Oversea Discoveries
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  • In the fifteenth century the Mongol rule in Asia collapsed and the overland trade they had encouraged fell off sharply. At the same time Arabic transit trade became more costly, because of heavy custom fees levied by the Ottoman Turks, who controlled the Black Sea trade.

    The search for an alternative route to the Orient was initiated by
    Henry the Navigator a Portuguese Prince, who planned to outflank Islam with a circumnavigation of Africa. In 1488 the Portuguese rounded the cape of Africa and in 1498  Vasco da Gama reached the lucrative Indian market.

    In Spain - only recently reconquered from the Muslims - European scholars had re-discovered ancient Greek texts which had been preserved by the Muslims. The new interest in Greek writing introduced the long forgotten idea of the global shape of the earth. An enthusiastic supporter of this theory was Christopher Columbus, who advanced the idea of sailing westwards around the world to China.

    In 1492, after a journey of 61 days, Columbus landed in the Bahamas; in 1497 the Florentine John Cabot discovered the North American continent. Proof of the global shape of the earth was provided by the first circumnavigation by  Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese in the service of Spain. The Pacific coast was explored by the English naval hero  Francis Drake, while the French came into action through the exploration of the St. Lawrence river by  Jacques Cartier.

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    The European
    Voyages of Exploration
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