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European Expansion

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The period from 1450 to 1650 is often referred to as the “Age of Discovery,” an era of advances in geographical knowledge and technology. It was also a time of European migration to other parts of the world. This Age of Expansion and European exploration from 1450 to 1525, greatly promoted by economical, technological, political, and religious factors, launched a major turning point in world history.

The economy of late fifteenth century played an important role in European conquest. The Ottoman capture of Constantinople in 1453 caused Europeans to turn to sub-Saharan Africa to supply their demand for slaves. In addition, the Muslim Ottoman Turks controlled the eastern Mediterranean, which brought about the discovery of new sea routes. The search for gold, as well as the desire to discover an overseas route to the spice markets of India, were also objectives of Portuguese exploration. Furthermore, enterprising young men of the Spanish upper classes immigrated to the Americas in search of fortunes. Wealth was a driving motivation, and the quest for material profit was the basic reason for expansion. Political issues aided the financial problems of exploration. The outward push of Spain, France, and England is explained by the ambition for political centralization. The Spanish monarchy supported foreign ventures and bore the costs and dangers. With the voyages of Genoese mariner Christopher Columbus, Spain had begun the quest for an empire. On the other hand, Portugal, insignificant as a European land power, sought greatness in the domination of unknown overseas territories. The destruction and seizure of Muslim coastal forts, which later served as trading posts and military bases, laid the foundation for Portuguese imperialism. The want and control of land displayed the hunger for political power.Technological developments were key factors to European outreach. Cannons – iron or bronze guns that fired iron or stone balls – were mounted onto...