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Exploring the Americas. 1400 - 1625. 8H.2 North America, originally inhabited by American Indians, was explored and colonized by Europeans for economic and religious reasons. Terms Circumnavigate – to sail around the world

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8H.2 North America, originally inhabited by American Indians, was explored and colonized by Europeans for economic and religious reasons.


Circumnavigate – to sail around the world

Astrolabe – an instrument used by sailors to observe positions of stars

Strait – a narrow passageway connection two larger bodies of water

Conquistadors – Spanish explorer in the Americas in the 1500s

Mission – a religious settlement

Encomienda– System of rewarding conquistadors with tracts of land and the right to tax and demand labor from Native Americans who lived on the land.

Columbian Exchange – exchange of goods, ideas, and people between Europe and the Americas

Mercantilism – the theory that a state’s or nation’s power depended on its wealth

Northwest Passage – water route to Asia through North America sought by European explorers

Technology – the application of scientific discoveries to practical use


1519 – 1522

Ferdinand Magellan first to sail around the world

1610 – 1611

Henry Hudson explored the Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay


Giovanni da Verrazano explored the east coast of North America including New York Harbor

1492 – 1504

Christopher Columbus explored Caribbean Islands


Jacques Marquette/ Louis Joliet explored the Mississippi River

1603 – 1615

Samuel de Champlain explored the St. Lawrence River and Founded Quebec Canada


Vasco da Gama reaches India

1540 – 1542

Francisco Coronado explored southwestern North America




1539 – 1543

Hernando de Soto led expedition to the Mississippi River

1497 – 1501

John Cabot rediscovered Newfoundland (east coast of America


Henry Hudson explored the Hudson River

1542 – 1543

Juan Cabrillo explored the west coast of North America

1666 – 1682

Robert de La Salle explored the Great Lakes and founded Louisiana after reaching the mouth of the Mississippi River

1534 – 1542

Jacques Cartier explored the St. Lawrence River

1508 – 1509, 1513

Ponce de Leon explored Puerto Rico and Florida









why did europeans begin to explore the world
Why did Europeans begin to explore the world?
  • The Growth of Trade
    • Merchants could make a fortune selling goods from the Orient.
  • The Growth of Ideas
    • The pursuit of new ideas, theories, skills, and religion
  • The Renaissance “re-birth”
    • age of exploration and discovery
why was it possible for europeans to explore the world
Why was it possible for Europeans to explore the world?
  • Powerful Nations Emerge
    • Spain, Portugal, England, and France
  • Improved Technology
    • Better Maps
    • Astrolabe
    • Better Ships
  • African Kingdoms
    • Ghana
    • Mali
    • Songhai

European Voyages of Exploration

Cause and Effect


  • Europeans desired new trade routes and gold
  • New Spirit of adventure
  • Power and wealth of new European nations
  • Competition among European nations
  • Missionaries’ desire to convert others to Christianity



  • New knowledge of Africa, Asia, and the Americas
  • Clash of European and Native American cultures
  • Enslavement of Africans
  • New plants and animals in Europe and the Americas
  • Rivalry of European nations in the Americas
who found the americas

Who found the Americas?

Eriksson vs Columbus


Several centuries before Columbus, northern Europeans called Vikings had sailed west and reached North America landing in present day Newfoundland.

columbus s first voyage
Columbus’s First Voyage
  • August 3, 1492, Columbus set out from Palos, Spain with three ships. Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria carried about 90 sailors. (Ships)
  • October 12, 1492, “Tierra! Tierra!” – “Land! Land!” Columbus landed on in the Bahamas and claimed the islands for Spain. He named it San Salvador. He called the natives there Indians believing he had reached the East Indies.
  • March 1493, Columbus returned to Spain victorious.
columbus s later voyages
Columbus’s Later Voyages

Columbus made three more voyages from Spain in 1493, 1498, and 1502. He explored the Caribbean Islands of present day Haiti and Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica. Columbus sailed along the coasts of Central America and South America claiming the new lands for Spain and establishing settlements. In the following years, the Spanish explored most of the Caribbean region leading to the establishment of the Spanish Empire in the Americas.

spanish conquistadors
Spanish Conquistadors

Conquistadors – explorers that received grants from the Spanish rulers. They had the right to explore and establish settlements in the Americas. In exchange they agreed to give the Spanish crown 1/5th of any gold or treasure discovered.

Conquistadors were relentless in their pursuit for wealth and power. They brutally eliminated the Aztec and Incan tribes.

spanish rule
Spanish Rule

The Spanish governed their colonies the way they governed their own country – from the top down. They divided their new lands into 5 provinces. The wealthiest were New Spain (Mexico) and Peru. A Viceroy was appointed to govern the provinces.

In the 1500’s the Spanish government granted each conquistador who settled in the Americas an encomienda, the right to demand taxes or labor from Native Americans living on the land.

To raise crops, Spanish developed the plantation system. A plantation was a large estate run by the owner or a manager and farmed by workers or slaves.

the columbian exchange
The Columbian Exchange

The exchange of plants, animals, slaves and diseases altered life on both sides of the Atlantic. This is referred to the Columbian Exchange.

In 1492, when Columbus landed on Hispaniola, more than 3 million Native Americans lived there. Fifty years later only about 500 remained.


Mercantilism is an economic theory stating, a nation’s power was based on its wealth.

Other European countries watched Spain draw riches from its colonies. There was now a new goal to increase wealth by establishing colonies in the New World. Competition over territories became fierce.

New colonies would provided the mother country with valuable resources, such as gold and silver, or raw materials. The colonies also served as a place to sell European products.

northwest passage
Northwest Passage

The voyage to Asia – either around the southern tip of Africa or South America was long and difficult. England, France, and the Netherlands pushed to discover a Northwest Passage to Asia.