World History/Age of Discovery & Imperialism
Beginning in the late 14th century, European explorers embarked on a series of expeditions of discovery and conquest. Some motivated by fabulous tales from the Orient, tales of riches, gold, and silver or stories about the oriental silk road available to Italian traders. Most intended in controlling the trade of those valuable exotic products, such as spices, silk.
- 1 Portugal and the beginnings of naval exploration
- 2 Spain follows
- 3 Spain disputes the New World
- 4 The Treaty of Tordesillas
- 5 Other European Explorations
- 6 English Colonies
- 7 French Colonies
- 8 Dutch Colonies
- 9 Territories and Gold mines in the Americas
Portugal's nautical exploration was not much about expansionism (conquest, control and new lands) but simple application of technology, curiosity and trade improvement. Nautical experie4nce was already abundant in that region of the Iberian peninsula. Fishing, production of sea salt and its use in fish conservation had already linked the region to the Sea, even before the Roman occupation of the territory. Being a peninsula also meant that most commerce was done by Sea.
Territory control only started to become an issue after the involvement of the other powers, especially the competition from Spain. This becomes an active policy after the rise of the Aviz dynasty, John I of Portugal was a key figure in restoring the Portuguese independence from "Spain" (Castile). Due to the relation between Crowns and successions Portugal had become virtually annexed to Castile. It is with this bellicose separation from the control of Spain, that leads also to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance that endures to the present day that trade expansion and secure navigational routes starts to gain importance to the Portuguese Crown, starting with the siege and conquest of the city of Ceuta in 1415, a failed attempt to secure a profitable trade route.
Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator, who also studied sailing techniques pioneered by the Arabs when he helped Portugal conquer Northern Morocco. Later, Prince Henry founded a navigation school, where these techniques were quickly integrated into Portuguese vessels.
Prince Henry's dream was find a sea route to India around Africa, so Portuguese traders could bypass the Italian middlemen who had monopolized the Oriental luxury trade. Under his direction, Portuguese explorers explored much of the African coast, and established profitable trading posts in the Niger delta and further south in Angola. However, it was only after his death that the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and reached the Southern India's trading cities.
Within fifty years of da Gama's success, Portugal essentially controlled the Indian Ocean, with strategically located trading posts at Aden, Hormuz, and Malacca. After Portuguese ships defeated Egypt's navy, even the Mughal Empire of India was forced to acknowledge Portuguese domination. In return, the Muslim Mughals were allowed to send one pilgrim ship to Mecca each year without paying any fees to the Portuguese.
As summed up by the Spanish explorers of the Americas as "Gold, Glory, and God", were to amass great wealth by conquering indigenous peoples, to bring fame to their monarchs and themselves for their daring exploits, and to bring Christianity to the regions that they explored and exploited.
Spain disputes the New World
While Portugal set its sights on dominating the Indian Ocean, its neighboring country, Spain, also began to explore and seek colonies. While the new Spanish monarchs hoped to add the southern Kingdom of Granada to their rule, an enterprising Italian merchant named Columbus found his way to the Spanish court. He had previous experience sailing on Portuguese trade vessels in the Indian Ocean, and wanted to lead a voyage across the Atlantic to India and break the Portuguese trade monopoly. Contrary to popular belief, Columbus's proposal was not dismissed because most people thought the world was flat, but because most thought India was too far to reach without running out of food or getting stuck in windless regions. However, Isabella wisely decided to fund an expedition - after Spanish forces conquered Granada.
So, after a lengthy delay, Columbus set sail across the Atlantic with three vessels, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, all manned by convicts from Spanish jails. Columbus landed somewhere in the Bahamas, though he named the dark skinned inhabitants of the islands "Indians" because he thought that he had reached India. Columbus would embark on other expeditions throughout the Caribbean, though he never reached China as he had hoped. The Americas would later be named after Amerigo Vespucci, a fellow Italian explorer who argued, correctly, that Columbus had discovered a new land.
