The Age of Exploration or Age of Discovery as it is sometimes called, officially began in the early 15th century and lasted until the 17th century. Bazaar in Instanbul (Constantinople) Known world before the Age of Exploration The period is characterized as a time when Europeans began exploring the world by sea in search of trading partners, new goods, and new trade routes. In addition, some explorers set sail to simply learn more about the world. Whatever their reasons though, the information gained during the Age of Exploration significantly helped in the advancement of geographic knowledge. It was now possible to cross oceans
Reasons for Exploration Explorers had a desire to explore the unknown and discover new knowledge. Many governments were looking for goods such as silver and gold. To spread Christianity. One of the biggest reasons for exploration was the desire to find a new route for the spice and silk trades.
Constantinople When the Ottoman Empire took control of Constantinople in 1453, it blocked European access to the area, severely limiting trade. In addition, it also blocked access to North Africa and the Red Sea -- two very important trade routes to the Far East.
The Italian Renaissance cities controlled the trade from east to west. They bought goods from Muslim traders and sold them at much higher prices in the rest of Europe. Florence The other nationalities wanted to find routes that avoided having to pay these high prices to the Italians. Italian Trading Port
Prince Henry the Navigator from Portugal was one of the first explorers of the time. He paid for expeditions, set up a school for sailors and employed cartographers (map-makers) although he didn’t travel much himself. New technology such as astrolabes allowed explorers to sail out of sight of land without getting lost. This meant they could go greater distances. astrolabe Using this form of navigation, the Portuguese sailed out of sight of land and discovered the Madeira Islands in 1419 and the Azores in 1427. Henry the Navigatior First Portuguese trading port in Africa - Elmina Sahara The main goal for the Portuguese voyages though was to discover a trade route to West Africa without having to go through the Sahara Desert.
The Caravel The Europeans designed better ships called caravels which allowed navigators to sail more easily against the wind. They used triangular sails that were copied from Arab designs.
There were many explorers during the Age of Discovery, one of the most famous being Christopher Columbus. His voyages started as an attempt to find a trade route to Asia by sailing west. Instead, he reached America in 1492 and claimed the land for Spain. Shortly thereafter, the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral explored Brazil, setting off a conflict between Spain and Portugal in terms of the newly claimed lands. As a result, the Treaty of Tordesillas officially divided the world in half in 1494.
The Age of Exploration ended in the early 17th century although exploration continued for many years after that as there were still many parts of the world that were unknown to Europeans. Methods of navigation and mapping also improved as a result of exploration. Explorers were able to bring knowledge of a larger world back to Europe. In addition to just learning about the presence of the lands themselves, these explorations often brought various new species (important to biogeography) and new cultures of people to light.
Information taken from About.com Geography Age of Exploration http://geography.about.com/od/historyofgeography/a/ageexploration.htm Pictures taken from many different sources and Felicity is far too tired to list them!