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 the cold, the French monarchy also sent Giovanni da Verrazano on a mission of ‘Discovery’. Sadly, two years after his last voyage, Columbus died still unaware that he had stumbled upon what would come to be known as the “Americas”.
After the fall of Constantinople in May of 1453, the import of necessary and exotic foods and spices from the Byzantine rapidly declined.
The Spanish and Portuguese empires relied upon many specialized items from the heart of the Byzantine. At the time spices were the only means of protecting their food from spoilage. Rice, another major export, was rapidly becoming a food staple for both Spain and Portugal. When these ‘necessities’ dwindled and became outrageously expensive, if they could be obtained at all, many alternate theories of how to safely reach the East Indies were considered. This prompted the exploration of new seafaring routes to obtain said items.
Since Portugal is surrounded on three sides by water, naturally they led in the race of the discovery of new land and civilizations. Spain, however, was to win the race by discovering the wealth and natural resources of the Americas.
Early Portuguese explorers, after already having discovered new lands/ civilizations and...