By the early 15th century, Spain controlled the largest Caribbean islands, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola. However, the native Carib and Arawak tribes did not posses the riches the Spanish explorers desired, although they did speak of a great kingdom on the mainland with immense treasures. Hernando Cortés, an adventurer who had gotten in trouble with the Spanish governor, believed the tales and mounted a modest expedition to find this kingdom. Cortés landed in Mexico, and quickly allied himself with local tribes who directed him inland to the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. Moctezuma, the Aztec Emperor, received news of Cortés, but chose not to attack, believing Cortés to be the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who had been driven away many years ago by the war god Huitzilopoctli. Moctezuma's hesitation allowed Cortés to enter the Aztec capital and to receive additional support from tribes opposed to the Aztecs. By the time the Aztecs realized that Cortés was preparing to attack, Moctezuma had already been taken hostage. Moctezuma, and many of the Spanish recruits in the expedition, was killed in the fighting, which only ended when Cortés razed Tenochtitlan.
News of Cortés's success and wealth soon spread, with many more expeditions trying to emulate his success. Among the most successful were John Cabot, Giovanni da Verrazano, Francis Drake, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Francisco Pizarro, and w: David Wang/David Wang
The Treaty of Tordesillas
By the end of the 16th century, Spain and Portugal dominated trade and territories in Asia and the Americas. Portugal controlled most of the Indian Ocean trade, as well as the spice plantations in Indonesia, while Spain controlled extensive parts of Central and South America. Fearing a war between the two rivals, the Pope helped negotiate the Treaty of Tordesillas, which essentially divided the world in half, with both countries receiving exclusive rights in their respective hemispheres.
Other European Explorations
England, France, and the Netherlands, refused to comply with the Treaty of Tordesillas and also began to explore and establish colonies in the Americas.
||A reader requests expansion of this page to include more material.
You can help by adding new material (learn how) or ask for assistance in the reading room.
France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands,Asia, and in South America. Most colonies were developed to export products such as fish, sugar, and furs. The French first came to the New World as explorers, seeking a route to the Pacific ocean and wealth. Major French exploration of North America began under the reign of King Francis I. In 1524, Francis sent Italian-born Giovanni da Verrazano to explore the region between Florida and Newfoundland for a route to the Pacific Ocean. Although he failed to find such a route, Verranzano became the first European to explore much of the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada. Later, in 1534, Francis sent Jacques Cartier on the first of three voyages to explore the coast of Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River.
In 1541 Cartier set of on another expedition, and established a colony named Charlesbourg-Royal, on the site of present-day Cap-Rouge, Quebec. Cartier continued to explore the region. He returned to Charlesbourg-Royal and found the colony struggling to survive, and after a tough winter, left for France in June of 1542. Charlesbourg-Royal was abandoned the following year.
A second French attempt at establishing a North American colony came in 1562, when King Charles IX sent Jean Ribault and a group of Huguenot settlers to found a colony in North America. They explored the St. Johns River in what is now Jacksonville, Florida and attempted a failed colony at Parris Island, South Carolina, but eventually returned to the St. Johns, where Ribault's second in command René Goulaine de Laudonnière established Fort Caroline on June 22, 1564. In 1565 the Spanish attacked, and destroyed, the fort.
In 1603, Samuel de Champlain made his first trip to North America on a fur trading expedition. Champlain would prove instrumental in creating New France. In 1608, he created a fur trading post that would grow into the city of Quebec. The French ran into many bloody conflicts with the Iroquois Confederacy. Although the French claimed a large territory in Canada and the Great Lakes region, actual settlement of the area was limited.
New France began to grow south and west of the Great Lakes after 1673, when Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet canoed across present day Wisconsin via the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway to discover the Mississippi River. From here, they followed the river south to the mouth of the Arkansas River. Afraid that they were drawing too near to areas of Spanish influence, the explorers turned north in Arkansas and returned to the Great Lakes, this time via the Illinois and Chicago rivers through present day Chicago.
Following the journey of Marquette and Jolliet, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle traveled the Mississippi to its delta, claiming the river's entire watershed for France in 1682 and naming the territory Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV. This gave France control of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains in addition to their holdings in the Great Lakes and Canada. In 1699 the first permanent settlement was founded, and New Orleans was founded in 1718.
Following the French defeat in the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris of February 10, 1763, divided French territory on the North American continent between the British and the Spanish. The sole exception was the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the Canadian coast, retained as a fishing outpost. The islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon were France's only remaining possessions north of the Caribbean.
French efforts at colonization began in 1538, when a group of French Jesuit refugees founded the town of Dieppe on St. Kitts. However, their colony was found and destroyed by the Spanish within a year. France did not attempt to colonize the Caribbean again in the 16th century, but established a number of colonies the following century.
