Europe Reaches Out - The Age of Exploration
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences,
University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
The Modern Demographic World
Entire populations and cultures have been transplanted in recent centuries.
- 59 million inhabitants of Great Britain but 240 million English-speakers in U.S., 28 million in S. Africa, 24 million in Canada,
15 million in Australia.
- Largest French city is Paris; second largest is Montreal.
- 37 million inhabitants in Spain, 200 million Spanish speakers in
Latin America. Largest Spanish city is Mexico City (half the population of all of Spain).
- 10 million inhabitants in Portugal, 120 million Portuguese
speakers in Brazil. Largest Portuguese city is Sao Paulo (more inhabitants than Portugal).
- 14 million inhabitants in Holland, 8 million Afrikaans speakers
in S. Africa.
- There are 4 million Jews in Israel, 6 million in the U.S.
- The second largest Polish city is Chicago.
- 30 million blacks in the U.S. (only 3 countries in Africa have
Factors in Exploration
- Accidental discovery.
- Desire to bypass Moslem world.
- Disruptions of overland routes (somewhat overrated).
- Intra-European rivalry.
No bulk transport--cargos were small but high value--profitable
to carry long distances by small ship.
Major Events in Exploration.
- African coast-route to India.
- Trans Atlantic voyages.
- Northwest and Northeast Passage.
- Pacific voyages.
Strange ideas were not so strange
It may seem bizarre that Cartier could sail up the St. Lawrence hoping to reach China, but for the time the idea was not so unreasonable:
- There was no clear idea how rivers were fed or what made them
- The coastline of Europe is one of the most complex in the world.
The narrow Strait of Gibraltar opens into the Mediterranean. The
Bosporus is like a river but opens into the Black Sea. The one
thing Europeans were not prepared for was long regular coastlines
without geographical oddities!
As important as any geographical discoveries must have been the
individual impact of contact (direct or vicarious) with distance
parts of the world. By any standards, the two that follow are
One of an eight-man party sent ashore on Tierra del
Fuego by Francis Drake to gather supplies (1587). A storm
scattered Drake's fleet and the shore party was given up as lost.
The shore party started back up the east coast of South America
in their open boat. Carder alone reached Brazil and eventually
England. It took him nine years.
(Better known as Squanto). A native American who had
been trading with English ships that stopped in New England
enroute to Jamestown. He was captured and taken to Spain to be
sold as a slave, but was ransomed by Spanish friars. He made his
way from Spain to England and obtained passage on a ship back to
North America. He found that his tribe had been wiped out by
disease in the meantime. When the Pilgrims arrived (1620),
Tisquantum provided them with survival information, and they
provided him with a group to belong to.
Technology and the Age of Exploration.
Innovations that aided exploration
- Stern-post rudder
- Lateen and square sails in combination
- Discovery of Trade Winds
Innovations derived from exploration.
- New foodstuffs: coffee, tea, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, squash,
- Improvements in shipbuilding, charting, navigation.
General stimulus to discovery.
The Longitude Problem and spinoffs from it.
- Attempt to use eclipses of Jupiter's satellites for timekeeping.
- Predictions were up to 15-20 minutes off. Discrepancy (time for light to cross Earth's orbit) led to first estimate of speed of light.
- Drive to develop accurate clocks, sextants, led to improvements in machining and metallurgy.
- When accurate clocks became available, it was found that clocks in equatorial regions ran slow. Reason: lower gravity because of Earth's equatorial bulge.
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Created 21 May 1997
Last Update 21 May 1997
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