European Exploration

The Europeans had multiple intentions when they began to explore during the 15th century. They were itching to expand their knowledge about the world and discover new things. While they had known much about the lands in the east, they knew little about their new developed nautical technology. The best way to understand was to get out, explore, and put it to use. Large sea worthy vessels meant that not only could they sail longer distances but farther. Merchants around Europe were eager to take these new vessels to explore new trade routes to get a leg up on their competition. Unknowingly they stumbled upon one of the greatest discoveries to date, a whole new continent!

The main reason Europe wanted to explore was to find a shorter trade route to the Indies. There were many things in Asia that Europe did not have such as silk, carpet, and jewels. By the time these luxuries were sent and arrived to Europe there was so much tax on them that they were very expensive (“European Voyages,” 2001). Finding a shorter route to Asia would help this problem and make trading with Asia much more simple than trading by land and crossing mountains.

In the 15th century there was still no refrigeration and meat needed to be preserved. Spices had been brought across thousands of miles of dangerous mountains and deserts by spice traders until the land route was cut off by the Turkish Empire (Oracle ThinkQuest 2000). Spices, added to the list of things that Europe did not have that Asia did, was another reason to find a shorter sea route to Asia.

During the Age of Exploration maps were still very inaccurate “The European map of the world included only Europe, Asia, and the top of Africa,” (Oracle ThinkQuest 2000). Knowledge of the world would help Europeans advance into a whole new way of life. The Europeans who were at most to gain from the new world discover was the poor. "During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, 90 percent of Europe's people, widely dispersed in small villages, made their living from the land. But warfare ,poor transportation, and low grain yields all created food shortages, and undernourishment produced a population prone to disease," (US A Narrative History, pg. 21). Not only were these people poor but they were forced to deal with harsh authority. It was common for aristocrats to take advantage of the poor, by killing, raping, and robbing them. So when the word of a brand new land far from the brutal clutches of European authority spread, the poor were willing to go to the extremes of harsh sea voyages packed tightly in disease infested vessels for a chance at a new life for not only themselves, but for following generations.

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Several Routes to the New World made by different European Explorers
Several Routes to the New World made by different European Explorers

Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation. (2011, February). Why Explorers Explored the World.
Retrieved from
LaLonde, V, & Chastko, P. (1997) The European Voyages of Exploration. Retrieved from

By: Lauren Normoyle, Zachary Kruzich

Morgan Haag
History 103
Counter arguement
April 18, 2011

From my research i found that there are two reasons the Europeans began their voyage. They wanted to find a faster route to the spice-rich islands of the Moluccas and to find a southern continent that is somewhere in the Pacific and has not been discovered yet. They knew there was more out there that they needed to find to expand their colony. I believe that the British drove the Europeans out of their land and forced them to find land in order to free themselves from the "harsh authority".

What made the Europeans leave? Why was it so bad that they thought of getting away from their central government to start their own?
People from all over the world began to come and tell the Europeans about their travels and tell them of the world unkown. "As explorers, merchants, and privateers from Holland, France, and England began to explore and chart the unknown expanse of the Pacific" (Eric Kjellgren). They also began a race between the colonies. "The rival nations began to send out scientific exbiditions to explore and chart the islands of the Pacific" (Eric Kjellgren). They started to think about exploration because of the other colonies influecing them. By talking with these people they learned about how their government was treating them and knew not to accept it. They were also slowly learning about the land that needed to be discovered throughout the world and they wanted to be the ones to discover it. Tell more of the reasons why they wanted to exlpore a new way of life. Pretty vague. Why was it so bad where they were living and why did they try so hard to get out? This was a good article I enjoyed reading it.

Kjellgren, Eric. "European Exploration of the Pacific, 1600–1800 ". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)

Source: European Exploration of the Pacific, 1600–1800 | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lauren NormoyleHistory 103

Even though the article covers many of the reasons that the Europeans explored, the most important may be debatable. Yes, the Europeans explored to expand knowledge and discover new things, but that to brood of a fact to not go into detail with. One could easily believe that religion and gold were huge motives when it came to European exploration.

Barber takes the position that Europeans in search for gold was one of the primary reasons for sailing westward. According to the book, The Complete Idiot’s guide to European History, Europeans knew what could be found and they were hoping to find a sea route to Asia to replace the land routes that had been taking by the Muslims. While it is true that they were searching for shorter trade routes, ocean voyages were very expensive and had to be paid for by someone with more motives. The people who paid for these voyages were depending on the gold to pay for the trips.

Europeans also relied on their faith, as it was a huge part of their daily life. Yes, they were big in navigation and finding new technologies but they also wanting to spread their religion. In Schaum’s Outline of Modern European History, the Christian faith was very big and it spread all throughout Europe. So the desire increased to bring the Christian religion to other areas of the world.

Without a doubt, “maps were still very inaccurate”, but according to Schaum’s Outline of Modern European History, European knowledge of geography remained severely limited even after the 15th century.

All in all, there is more to it than Europeans exploring to elicit new things and a condensed trade route. While the claims that Europeans explored for the sheer quest of religion and gold seem credential, and has a case by many different people, it is not supportable and not settled.

Works Cited
Nathan Barber, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to European History: What’s your motive.
Retrieved. Web. 17 April 2011.
Birdsall S. Viault, Schaum’s Outline of Moder European History: The Beginning of European History. Retrieved. Web. 17 April 2011.