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The Age of Exploration began in the fifteenth century and lasted through the 17th century. The motives, attitudes, and consequences of exploration varied depending on the reason for exploration. The three groups with interest in exploring the New World were merchants, representatives of the Church, and nationalists. While all three groups had different motives for exploration and different attitudes about the people of the New World and varying consequences for themselves, the consequences for the original inhabitants of the New World were the same.
The merchants were eager to explore simply to make money. They hoped to set up colonies and find many new items to bring back with them to Europe; such as spices, gold, and silver; so they could trade and become rich. In a letter to the Duke of Milan, Fra Soncino wrote about wanting to make “London a greater place for spices than Alexandria”(Doc 3). Bartolome de La Casas, a Spanish priest and missionary wrote in Historia de las Indias that, many felt that exploration and colonization of the New World would be easy, taking “no more than fifteen days …… after leaving Ireland” (Doc 8).
Bartolome was just in writing this because he was a historian who was directly involved in the exploration of the New World. He was even given the title “Protector of the Indians”.
In opposition, others felt entitled to land and titles just for going on the voyages. The consequences for the native Indians are shown the drawing of Aztecs suffering from smallpox, by the catholic missionary, Fray Bernardio de Shahagun depicting the inadvertent spread of small pox into unsuspecting natives (Doc 5).
Those people encouraging the exploration of the New World for religious purposes included actual church officials like Pope Paul III and Monarchs like Queen Isabella of Spain. Their main goal for exploration was to convert the native people to Catholicism.
This is exemplified in a letter Queen Isabella writes to her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon. Isabella was representative of the Catholic faith because she was a very powerful woman who was very faithful and supportive of the Catholic faith (Doc 4). The general consensus at the time was that the process of conversion should be simple because the people were both “capable of understanding the Catholic faith” and “desire exceedingly to receive it” In a writing by Pope Paul III this idea was enforced. Pope Paul III was supportive of exploration to spread Catholicism and h was very powerful because he was the Pope (Doc 7).
Pure greed drove some Christian explorers to steal from the natives and ultimately enslave them. Both Queen Isabella and Pope Paul III forcefully demanded that the Indians be treated as equal humans due their liberty, property and freedom (Doc 9). A consequence of the spread of religion, specifically Catholicism, is that today South American countries today have some of the most concentrated groups of Catholics. Many hoped to accomplish laudable things in the name of their country. These people were considered nationalists because they aimed to gain glory for their country. Christopher Columbus was a very famous navigator and nationalist. He explored for his country, Spain to gain glory and respect for the Royalty in the country.
Columbus did gain money from Queen Isabella but only after he led a successful voyage. His reward was outlined in “Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties” (Doc 1). Columbus however was still very generous toward the native Indians. He brought gifts to the natives hoping they would in turn have high regards for the Spanish and give the royalty in Spain gifts as a sign of appreciation (Doc 2). A consequence of sailing for glory would be the murder of the famous Spanish explorer, Magellan. He was killed while attempting to be the first man to sail around the world (Doc 6).
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