The most important French colony was on the island of Hispaniola, present-day Haiti.
From 1555 to 1567, French Huguenots, under the leadership of vice-admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, made an attempt to establish the colony of France Antarctique in what is now Brazil, but were expelled. From 1612 to 1615, a second failed attempt was made in present-day São Luís, Brazil.
French Guiana was first settled by the French in 1604, although its earliest settlements were abandoned in the face of American Indian hostility and tropical diseases. The settlement of Cayenne was established in 1643, but was abandoned. It was re-established in the 1660s. Except for brief occupations by the English and Dutch in the 17th century, Guiana has remained under French rule ever since.
In 1602, the government of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands chartered the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) with the mission of exploring it for a passage to the Indies and claiming any uncharted territories for the United Provinces.
The VOC's explorers soon led several significant expeditions. In 1609, English explorer Henry Hudson, working for the VOC, attempted to find a north west passage to the Indies. Instead he discovered and claimed for the VOC parts of the present-day United States and Canada and lent his name to the Hudson River and Hudson Bay. In 1614, Adriaen Block led an expedition to the lower Hudson in the Tyger, and then explored the East River aboard the Onrust, becoming the first known European to navigate the Hellegat.
After some early trading expeditions, the first Dutch settlement in the Americas was founded in 1615: Fort Nassau, on Castle Island in the Hudson, near present-day Albany. The settlement served mostly as a trade post for fur trade with the natives and was later replaced by Fort Oranje (English: Fort Orange) at present-day Albany. Both forts were named in honor of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.
The Dutch West India Company (WIC)was established in 1621. In 1626, Director-General of the WIC Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from Indians and started the construction of fort New Amsterdam. This was the begging of New Netherland. In the same year, another Fort Nassau (not the one near Albany) was built in the New Jersey area. A number of other settlements were founded in the area. In 1647 Peter Stuyvesant became Director-General of New Netherland. In 1655 New Sweden was captured by the Dutch, and a border dispute with England was resolved.
In 1664, English troops under the command of the Duke of York and Albany attacked the New Netherland colony. Being greatly outnumbered and with little gunpowder or ammunition, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam, with Fort Orange following soon. New Amsterdam was renamed New York, Fort Orange was renamed Fort Albany. The loss of the New Netherland led to the Second Anglo-Dutch War during 1665-1667.
From 1673 to 1674, the territories were once again briefly captured by the Dutch in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, only to be returned to England at the Treaty of Westminster. In 1674, Dutch navy captain Jurriaen Aernoutsz also briefly captured two forts in the French colony of Acadia, which he claimed as the Dutch territory of New Holland. However, Aernoutsz's appointed administrator, John Rhoades, quickly lost control of the territory after Aernoutsz himself left for Curaçao to seek out new settlers, and with effective control of Acadia remaining in the hands of France.
The Dutch established a base on St. Croix in 1625, the same year that the British did. French Protestants joined the Dutch but conflict with the British colony led to its abandonment before 1650. The Dutch established a settlement on Tortola in 1648 and later on Anegada and Virgin Gorda. The British took Tortola in 1672 and Anegada and Virgin Gorda in 1680.
Dutch colonization of Sint Maarten began in 1620 although the ownership of the island changed hands several times before 1648 , when it was permanently split between France and the Netherlands. The border between the two portions of the island continued to be modified periodically, before being set for good in 1816 .
Several other islands were captured and fortified to prevent Spanish attacks in the ongoing Dutch war for independence from Spain and to exploit timber and salt resources, among them being:Curaco, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Aruba and Bonaire.
The Netherlands made numerous attempts to colonize the island of Tobago in the 17th century. Each time, the settlements were destroyed by rival European powers. The longest occupation period was from 1628-1637 when it was destroyed by the Spanish.
The European colony in Suriname was founded by the English in the 1650s by Lord Willoughby, the governor of Barbados. This colony was captured by the Dutch under Abraham Crijnsen during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. On July 31, 1667, by the Treaty of Breda the Dutch were offered New Netherland in exchange for their sugar factories on the coast of Suriname, but they declined. In 1683 Suriname was sold to the Dutch West India Company and came to be known as Dutch Guiana. The colony developed an agricultural economy based on African slavery.
