The Oceanic Voyages of Spanish and Portuguese Explorers and Their Impacts on the World

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Imagine if no one had dared to step out of his home or comfort zone and seek for new things that he had not encountered before, he could not have shared his knowledge and traded his resources to other people in the society. Then, the society as a whole would not have been as progressive and developed as it has because people could not have benefited from others’ goods and accomplishments. Trading goods has played an important role in shaping our society today, and according to the Principles of Microeconomics, people and society are better off with interdependent trade. It is impossible to trade without communication and transportation among partner countries. Therefore, thanks to the adventurous voyagers and navigators who pioneered the transoceanic explorations and created the very first global connections and trade routes, the international trades had been established and reinforced. Despite the fact that there were many negative impacts of these expeditions on non European countries, the trades have been benefiting the world as a whole by contributing to its cultural diversity, distributing goods all over the world, letting humans to experience and consume things that are unfamiliar yet better to them, and making the world smaller and the distances shorter. Before 15th century, the world was divided up between different empires that did not have much interactions with each other beside conquests and wars. However, as the empires started to settle down and figure out another way to expand their power and influence over the world, they shifted their main focus from wars to trades. In particular, Spain and Portugal also desired to look for fresh resources and lands to cultivate. At that time, most of European lands were occupied by other countries and the soils were not fertile anymore for planting crops. To solve this problem, Spain and Portugal had to search for new lands and establish trades on the other sides of the world. Another motive for these European empires to explore new lands is to seek opportunities to spread their faith - Christianity. In order to achieve these goals, the empires need to find ways to get to these new lands across the ocean.

In fact, according to Bentley and Ziegler, the idea of exploring the Atlantic ocean and beyond it began as early as thirteenth century. In 1291, the Vivaldi brothers tried to sail to around Africa and reach India but they did not succeed. By the early fourteenth century, there had been some discoveries of new, uninhabited islands, e.g. Azores and Madeiras Islands, to grow wheat and other crops (Bentley and Ziegler, pg. 467.) At the beginning of 15th century, the rulers of Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms started to fund many explorers, sailors and geographers to sail further and explore new lands and trades routes in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. In this paper, we will only focus on the voyages of some initial well-known explorers: Dom Henrique of Portugal, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan.

First of all, let us look at the achievements of the voyagers listed above and their immediate consequences. Dom Henrique of Portugal (1394-1460), also known as Prince Henry the Navigator, sailed to west Africa for gold and slave and established the European exploration and trading foundation. After his conquest of the Moroccan port of Ceuta, Portuguese merchants set up trading post at some strategic locations where they exchanged European horses, textiles, and metal wares for gold and slaves (Bentley and Ziegler, pg.470.) Prince Henry’s accomplishment inspired many other explorers to sail further into the ocean in different directions to India, Asia, and America. In 1497, Portuguese mariners Vasco da Gama (1469-1452) sailed around Africa to India and reached the Indian port of Calicut a year after. With his profitable trade of pepper and cinnamon, Portuguese merchants started to organize further trips and set up trading post in India,...
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