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Age of Exploration Essay

European influence in the Americas commenced in the late fifteenth century, when Christopher Columbus set sail for the Indies.However, he discovered a “new world”, the Americas. This phenomenal breakthrough would forever change the complextion of the world. European prominence in the Americas can be viewed as a catastophe. These newcomers exploited gold and silver from the native americans. A more severe consequence to the native americans was the exposure to “old world” diseases such as smallpox and malaria. Their lack of resistance to European diseases lead to a drastic decline in Indian population. On the contrary, the European encounter with the Americas can be seen as an inevitable evolution in history with long-run positive results. The exchange of crops and animals helped both worlds develop and prosper. The first Europeans to reach the Americas were the Norse seafarers from Scandanavia. These voyagers weren’t supported by expansionists, which lead to the dismisal of their discovery.

Centuries later, many Europeans desired contact with a new world for conquest or trade. The Christian crusaders exposed goods like silk, perfumes, and spices to Europe. These Luxuries of the Eastern hemisphere were quite expensive and had to be transported enormous distances. In attempt to reach the eastern hemishpere quicker the spanish monarchs supported a seafarer Christopher Columbus to sail west in attempt to find a new route to the Indies. Accidentally, Columbus stumbled upon an island in the bahamas. This accidental discovery made Columbus’s voyage incredibly succesful. A terrible problem resulting from European invasion of the Americas was the spread of disease. The two seperate ecosystems clashed as Columbus’s crew landed in the Americas. Europeans carried the germs that caused smallpox, yellow fever, and malaria. The Native Americans isolation from the rest of the world had wiped out these protective antibodies. Within fifty years of Spanish arrival, the Taino natives population dropped from one million people to about two hundred. These lethal germs spread quickly throughout America.

A century later, approximately ninety percent of the Native Americans were eradicated from the planet. There has never been an epidemic this large in human history. The Spanish conquistadors thirsted for gold and power. A famous conquistador Cortes conquered the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. He set out for God, gold and Glory. He was able to conquer the Aztec capital partly because the Aztec ruler Montezuma believed that Cortes was a God whose return had been predicted. Cortes laid seige on the city in 1521, the year a smallpox epidemic broke out in Mexico. The coalescence of conquest and disease broke down the Aztec empire and gave way to Spanish rule for three centuries. Anyhow, the European encounter in the Americas had many positive effects. Exchanging animals and crops between the two worlds helped many people. New World plants such as tobacco, maize, and potatoes changed the world economy and European diet. About three-fifths the crops group grown today were established in the Americas. Also, foodstuffs in the Americas helped feed a population boom in Africa.

The Old World brought over plants such as apples and grapefruits. The introduction of horses in the New World started in Mexico and eventually spread to Canada, Indian tribes like the Apaches and Sioux embraced horses into their culture, which created mobile hunting societies throughout the Great Plains. In addition to these positive results, Europeans also brought their language, laws, customs and religion to the people of America. In Mexico, these aspects of European culture proved to be useful. Also, there was a shortage of females and many European men intermarried with the Native American women creating a new culture known as Metizos. Spanish America blossomed in many different aspects.

Cathedrals were built, printing presses turned out books, and universities were built in many cities. The unexpected discovery of the Americas can be seen in two contradicting views. The colossal amount of death amongst native americans has brought about the idea of the Black Legend. This belief states that the Spanish only killed, tortured, and stole in the Americas. Nevertheless, the European encounter with the Americas brought about many longterm positive effects, such as the swapping of foods, animals, technology, and culture. These unfavorable and beneficial results of the European encounter with the Americas has directly shaped it’s history and future.

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