The Dutch West Indian Company built a fort in Guyana in 1616 on the Essequibo River. The Dutch traded with the Indian peoples and, as in Suriname, established sugar plantations worked by African slaves. While the coast remained under Dutch control, the English established plantations west of the Suriname River. Conflict between the two countries meant parts of the region changed hands a number of times, but by 1796 Britain had control of the region. The Netherlands ceded the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice to Britain in 1814.
From 1630 onward, the Dutch Republic came to control a small portion of Brazil, with their capital in Recife. The Dutch West India Company set up their headquarters in Recife. The governor, Johan Maurits invited artists and scientists to the colony to help promote Brazil and increase immigration. The Portuguese won a significant victory at the Second Battle of Guararapes in 1649. By 1654, the Dutch Republic had surrendered and returned control of all Brazilian land to the Portuguese. After the end of the First Anglo-Dutch War in may 1654, the Dutch Republic demanded that New Holland (Dutch Brazil) was given back to them. Under threat of an occupation of Lisbon and a reoccupation of North East Brazil, the Portuguese submitted to the demand of the Dutch. However, Johan de Witt didn't agreed and therefore New Holland was formally ceded to Portugal on August 6, 1661 through the Treaty of the Hague.
In 1600 , the Chilean city of Valdivia was conquered by Dutch pirate Sebastian de Cordes. He left the city after some months. Then in 1642 the VOC and the WIC sent a fleet of some ships to Chile to conquer the city of Valdivia and the goldmines of the Spanish. The expedition was conducted by Hendrik Brouwer, a Dutch general. In 1643 Brouwer conquered the island Chiloé and the city of Valdivia. After mutinying the crew returned to Brazil.
Starting in 1602, the VOC began to take over Portuguese possessions in the East Indies. The Portuguese settlements were isolated, difficult to reinforce if attacked, and prone to being picked off one by one. Amboina was captured from the Portuguese in 1605, but an attack on Malacca the following year narrowly failed in its objective to provide a more strategically located base in the East Indies with favorable monsoon winds. The Dutch found what they were looking for in Jakarta, conquered by Jan Coen in 1619, later renamed Batavia after the Latin name for Holland, and which would become the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile, the Dutch continued to drive out the Portuguese from their bases in Asia. Malacca finally succumbed in 1641 and after this event, the Dutch had full control of the spice and silk trade in the East Indies.
In India and Ceylon, the Dutch had taken over the Portuguese settlements of Colombo in 1656, Ceylon in 1658, Nagappattinam in 1662 and Cranganore and Cochin in 1662. Goa, the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East, was attacked by the Dutch twice in 1603 and 1610, on both occasions unsuccessfully. While the Dutch were unable in four attempts to capture Macau from where Portugal monopolized the lucrative China-Japan trade, the Japanese shogunate's increasing suspicion of the intentions of the Catholic Portuguese led to their expulsion in 1639. Under the subsequent Sakoku policy, for two hundred years the Dutch were the only European power allowed to operate in Japan, confined in 1639 to Hirado and then from 1641 at Deshima.
The first Cape settlement was built in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a re-supply point and way station for Dutch vessels on their way back and forth between the Netherlands and the East Indies. The support station gradually became a settler community, the forebears of the Afrikaners, a white ethnic group in South Africa.
After the first settlers spread out around the Company station, nomadic white livestock farmers, or Trekboers, moved more widely afield, leaving the richer, but limited, farming lands of the coast for the drier interior tableland. There they contested still wider groups of Khoikhoi cattle herders for the best grazing lands. By 1700, the traditional Khoikhoi lifestyle of pastoralism had disappeared.
Over the next few decades, the colony continued to expand, taking over the primitive African population. In 1795, France conquered the Netherlands. The British, fearing French control, moved to occupy the colony. In 1803 the colony was returned the French puppet state, the Batavian Republic, until war broke out again and Britain occupied the colony in 1806. It would not revert the Dutch control.
Starting in 1598, the Dutch began to establish forts on the gold coast in Africa. For the next 270 years, the Dutch fought for control of the colony against the British, Swedish and Portuguese. They succeeded in driving out the Portuguese and Swedish. However, in 1872 the Dutch and British governments came to an agreement, in which the British were to purchase the Dutch gold coast settlements.