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European Expansionism Essay

Identify and discuss the factors responsible for European expansionism from the 15th century. What were the social, political and economic effects of this expansionism on Europe, Africa and the Americas?

There were three chief factors in the 15th century European expansionism. European nations such as Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, and England sought out to expand to new lands in an effort to spread Christianity, reap economic benefits, and to gain notoriety and respect throughout the world as World leaders. The expansion caused the world to change socially, politically and economically. As a result of many trade routes passing the coasts of Africa, Asia and the Americas, European adventurers began to report their findings and sightings of new lands to the monarchs of their home countries. European countries saw the potential of economic growth and market development in the new lands that they traveled to, so it became necessary for them to establish settlements and ownership in these new lands in order to capitalize on the potential. The Europeans were attracted to the natural, human, and technological resources that these new worlds possessed and knew that obtaining them would give them a new level of control in the world. Europeans would travel to parts of Asia in search of spices in order to flavor and preserve their foods. They explored America after its “discovery”, by Christopher Columbus, for its vast landscape and potential to build colonies and use the lands natural resources to maintain and run an econom.

Africa was first ventured to by Europeans for trade of jewels, gems and other sought after commodities, but then became targeted for its native people to be used as workers in their new lands. Once Europeans began to take action in moving into these new worlds, it became necessary for them to set up colonies, economic systems, rules, and almost most importantly, religion. Since all law was governed by the church in European countries, the need to establish the same type of system in colonized lands was very important as a form of maintaining control and discipline. Many European conquests throughout the world stemmed from or led to the forcible spread of religion. The method used by Europeans was a sure-fire way to recruit new converts. They would tell the natives of which ever land they were conquering that they had no choice but to convert to Christianity, or else they would be killed as an example for anyone else who refused their new religion. By conquering and exploring new lands scattered throughout both the eastern and western hemisphere, European powers now had control in every area of the world. The colonies that were set up in the continents outside of Europe were governed by the same laws, language, and principles of those in their home countries.

This social change caused regions to adopt new languages, and accept new, usually oppressive, lifestyles. Political systems were added and changed in colonized countries as well. A country that may have had its own ruler within the country or region now had to answer to the law of the country colonizing it. This completely took the power out of the hands of native people, for they had no connection or true knowledge about the form of government they had been forced to live in. In most cases of European expansion, the colonized country was exploited for economic gain. In some cases the countries people were used as enslaved workers for production of goods, while in other cases Europeans would obtain control of the resources that were indigenous to the land in order to trade with other countries as well as have a supply for their home countries. The European expansionism changed the way the world worked up until that time. Though many negative events took place in the expansion, it caused the world to become a global marketplace. Looking at the way the world began to change during the expansion of European powers lets us see today how the world and its economy have been shaped by it.

What is the Columbian Exchange? Discuss its effects on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The Columbian Exchange (Term coined by historian, Alfred W. Crosby) was a global exchange of goods and ideas between the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the New World (America). When Columbus first discovered America, Spain wanted to set up colonies. Columbus found some people that he named “Indians.” They colonies started to trade with each other, and by doing do, they started the Columbian Exchange. Many countries were involved in this trade, including China, Africa and Italy. This exchange of new ideas, traditions, food, religion and diet changed cultures everywhere. The Native Americans gave and received many items. One of the most important items that the Indians received was horses. Before horses, Indians had no way of carrying heavy loads from place to place. When the Europeans arrived in America, they gave them the horses, and then transporting goods was much easier. The plains Indians also used horses to hunt and herd the buffalo. Another important item was that the Europeans introduced to them were different types of medicine. The Indians already had medicine and healing (herbs) of their own, but the European way was much more effective.

In return, the Indians also gave the Europeans some herbal treatments. Europe, Asia, and Africa received many goods, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes and tobacco. Both types of potato influenced many countries diets including China and Ireland. Tobacco was another important addition to Europe and other places in the Old World. Many people loved it. They could chew it, smoke it and snuff it. These who sold the tobacco made a lot of money. Also, many new vegetables from the New World such as tomatoes, peppers and corn went to the Old World and added to people’s diets, which resulted in better health because they received more nutrition and vitamins from the new foods. Along with all the positive things that the Columbian Exchange, there were negative things passed between the two worlds. Europeans diseases came to the New World. Diseases such as typhus, chicken pox, small pox and influenza plagued the Native Americans.

Since they had never been exposed to these diseases, most of them were virtually wiped out from the sickness. In Europe, tobacco love was growing and soon it became a problem. Many people were getting sick or dying from starting to make and smoke cigars with the tobacco. Today, America, Asia, Europe, Japan and Africa still trade with each other. Many goods are received, like chocolate. Every country used chocolate in some way. Europeans had used sugar for what they called “a cup of chocolate.” So instead out going out for a cup of coffee, they went out for a cup of chocolate. The Indians had coco. They pounded it and then added peppers and put the mix into water and drank it. Chocolate is one of the most popular trade items that are traded today. As you can see, the Columbian trade is still active and important today.

Christopher Columbus
Columbus was the Italian navigator who is given credit for the discovery of the Americas. He originally set out to find the West Indies, but miscalculated his routing. He is noted as the first person to come in contact with America’s Native People, which he called Indiana because of his misunderstanding of where the West Indies actually was. He completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean which gave him vast information to return to Europe with about America. The voyages, along with his efforts to colonize Hispaniola, led to the Spanish colonization of the New World.

The Reconqusita
The reconqusita was a 781 year long period in the Iberian peninsula after the original Islamic conquest to the fall of Granada. It began with the battle of Covadonga, where a small army led by Visigothic nobleman Pelagius defeated an Umayyad army in the mountains of Iberia.

Captain James Cook
James Cook was a British explorer, captain, and navigator. He Joined the British merchant navy and saw action in the Seven Years war. He is noted for making detailed maps of Newfoundland before making several voyages to the Pacific Ocean. While traveling the pacific, he became the first European to contact with the Eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, as well as the first to cricumnavigant New Zealand.

The Seven Years War
The seven Years War was a war that involved Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. The war took place between 1754 and1763, with its main years of conflict taking place in the seven year period of 1756 through 1763. The war is known in America as the French and Indian War. The war was driven by all of the World Powers at the time competing in interests, usually being over trade of colonies or control of territories.

Vasco Da Gama
Vasco Da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who is famous for being the first European to reach India by sea. This navigation helped Portugal establish a colonial empire in Asia. His newly discovered route meant that the Portuguese would not need to cross the highly disputed and dangerous Mediterrianean and that they would no longer have to travel by land to make it to India.

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