Countries such as Portugal, Spain and England, led the charge of exploration throughout the Old World and later into the New World. France and The Netherlands shortly followed seeking their rewards of exploring the known world. Four factors spearheaded these numerous explorations. First was the thirst for knowledge and the desire to establish sea routes for spices and trading goods. Secondly, rulers of these exploring countries always needed to maintain borders and start new wars. The same rulers of these various countries greatly wanted to expand their empire and spread Christianity. Lastly, seeking religious freedom became widespread throughout Europe. This same cause would later change to wanting land ownership and wealth. Thus, recreation of the New World was strongly due to the greed of exploration.
From 1450 to 1750 is referred as the “Age of Exploration.” In the 1400s, knowledge of the complete world was inaccurate and views of such, often conflicted. The European map of the known world was of Europe, Asia and the top of Africa. The size and shape of the earth was therefore documented wrongly and thus created this thirst to know the truth. This thirst fueled Christopher Columbus and other sailors and explorers of this Age. By using a Florentine map that used Marco Polo’s overstated distance from Venice to Japan across Asia and an understated estimate of the circumference of the globe, Columbus routed his initial voyage incorrectly. (Reilly 575-583) This mistake and error in searching for the East Indies, but finding the West Indies, changed the world. Columbus returning to Spain with gold and spices created new vigor to search now for treasure. The four known voyages by Columbus claimed the new lands for Spain. This established settlements and ushered in the colonization of two huge continents unknown to the Old World. (Beers) The most important changes brought on by the voyages of Columbus were not social or political, but biological in nature. The year 1492 sparked the movement of organisms, both large and small, in "both "directions across the Atlantic. This “Colombian Exchange”, between the Old World and the New, changed the history of our planet drastically and forever.
With European rulers embarking on so many wars, the cost became expensive. The need to find gold, silver and precious stones grew increasingly among rulers. Previously thought to be found in Asia, now many rulers and explorers believed the New World held new found riches. Thus, further explorations were sponsored just to secure more wealth. Rivalry between Spain and Portugal’s claim to the Caribbean islands would be settled by the Pope. The outcome would be known as “The Treaty of Tordesillas”. This treaty gave all newly discovered lands west of the Line of Demarcation to Spain. Portugal received lands and rights to colonize to the east. Most of North and South America would be Spain. (Beers 353) Spanish explorers soon exploded in the Caribbean Sea and discovered Aztec and Inca Indians. Conquering the native people helped to establish a new Spanish empire in the Americas. (Reilly 598-617) Conquistadors Cortes and Pizarro were detrimental in those victories with the use of horses, guns and cannons. Unknown to all was how diseases brought by Europeans destroyed vast numbers of Indians, creating little resistance of the Native Americans. Diseases also caused a large hole in the Indian work force later that needed to be filled. Portugal’s discovery of Brazil would also cause change to the New World immensely. Soon plantations in the West Indies exported gold, silver, tobacco and sugar and Spain became the richest and most powerful nation in Europe.
Expanding empire’s came through establishing New Spain, Brazil, Peru, the American colonies and the West Indies. The settlements on these two continents grew vastly and provided all countries and settlers seeking to explore it, with new found wealth. Some European