Spices were originally brought to Western Europe by land routes, but because of a lack cargo space and extremely long travel times the prices were very high. The advantages of ships were that they had much larger cargo capacities and were faster than caravans. The obvious solution to get cheaper spices was to carry them by ships.
Portugal under Henry the navigator was the first country to find a water trade route to Asia. In 1488 Portuguese ships, led by Bartholomew Dias, sailed south down the coastline of Africa, then east around the Cape of Good Hope, and finally north into the Indian Ocean, proving that the Indian Ocean was accessible by sea. They claimed Mauritius in 1505, Sumatra in 1509, and Malacca and the Spice Islands in 1511. They protected these trade routes with a chain of fortified all the way from Goa in India to Macao in China.
The Portuguese also explored across the Atlantic and claimed Brazil in 1500. The Spanish, who were jealous of the Portuguese success in the Spice Islands, were furious at the Portuguese exploring the Americas. The Spanish had begun their exploration of the Americas with Christopher Columbus' discovery of Hispaniola in 1492. To prevent conflict between Spain and Portugal Pope Alexander VI authorized the treaty of Tordesillas, which split the world outside of Europe between the Spanish and the Portuguese along a north-south meridian approximately 1000 miles west of the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa. This was about a third of the distance between the Cape Verde Islands and the islands discovered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage. The lands to the east... [continues]
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