European Expansion

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Category: World History

Date Submitted: 11/20/2012 03:08 PM

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The 15th and 16th centuries were a time of great political, social, cultural and economical expansion for the Europeans. Europeans looking to become players in Asian trade between 1450 and 1650 discovered the New World, the Western Hemisphere, and began a new empire in the Indian Ocean. In this paper I will first summarize the content of chapter 15 in the textbook, “Understanding Western Society: A Brief History,” by McKay et al. which discusses the European explorations and conquest. I will then assess the role that the increasing demand for sugar played in shaping the economy and society of the New World. In regard to this topic, the connection between sugar and slavery will be examined. Lastly, I will discuss how this expansion changed European attitudes and beliefs.

According to McKay et al. (2012), the cause of the European expansion was in large part due to the strong economic recovery and growth after the Black Death. Religious fervor, the desire to find a trade route to the spice markets of India and to accumulate wealth were motivators that sent the explorers on their journeys. Technology and knowledge of geography and navigation were needed to pursue these explorations. The Portuguese had created the caravel, Ptolemy’s Geography was introduced to the Europeans and led to the creation of new maps, the astrolabe, gunpowder, compass and knowledge were all taken from the East and enabled the voyages (McKay et al., 2012, p. 423-424). The Portuguese began their overseas empire by navigating down the Atlantic coast and travelling eastwards. They founded multiple African trading settlements which enabled them to trade with the East by bypassing the Ottoman Empires blockages.

Christopher Columbus was also interested in trade with the East and the spread of Christianity so set out on a journey to find entry to Asia from the West. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain supported and endorsed his voyage. He landed on an island in the Bahamas which he believed...