animals. This made many people get into cattle ranging as a way of living (Sammis, 1997).
Additionally, when the new flora and fauna were introduced into the countries, some diseases were also experienced. More than 90% of the ecosystem was wiped away by the diseases. Since these people had no resistance and cure for such diseases, they fell sick and died of these diseases.
Diseases that were most common were measles, smallpox, and chicken pox among many others. People from Europe made Africans slaves by forcing them to work in their farms. This was as a result of the high rate of death experienced in the Europe as a country. This had a direct impact to the Africans too.
2. To Europe
As they explored the world and gave new plants, animals, and diseases to people, the Europeans also took something home from the countries being explored. It is said that people from Europe exported some plants after exploring certain regions of the world.
The plants were planted in their home country. The European people were introduced to new crops like maize, potatoes, and beans.
They also introduced various fruits such as squashes, tomatoes, and avocados among several other things. These new crops from America and other countries to Europe changed both their way of leaving and farming also changed.
For example, crops like the potato largely affected them in because of its nutritive value whish caused the surge of the population hence industrial revolution came to be due to increased population growth.
The process of exchanging cultural aspects involved transferring technology, ideas, as well as products. Some of the cultural exchanges have been discussed below.
1. To the Americas
The Inca and Aztec kingdoms were destroyed when the Europeans arrived in the region. They used guns which was a European technology so as to conquer these empires. The European also brought new language and religion where many of the native people learned the Spanish and the Portuguese language.
With the introduction of new language and religion, most of the people in America became Catholics. There was the emergence of new religion as the local people integrated their beliefs with Christianity.
2. To Europe and Africa
As the Europeans explored the American countries, the things they obtained like the gold silver and precious stones changed their way of life. It is important to mention that items of luxury and natural resources moved from the America to Europe during this time.
Other raw materials, such as cotton; and this was being grown in North America. This caused the development of many manufacturing industries in Europe. This also made many of the Europeans gain new knowledge.
To Africa, this had a great impact to them as Europeans carried the Africans and brought them to America as slaves. This also led to the emergence of wars in the African region because the Europeans got involved in the political aspects of the region.
They supported chiefs so that they could easily get slaves. In terms of language and religion, there was no much impact. However, some Africans became Christians, and they also learned new languages like the Portuguese.
In Asia, most of the areas adopted Christianity as their religion. There was a rapid spread of Christianity, and new people were converted in India, China as well as Japan.
Other converts were made in other countries all over the world. Wars broke in countries like Japan due to the knowledge of the European guns. New commodities were also brought to Japan by the Europeans (Washburn, 1966).
Exploration age is a phenomenon that went on for a long period of time. Discoveries of new things and ideas did not end until about 1700 in some countries and 1900 and 2000 in other countries like the African countries.
It was very significant to the world because it contributed much of the developments that have existed to date. It was also significant to the explorers themselves because by exploring the world, they learned new ideas and invented new technologies.
These new ideas and technologies were later to be applied in their home countries. A significant percentage of European culture spread into the whole world due to this activity. It can be noted that this is what people use even in the modern times.
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