Columbian Exchange

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The modern world exists in a state of cultural, political, and economic globalization. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries two nations, Portugal and Spain, pioneered the European discovery of sea routes that were the first channels of interaction between all of the world's continents, thus beginning the process of globalization in which we all live today. This explains the two pioneering nations, their motivations, their actions, and the inevitable consequences of their colonization. The Age of Exploration marked the highest point of Portuguese imperial power and wealth. At the beginning of the fifteenth century Portugal had an economy dependent on maritime trade with Northern Europe. Although Portugal lacked the wealth of its generation, it would lead the European society in the exploration of sea routes to the African continent, the Atlantic Islands, and to Asia and South America over the course of the sixteenth century. Several factors contributed to Portugal becoming the European pioneer in sea exploration. The first was its geographical position along the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula, which allowed for the natural development of a seafaring tradition. The second was the development of a complex maritime economy in which the port cities of Lisbon and Oporto became the commercial centuries of the country.

The third critical factor that made Portugal a pioneer in exploration was its monarchy. Portugal benefited from a relatively stable monarchy whose kings encouraged maritime trade and shipping ventures. The Crown gave every possible incentive by implementing tax privileges and insurance funds to protect the investments of ship owners and builders. Portugal was fortunate to have kings who recognized the kingdom's dependency on overseas trade and assisted in its expansion in every possible way. The stability of the monarchy was essential to the establishment of sustainable economic growth, thus the stability of the Portuguese monarchy gave the kingdom a seventy-year head start over the Spanish who were distracted by a civil war and the Reconquista of Granada. It was not until Columbus' voyage in 1492 that the Spanish were finally in a position to challenge Portugal's predominance in exploration. Europe's interaction with the Caribbean began in 1492 with the Spanish sponsored voyages of Christopher Columbus. Columbus' voyages to the Caribbean incorporated two differing traditions of expansion. The first was influenced by his experience in the Portuguese merchant system. This background allowed Columbus to view his task as mainly one of discovery to be followed by the establishment of commercial outposts and trading centers’ that would tap into local resources. The primary goal of this system was the quick exploitation of the local area with minimum investment. The primary goal of this system was the conquest and eventual settlement of new lands for the purpose of long term exploitation. The difference between these two traditions created expectations that brought Columbus into immediate conflict with the Spanish settlers who accompanied him. The Crown was called on in several occasions to mediate between Columbus and the settlers, usually deciding in their countrymen's favor. This Spanish pattern of conquest and settlement became the standard for Spanish exploration in the New World. Upon discovering a new territory, the Spanish expeditions were usually, but not always, greeted by friendly inhabitants. During this initial stage the Europeans would survey the area and the people to determine their potential for exploitation. Within a short period of time the inhabitants would grow to resent the Spanish who helped themselves to 'the natives' food, women and gold.' Such abuses were common in Spanish cross-cultural contact and provoked violent reactions by various indigenous populations. Once native resistance was crushed the Spanish forced the villages to grow cash crops, pay tribute, and mine for their...
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