6 Causes Of Europeans’ Voyages Of Exploration

The causes of Europeans’ voyages of exploration to America have long been a matter of debate. There is no single answer to this question; however, a whole set of possible characteristics is motivated.

Historians have mentioned the existence of both economic, idiosyncratic, technological or religious reasons, among others. On the one hand, the Spanish Empire was trying to find a route to the Indies. The Portuguese Empire already occupied the route that supposed to cross the west of Africa and the Spaniards had to find an alternative.

The development of the caravel was one of the causes of the Europeans' voyages of exploration to America

The particular motivation of the explorers and conquerors was also very important. In fact, the conquests were private projects; Colón, Hernán Cortes or Francisco Pizarro sought to enrich themselves and improve their social position.

Historical context of the voyages of exploration to America

Expansion trips to the new world, carried out mainly by Spain and Portugal, in the 15th and 16th centuries, have been one of the most important activities in the history of mankind.

It is significant to take into account that the Iberian Peninsula is located in a favorable geographical position for conducting exploratory trips to the Atlantic Ocean, compared to the rest of Europe.

The first character on record, having managed to reach the new world, is Christopher Columbus. This character, of Genoese origin, made a trip across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, supported by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. According to written records, his journey was aimed at finding new routes to reach India. This trip lasted approximately ten weeks.

Christopher Columbus on his arrival upon discovering America

Other important figures during the conquest of the new world were: Américo Vespucio, in whose honor the new continent was named America, and Fernando Magellan, discoverer of a navigable channel in America, which today receives the name of the Strait of Magellan.

Causes of exploration trips to America by Europeans

1- Economic exchange

Some authors point out that, in view of the confrontations and blockades with the Turkish army, the search for new navigation routes for trade with the East could be the main factor that motivated the European exploratory trips.

At that time, the Turkish-Ottoman army had blocked the roads of the Middle East, specifically the Red Sea and surrounding areas, interrupting the commercial exchange between Europe and Asia.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, new demands developed (especially in the upper classes of Europe) for products that could only be supplied by eastern countries. Some of these products are, for example: cotton, silk, precious stones, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, among others.

Some historians do not agree with this assumption because, in the middle of the year 1400, thanks to the increase in Portuguese maritime imports, the prices of products brought from the East began to decline. This phenomenon had already occurred in Italy before.

On the other hand, the Turkish-Ottoman Empire did not dominate the Red Sea (and its surrounding areas) until the beginning of the 16th century, when the Portuguese ships were already at their peak.

2- Economic ease

Various authors mention that these European expeditions were carried out due to the relatively good economic stability that Europe was going through during the year 1400. It was then that the European continent had sufficient economic support to be able to sustain these activities and expand to new ones. borders.

This explanation is debatable because cities such as Florence, Venice or Genoa, already had this economic level for centuries before.

Prior to exploratory voyages, Europe had already spent far more resources on war ships (for example, during the Crusades) than would later be spent on exploding ships to the new continent.

3- Overpopulation

It is thought that by the year 1400, Europe was already overpopulated, exceeding its ability to support itself in terms of resources, so it was necessary to find new lands where to settle.

Added to this, there was a lot of pressure imposed by the Turkish-Ottoman empire, by blocking the roads that supplied the commercial exchange of Europe with the East.

However, this theory has been debated because the first trips were made during the first decade of the 15th century, when the population of Europe had suffered recent declines due to the Middle Ages.


Search for gold and silver

Certain authors relate European exploratory trips to the search for minerals such as gold and silver, which would attenuate the economic losses (mainly silver) that occurred due to the Middle Ages.

Although it is true that Europe, during this time, was experiencing difficulties due to the complicated economic relations with the East, part of these difficulties were cushioned due to the close relationship that the government and the Portuguese economy had with the extractive gold mines in Africa , specifically in the Nigerian area.


Technological innovation


Some historians believe that European expeditions occurred due to advances in naval engineering, specifically, due to the invention of the caravel. The invention of this type of vessel occurred between the years 1420 to 1470, and marked the beginning of one of the most important periods for Portuguese maritime exploration.

The caravel allowed sailors to navigate at high speed and for longer than with other vessels; However, its main advantage was that the sailors could have control of where they wanted to travel and were not dependent on the directions and conditions of the wind.

Another accessory that was perfected during this period was the Astrolabe, a navigation instrument that allows knowing the time and latitude of a certain known point based on the position of the stars. In this way, the sailors had the possibility of being located in the sea without having to depend on their vision towards the coast.

It is important to note that prior to the innovation of these attachments, exploratory trips had already been planned and carried out, even in inclement conditions, mainly by sailors from the northern regions of Europe.


Other motives

After the discovery of the new continent and the discovery of a new route to Asia, subsequent generations of explorers traveled for even more varied reasons. Probably one of the least important reasons for that date was intellectual curiosity.

For example, there is a written record that King Manuel of Portugal had anything unusual that could be found in the New World brought to Europe in order to satisfy his curiosity. Some navigators and aristocrats made trips to America only for pleasure.


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