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Exploration And Conquest Of The New World And Africa

2358 words - 10 pages

Geopolitical necessity drove the Europeans to explore and conquer, beginning in earnest in the fifteenth-century. New trade routes and colonies were established. Technological advances led to their success on the African continent as well as in the New World, and the discoveries made in turn led to further exploration and conquest. Eventually, as the results of these conquests became known, questions arose regarding the proper roles of government, papal authority and the rights of the conquerors and the conquered. This transitory period of European history would alter the course of overall human history and directly set it on four continents.
The exploration of the West African coast was just a preliminary to the India Trade (Parry, 131). Prince Henry encouraged his explorers to continue making their way further and further down the coastline to gain more intelligence and make more money (Parry, 132). His death in 1460 signaled an end to further exploration for a time, as the mariners had gotten to a point of coast around Benin that was more dangerous to traverse and seek a way through than it was considered worth (Parry, 133). Furthermore, Henry died in debt due to these activities, which discouraged the Crown from spending much on exploration (Parry, 133). Little by little, one small expedition after another, they eventually found the coastline trending south and continued to chart the waters and coastline until war broke out between Portugal and Castile in 1475 (Parry, 134).
The Succession War, as it came to be called, started due to the efforts of the Castilians to prevent Prince Henry's daughter, Juana, from ascending to the throne and in her place set Isabella (Parry, 134). Four years of brutal fighting took place not only on the Iberian Peninsula but at sea and in lands held by the two powers. The Portuguese did not fare well on the main land or the Canaries, but they found significant success at sea and on other islands (Parry, 134).
The Treaty of Alcáçovas mercifully ended the savage affair in 1479. The terms ultimately leaned strongly in Portugal's favor abroad, as Castile kept control of the Canaries only (Parry, 134). The Castilians had little choice but to accept a Portuguese “monopoly of fishing, trade and navigation along the whole West African coast,” but in return gained a guarantee of safe passage for Spanish vessels on their way home (Parry, 135).
After the war, exploration of the African coast took off again. Padrões were set up at points along the coast by explorers such as Diogo Cão to signal how far they had traveled (Parry, 136). In 1487, Cão's successor, Bartolomeu Dias, left Lisbon on his own voyage. This voyage is significant to history because he, at last, discovered the way around Africa to the Indian Ocean. Just as important was how he did it; by sailing southwest away from the African coast he discovered the westerly wind which will carry a sailing vessel around the strong current...

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