Factors Which Stimulated Atlantic Maritime Exploration in 15th Century

Topics: Europe, Age of Discovery, Africa Pages: 6 (2074 words) Published: November 14, 2008
Name: Omar Joseph
Course Code: Hist 1601
Student Number: 407001944
Title: Assess the factors which stimulated Atlantic Maritime exploration in 15th century

During the period of time 1400-1499 great gains were made by the Europeans in their quest for knowledge of the world they lived in. In this time period the Europeans circum-navigated Africa, located the territories of the West Indies and basically redrew the map of the world. All these things had one thing in common; they were the result of extensive Atlantic maritime exploration. The reasons that European engaged in such aggressive exploration in 15th century can be attributed to several factors. These factors can be grouped into three major headings, technological and navigational advances, economic motives and religious cause. This essay will look at exactly how these factors stimulated Atlantic maritime exploration by focusing on the two most important Dates 15th century exploration; 1420 and 1492. 1420 marked the beginning of Prince Henry the navigator’s promotion of exploration around the coast of West Africa. Similarly 1492 was the year in which Columbus set out westward. Both these days marked a shift in the focus of European exploration. This essay will seek to explain what the factors were motivated these two events.

One of the principle reasons that the Europeans began looking at Atlantic exploration was the fact that they had finally amassed the technological and navigational know-how to make the long voyages necessary for Atlantic exploration. The finally had the technology to overcome the many barriers to exploration such as the effect wind and currents had upon navigation as suggested by Thornton, “for the winds and currents created barriers to traffic for thousands of years.” . These barriers prevented maritime exploration until as Davidson states “Until the1430s the seaboard nations of Europe possessed no ships that were good enough for long range discovery…. Through the Arabs and Asian peoples, inventions of this kind became known to the Europeans of the Mediterranean. Now moving into the age of science, Europeans borrowed the new methods of sailing and navigating improved upon them, and began building long range ships of their own.” This meant that obtaining the compass and advanced ship righting techniques from the Muslim traders enabled the Europeans to even think about engaging in maritime activities away from coastal waters as they allowed them to overcome the many navigational barriers that were present in Atlantic navigation.

A major stimulant for maritime exploration was the economic motives of the Europeans. Prior to 1415 the only way Europeans could obtain the spices, silks and gold from Asia was through the Italians who received them from Moslem merchants. This trade made the nations involved incredible rich as goods concerned were crucial aspect of life in Europe. Spices were valuable because of the flavour they gave to meat. In an age where refrigeration was unheard of having spices such as clove, peppers and cinnamon was often the difference between a meal of rotten meat and palatable dish. Gold was valuable because it was the major monetary currency of the day. A person’s wealth was measured by the amount of gold they possessed.

Due to the great value of these two commodities it is no surprise that the major economic stimulant for Atlantic maritime exploration was the search for an alternate route to the spices, textiles, and gold found in Africa and Asia. This was such an important factor because as these precious commodities were not found in Europe itself they had to be obtained through Italian merchants who traded with Moslem traders for them. The fact that the goods had to go through so many middle men caused the prices of the goods to be so high that it cost the other European merchants much to purchase them from the Italian merchant. This caused the amount of profits these merchants could make from the...

Bibliography: 1. Davidson, Basil. A History of West Africa 1000-1800. London: Longman Group Ltd 1965.
2. Ojelabi, Adekunle. A Textbook of West African History. Nigeria: Educational Research Institute 1970.
3. Thornton, John. ‘The Birth of an Atlantic World’, Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Eds. Beckles, Hilary and Shepherd, Verene. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers 2000. 55-73.
4. Wood, Russell. ‘Before Columbus: Portugal’s African Prelude to the Middle Passage and Contribution to Discourse on Race and Slavery’, Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Eds. Beckles, Hilary and Shepherd, Verene. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers 2000. 11- 31.
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