Exploration and Empire 1-7

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Exploration and Empire 1-7

Starting around 1400, European kingdoms sailed away from shore to find, explore, and claim new land and to rob, convert, and enslave new people. The Age of Exploration?





Portugal led the European sailing exploration of the world. It was a small country with excellent sailors along the Atlantic Ocean.

Spain established colonies across the Atlantic in S. America. After 1492, Spain had strong monarchies that gain glory from exploration.

England claimed Australia, North America, India, and East Africa. It was an island kingdom with skillful sailors and a powerful monarchy,

France controlled SE Asia, Northwest Africa, and part of North America. The strong monarchs of France desired gold and glory from exploration.



The Americas

Europeans sailed the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. They traveled over land, east to India and China. But they began to sail away from shore and explore new continents starting in the 1450’s.

cartography, navigation

Cartography is the science of making accurate maps. Carto is the Latin word for map. Navigation is the ability to travel using maps and other devices, especially when crossing the ocean.

Christian religion

In the time of exploration, Christians believed that every person had to become a Christian. It was the will of God. Christians felt they had a duty to travel to distant lands and impose their religion.

natural resources

Europe is a northern, temperate climate with cold, dark winters. Even Portugal and Spain are 3000 miles north of the equator. Natural resources that are common in tropical climates are rare in Europe.



Explorers brought back goods from the new tropical lands they visited. The Europeans’ desire for these exciting new goods made the explorers return for more goods to import. Greed drove exploration.

Prince Henry

the Navigator

(1394-1460) Henry was a rich, educated prince of Portugal. He asked scientists to create better maps. He led or encouraged explorations of the west coast of Africa. There he used slave labor to create huge plantations to grow sugarcane. He seized Africans’ gold.





Spices are dried plants that grow in tropical climates. When ground into powder, spices give strong flavor to everyday boring food.

Cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves were the main spices.

Silk is a very fine thread that reflects light. The larvae of moths spin silk for their cocoons. The moths prefer warmer tropical climates, not cold European climates. This silk is woven into soft, shiny fabric.

Gold is a shiny, soft mineral found under the ground. It is dug from mines. It can be melted and shaped into jewelry and coins. Gold is not found on the continent of Europe; there is none. There are large gold deposits in West Africa and northwestern South America.

Sugarcane is a tall stalk plant that grows in the tropics. Cane stalks are cut by hand and boiled in a complex, back-breaking, laborious process. The result is sugar. Sugar sweetens food; plain food becomes dessert.

Exploration and Empire


D C 1-6

Use the information on the other side to answer in complete sentences.

1. Does Europe have a tropical climate that is hot all year? Why or why not?

2. Did European explorers respect the religious beliefs of people they met?

3. Why didn’t European farmers grow their own spices?

4. How did European markets respond to silks and spices from the tropics?

5. How is sugar made?

6. Prince Henry the Navigator developed a bold new idea for supplying labor to do the exhausting work of turning cane into sugar. What was it?

7. Europeans loved the gold of tropical cultures. So what did explorers do?

8. Europeans called 1450-1650 the Age of Exploration. Is this a good name for it? What do you think tropical cultures would call it? Explain the difference.

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