The expansion of Western Europe started with the Iberian phase. Spain and Portugal, the two countries of the Iberian Peninsula, had a short-lived yet important role in European expansion. European expansion then turned to Western Europe. Western Europe consists of the Dutch, French, and British. While Western Europe was exploring new worlds overseas, the Russians were expanding westward across all of Eurasia.
Religion played a major role in expansion for both the Portuguese and the Spanish due to their extensive anti-Muslim crusade. Due to the over zealous religious fervor of the Christian Iberians, Christianity and thus the Iberians expanded into parts of western Europe during the crusades as Christians tried to convert the Muslims who were occupying this area. The Iberians did not stop with the European mainland; they were also expanding overseas. They were interested in the fertile land of the Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde. These islands would also prove to be strategic acquisitions for the Iberians, as they would eventually provide the Iberians with bases and ports to be used for commerce. Throughout the 15th century the Spanish and Portuguese had been exploring lands throughout the Atlantic which drove Queen Isabella of Spain to commission Christopher Columbus in 1492 to "Discover and acquire islands and mainland in the ocean sea" (p.340) which eventually led to the discovery of North America.
In the mid 1400's Spain and Portugal began to take separate routes of discovery. Prince Henry of Portugal, in reaction to the shortage of bullion in Western Europe, was interested in sending his captains to the African coast in search of gold. As a result, many Portuguese ports were established along the African coast and "The Portuguese were able to exploit at least a part of the African caravan trade they had sought." (p.340) While Portugal was focused on expansion along the African coast; the Spanish were the first to discover the...
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