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The Age of Exploration. Europe Explores Exploring the World The Commercial Revolution A Global Exchange. Europe Gets Ready to Explore. In the 1400s, trade, technology, and the rise of strong kingdoms led to a new era of exploration.

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the age of exploration

The Age of Exploration

Europe Explores

Exploring the World

The Commercial Revolution

A Global Exchange

europe gets ready to explore
Europe Gets Ready to Explore
  • In the 1400s, trade, technology, and the rise of strong kingdoms led to a new era of exploration.
  • Soon, people from Western Europe began exploring the world, gaining control of the Americas, parts of India, and Southeast Asia.
  • Why did they begin exploring the world at this time? Many events came together to create the right conditions.
trade with asia
Trade with Asia

Europeans began to buy large amounts of Silk and Spices from Asia.

When the Mongol Empire falls apart, the new rulers begin to place taxes on the Silk Road. This drove up the prices of goods.

Next, the Ottoman Turks gained control of the Byzantine Empire and shut down many trading ports along the Black Sea. The Turks would get the goods from Asia, and turn around and sell it at a higher price.

This caused the prices to inflate even higher.
  • Europeans still wanted these spices and the Silk.
  • Anyone who could find a way to get the goods cheaply could make lots of money.
  • So, merchants began looking for alternative ways to get to Asia.
  • If they could not get there cheaply by land, then maybe by sea.
new technology
New Technology

The Atlantic Ocean was very difficult to navigate. Luckily, Europeans learned about the astrolabe and the compass.

The astrolabe was an ancient Greek device used to find latitude.

The compass helped sailors find magnetic north.

Sailors began to use triangular sails that let a ship zigzag through the wind.

They also began building ships with many masts and smaller sails to make their ships go faster.

A new type of rudder made steering easier.

These inventions came together in a Portuguese ship called the caravel.

These inventions made exploring the world by sea much easier.


Ptolemy was an Egyptian geographer that was educated in Greece.

He was one of the first people to attempt to make a map of the world. It included only Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The printing press allowed for many of these maps to be printed.

Explorers studied these maps in order to find to routes to Asia.

henry the navigator
Henry the Navigator

Prince Henry set up a research center in Portugal and invited many sailors, cartographers, and shipbuilders to come help him explore the world.

First, they began mapping Africa and discovered sugarcane along Africa’s islands. They began bringing slaves out of Africa to help grow sugarcane.

Eventually, Vasco da Gama rounded the tip of Africa and sailed to India.

christopher columbus
Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus came up with a new plan to reach Asia. He wanted to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

He received the funding for the trip from Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

After more than a month at sea, they sighted land. They also explored many of the islands of the Caribbean Sea.

However, Columbus thought he was in Asia, and never realized where he was.


Ferdinand Magellan also tried to sail west to reach Asia. He sailed south along South America’s coast and finally found a passage through.

This passage became known as the Strait of Magellan. After passing through he reached more peaceful waters.

He named the peaceful waters the Pacific.

Pacific means peace.

Magellan continued to head west. His sailors nearly starved began to eat leather, sawdust, and rats.

Finally, they reached the Philippines and many sailors, including Magellan, were killed by local natives.

After three years, a small group finally made it all the way back to Spain proving the theory of the earth being round.


Mercantilism is the idea that a country gains power by building up its supply of gold and silver.

To do this, they believe it is important to export more than you import.

If you export more than you import, more gold and silver flows in.

Mercantilists also thought countries should set up colonies to help produce goods that cannot be produced at home.

joint stock company
Joint-Stock Company

Trading overseas became expensive.

Commerce is the buying and selling of goods in large amounts over long distances. To trade goods long distance, merchants needed lots of money.

They had to buy goods, store some of them in warehouses, and ship them.

This created a new type of business person called an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs invest money into different trading projects.

Their goal is to make more money when the project is done.

Many projects were so large, that entrepreneurs had to form a group known as a joint-stock company.

People invest their money and buy shares known as stocks.

cottage industries
Cottage Industries

Merchants needed to be able to produce goods much cheaper than they were selling them to make a profit.

Merchants became frustrated with artisans and guilds, because they were charging too much for services.

Merchants began paying peasants to make goods for them. This became known as the “cottage industry” since many peasants produced the goods in small cottages.

columbian exchange
Columbian Exchange

As Europe traded with the world, a global exchange of people, goods, technology, ideas and even diseases began.

This exchange became known as the Columbian Exchange.

The Europeans were able to obtain new products from the Americans such as corn, potatoes, chocolate, and coffee.

The Americas received goods from Europe such as pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens, and horses.

Unfortunately, not everything that was exchanged was positive.

Many Europeans carried new germs to the Americas that could kill.

Many new diseases popped up in the Americas such as small pox, measles, and malaria.

Millions of Native Americans began to die.