The period before European contact with the Americas marked the beginning of globalization. During this time, the world became, in a sense, both larger and smaller. Voyages of exploration captured the immensity of the earth in maps, images, and the writings of travelers; simultaneously, emerging webs of connection between regions and peoples brought the world closer together. Thus, we often refer to this period as the “early modern era.” For the first time, we see the emergence of a world that bears great similarity to ours of the twenty-first century, a world interconnected through trade, politics, culture, and religion. China took the lead in oceanic exploration in the early fifteenth century, but by mid-century leaders stopped seeking overseas markets. They preferred to let the trade come to them. Chinese efforts gave way to the much more aggressive Portugal and Spain who competed for control of the Atlantic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Both countries had engaged in overland trade with the Islamic world in the Middle Ages and hoped to find alternatives to the land routes used to conduct business with the Indies. Meanwhile, England and France largely ignored the trend of oceanic exploration in the sixteenth century. While their leaders witnessed the success the Portuguese and Spanish had, internal problems blunted their ability to sponsor expeditions. As the European nations expanded their presence in the Atlantic Ocean, they also drew many African kingdoms into their global web. The European exploration of the early sixteenth century set the stage for later colonization in the Americas.
2.1.1: Learning Outcomes
After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Analyze the roles the emergence of a more powerful monarchy and religious changes played in the development of England and France in the Age of Discovery.
- Compare the goals and outcomes of early Chinese and Iberian voyages during this era.
- Evaluate the development of early globalization through exploration and trade.
- Analyze the connections between new technologies and the growth of the Age of Discovery.
- Evaluate the role of Africa in the period before contact.