What Fundamental Factors Drew Europeans to The Exploration, Conquest, and Settlement of the New World?

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Toward the end of pre-colonial times in Europe, due to the fall of Constantinople, many European nations felt the need to find an alternate route to the East Indies. The trade of rare goods such as spices, rice, exotic fruits and silk fabrics were much in demand, but came at extreme prices. In the beginning of the ‘Age of Exploration’, Portugal was in the forefront with the early explorers Henry the Navigator, Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira, and Diogo Silves discovering the Madeira Islands, the Azores, and the exploration of Africa respectively, but King John the II of Portugal was unconvinced by Christopher Columbus’s pleas to fund his plan to sail West to the East Indies. Columbus made many demands for self-profit, including ten percent of any riches with which he returned, and even an ‘Admiralty’. Subsequently, Columbus took his plans to Queen Isabella of Spain. Spain acquiesced, and Columbus set off on his fateful journey. The Roman Catholic Church was very interested in expanding the Christian faith during this time and applied its influence on the monarchy. Religion also played a large personal role as Columbus truly believed that God spoke to him, and guided his hand. Additionally, at this time in Europe, land and food were at a premium. The monarchs of the era were fully aware that the acquisition of more land, slave labor and possible natural resources would greatly increase their power, prestige and subsequent wealth. After learning of Columbus’ successful return and the Treaty of Tordesillas (which divided the New World between Spain and Portugal), King Henry VII of England threw his hat into the ring and sent John Cabot sailing from Bristol on an attempt to find a shorter route to the ‘Indies’. Not to be left out in ...

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...sperity in Europe, but in fact changed their entire way of life.
Along with an exuberance of gold and silver, plants such as corn, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, sugar, and myriad other fruits and vegetables were introduced into European diets. The humble potato was especially adopted by the Irish; Tomatoes, the Spanish; and tobacco, the entire world. Due to the increased food supply, the European population exploded and necessitated the subsequent settlement of the ‘New World’.
Quote: “These people are very unskilled in arms... with 50 men they could all be subjected and made to do all that one wished.” – Christopher Columbus

Works Cited

The Worlds of Christopher Columbus by William D. Phillips Jr. and Carla Rahn Philips
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