European Exploration and Trade

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There was once a time in our history, before computerized maps and satellites and tracking programs. Sailors had to guide themselves by the stars and very basic and inaccurate maps. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Europe there was advancement in technology and learning that led to widespread exploration and trade among countries. The introduction of the compass, advancements in cartography, the printing press, and other inventions led to increased trade and exploration throughout Europe.

Before the fifteenth century, sailors often didn’t venture far from what they knew because maps were extremely inaccurate and weather was unpredictable. In the fourteenth century a style of maps, called portolon charts, were introduced. These were pictures of harbors, ports, cities, and coastlines inscribed on sheepskin. These maps were valuable to the merchant and traders between cities, but to the explorer changing continents they were basically useless.

The compass was also a major improvement to previous methods. Before this invention, sailors used the stars to navigate and stay on their somewhat planned course. However, during the day they were at a loss. When the compass was invented, it allowed sailors to know their bearing all the time.

People soon learned to notice and pay more attention to weather patterns while sailing. They discovered the trade winds among the seas and noted where they were in relation to each other and what their effects on shipping were. The winds caused either a faster and smoother trip or a longer and rougher voyage, depending on the direction of the ship and the wind involved. This was an advancement to previous methods because they now knew what to expect and prepare for instead of guessing or being surprised. They could also plan routes and try new routes. This led to a period of time called the Age of Sail.

The printing press was one of the biggest and most important inventions of this time period. Before, literature...
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