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2018년 04월
2018년 03월

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Age of Exploration

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▣ My Essay     Ryan's Warehouse 2018.03.22. 12:44 (2018.03.22. 12:22)

Age of Exploration

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 1. Part 1
 2. Part 2

1. Part 1

The Portuguese were the first of the European nations to set sail during the age of exploration. The Portuguese were the first due to several key influences. Firstly their geography; Portugal was conveniently sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and Spain. The Portuguese had very poor resources on their little patch of land, they needed trade for better resources and spices but had lost most of their suppliers after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. They had little opportunity to conquer new lands or find their own trade routes over land as the Spanish were much more powerful than them so trade by sea was a viable option. The Portuguese were ruled by a very keen prince, known commonly as Prince Henry the navigator, although prince henry himself was not a navigator he was eager to patronize Portuguese explorers. He also founded a school for sailors which gave Portuguese seamen the best possible education on everything from hoisting a sail to making maps and stellar navigation; this gave the Portuguese a decisive upper hand at sea. The Portuguese had everything they needed to take to sea, trained sailors, funds from a patronizing leader, the need to find trade routes and the wide open ocean on their doorstep.
The Spanish took to exploration only after they had witnessed the Portuguese success at trading throughout Africa, and into the Indian Ocean. The Spanish had just finished fighting a variety of religious crusades against the Muslims; King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had united their forces and driven them out of Spain and even being so bold as to confront them in different parts of Europe. Spain had a great sense of nationality after their success in these wars and nothing to do with the abundance of troops left over from fighting brutal religious wars. They were approached by an Italian, Christopher Columbus, with a proposal that with funding and men he could find a western route to the Spice Islands. It was known already that the world was round so it was a reasonable concept and after seeing how much success their Portuguese counterparts had had they decided they had absolutely nothing to lose and commissioned the venture. Many more followed this trip putting their human and military resources to use and giving them the opportunity to expand their empire. They were very interested in taking whatever the new lands they found had to offer opposed to trading and became known for their brutality.
The English where later to follow the trend of exploration because they were still working things out amongst themselves following the reformation. But when Queen Elizabeth came to power she decided that their arguing about religion was over. She was very against men sitting idle, the men of England had been largely peaceful and well behaved for 50 odd years and she decided it was time to put people to work. She recognized that if England population kept growing it would no longer be able to sustain itself. She took the initiative to try and build businesses to sustain England. She sent explorers out to search for new fishing grounds, which resulted in the discovery of the occasional island as well as better fishing. They were able to establish bases on these island’s from which they could dry fish and send it home for the long winter months. When the new world was discovered England once again saw it as a business opportunity. Unlike Spain and Portugal, England had a colder climate, so England founded companies to monopolize on the trade of furs in North America to keep them warm during the winter. They were also interested in finding new trade routes now that they had trade goods and through exploration discovered trade routes up into Russia that remained open all year round. They also put extensive effort into finding a North West passage into the Pacific Ocean so they could trade in the Indies but were largely unsuccessful due to the ice.
The French were only a Minor Player in the age exploration; like the British they had been largely occupied fighting amongst themselves over whether France should be protestant or catholic. In the end France came out unified under a catholic monarch and everyone seemed content for the time being. The French decided that they would follow other European nations into the new world solely because there was land to gained and like most powerful nations of the time they wanted to expand their empire. The French were for the most part content with what they could get; they explored up the St. Laurence River and into the north, developing excellent relations with the indigenous people where they settled. The French settled large parts of Canada mainly in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, meanwhile developing trade back to France.
The Dutch like the Portuguese had very poor resources. Their land was largely below sea level and was only habitable because of their extensive use of dykes to hold out the sea. This made the soil very salty and largely scarce of trees. Because of this constant battle between sea and man for possession of the land, the Dutch became well known as hard workers. Many of them served as seamen with the Portuguese or the English, and when they returned home they retained the skills they had learned at sea. In order to survive of the scarce land the Dutch relied on trade; they had to develop healthy trade relations with their neighbors to get lumber and other resources that they lacked living below sea level. The Dutch sailed and explored all along their coast, and the coasts of nearby lands developing trade routes. When trade routes opened up to the new world the Dutch seized these opportunities as well, due to their lack of quality land they also settled in various places throughout the new world to acquire better land.
After the initial wave of exploration there was a stop in exploration for new lands which lasted somewhere around 200 years. One of the reasons for this may simply have been that European nations were content with what they had already discovered but some of the reasons are a bit more complicated. Back home in Europe the armies had grown with all the wealth flowing in from the new world, the development of big armies is often followed by development of big wars. Following the reformation the religious conflict was immense. Aside from fighting internally Christian nations such as Spain thought they should intervene, invading Muslim and protestant states in the name of God. These wars took years to fight out and almost as long to recover from. After these wars nations had large navies and better ships left over that they could use for the purpose of exploration. Another important factor was navigation. A lot of navigation at the time was done by sighting coastal landmarks, putting further out to sea was more of a challenge. If they got in the right current or headed in a fairly constant direction they could eventually find a continent and follow the coast to their destination but when they were trying to reach a section of sea they hadn’t mapped yet it got harder. Even if the wind worked out in your favor (Murphy’s Law says it won’t) you still have the problem of finding where you are. Most of the navigation at the time was done by trying to figure out where the pole star was in comparison to the horizon and what time zone you were in but it wasn’t possible to tell what time it was and therefore what time zone you were in. Clocks of the time relied on precise motion which would be thrown off and rendered useless by the motion of a ship; it wasn’t until the development of a wind up clock using a spring before they could navigate the vast ocean with any accuracy. These two factors, along with advancement in sail technology making windward travel easier, corresponded to make a second wave of nautical exploration possible.

2. Part 2

Throughout the history of exploration there is always the sad story of the people explorers encountered. Dehumanised, displaced, stolen from or killed was often how the story went. The heroic explorers often had little thought towards the wellbeing of indigenous people. Taking what they had to offer and giving little in return. Although it would have been hard to change the way white men treated native populations (not that they tried very hard) it would have been harder still to stop the spread disease, exchange of technology, and the way cultures would adapt to being or disappear after being conquered by strange men from distant lands. The story of what happened to the civilizations discovered during the age of exploration changes with the story teller, but one thing is consistent; death.
The initial discovery of civilizations could have gone several different ways depending on the explorer, one explorer may have initially attempted peaceful trade, another may have demanded gold, women and anything else of value before becoming hostile, and another yet may have jumped strait into open combat. The explorers would have been strange, like nothing the natives had ever seen; reminiscent to gods in their massive ships, with their guns and horses. On the other hand the white men often viewed the natives as little more than intelligent animals; they were a different color, spoke strange languages, they weren’t Christians, their customs were strange and often frowned upon, the white men viewed them as inferiors form first contact and did not hesitate to wrong, rape, steal, cheat, or even kill.
After first contact in the Americas disease became an issue, diseases that were common in Europe had never reached the New World. Many Europeans had built up immunity against such diseases but the natives had never had any exposure at all and therefore no immunity. Diseases such as smallpox, chickenpox, measles, and others swept through the native populations like wildfire, often reaching groups of people before even the explorers could. These diseases killed off more than half the indigenous population leaving civilizations weak, in some cases without enough people to even the sustain the living.
By the time the explorers returned to the new world many civilizations had already begun to topple from disease. Once powerful army’s had been cut in half by plague, left leaderless, and had become completely disorganized. When the Europeans returned with their armies to conquer the “savages” they faced little challenge. Even the greatest empires such as the Incas or Aztecs were felled with little opposition; they would have fought until the end but what good are sick men with a sticks and stones against an army with armor and guns. The temples and places of worship would have been toppled, the leaders dethroned and everyone would have been forced into submission.
In the Americas the conquered people were forced into labour, working in Spanish silver mines for little or no pay. Once they were under control attempts were made by missions to convert them, teach them the error in their primitive ways. The missionaries wanted to teach them how to be whites, to wear proper clothes and to learn to read, write and talk like white people. Above all the missionaries wanted to convert the natives into good Christians, in the Europeans eyes their religion was wrong and they needed to be taught to fear god. The explorers felt they were helping them by showing them “civilization” but the reality was that even if they learned how to be white they would still be second class citizens at best. In places like Africa less effort was put into changing the population and more into harvesting the resources. Europeans took advantage of tribal warfare buying slaves to use for mining gold elsewhere in Africa or to ship elsewhere, such as the Americas, to work. In Asia trade was more peaceful but still oppressive, the Europeans still treated them like inferiors, often taking advantage of them, but in some cases still had the decency to trade for spices and other goods opposed taking them by brute force.
In exchange for all the hardship the Europeans brought upon foreign civilizations they did introduce technology and culture of a theoretically more advanced civilization. The natives had never seen guns or armor, ships, clocks, or even horses. What would a stereotypical Indian be without a horse? The native culture was almost completely destroyed but the future generations would have ships, guns and some education; they would be widely accepted as more advanced than their forbearers. Explorers brought Christianity, disease and so many things the natives would have doubtlessly been happier without. They stopped the natural evolution and growth of healthy civilization and replaced it with a sudden dehumanising technological leap. But without all the death and hardship wrought by European adventurers it is questionable whether we would even be Canadians today.
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