*Includes contemporary accounts
*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading
By the mid-15th century the Byzantine Empire had collapsed and the various Crusades that had taken place in the region had largely disrupted the overland routes of the Silk Road and trade. Compounding the difficulties of trade was the rise of the Ottoman Empire in place of the Byzantines and the outbreak of the Black Death in Europe.
It was roughly around this time that a period of European exploration began, and major factors that contributed to this period of exploration were introduced by the Chinese, albeit indirectly. The magnetic compass had already been developed and used by the Chinese sailors since the 12th century, although it had first been created in the 3rd century BCE as a divination device. The Song Dynasty then began using the device for land navigation in the 11th century and sailors began using it shortly after. The technology slowly spread west via Arab traders, although a case can be made for the independent European creation for the compass (Southey 1812: 210). Regardless, by the 13th century the compass had found its way to Western traders, coming at a time that trade had been increasing across Europe.
Trade was able to increase in Europe around the world due to more effective ships being introduced, and some of the improvements that were made to the ships were first introduced by the Chinese. The introduction of multiple mast ships and the sternpost rudders allowed the ships to travel quicker and be more maneuverable. By the start of the 15th century, ships were now much larger and able to support long distance travel with a minimum number of crew aboard.
With that, the Portuguese started exploring the west coast of Africa and the Atlantic under orders from Prince Henry the Navigator. At this point, Europeans had not yet been capable of navigating completely around Africa since the ships being built were not yet fully capable of being able to sail very far from the coast and navigation in open waters was difficult, but the Portuguese continued pushing down the western African coast looking for ways to bypass the Ottomans and Muslims of Africa who had been making overland trade routes difficult. In 1451, Prince Henry the Navigator helped fund and develop a new type of ship, the caravel, that featured triangular lateen sails and would be able to travel in the open ocean and sail against the wind. In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz rounded the southern tip of Africa, named the Cape of Good Hope by King John of Portugal, and entered the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic.
When it became clear Christopher Columbus hadn't landed in Asia, it was understood by everyone that this was not necessarily the route the Europeans were searching for, and the Portuguese continued to send explorers around the Cape of Good Hope in an attempt to reach the East Indies. After a two-year voyage, in 1499, Vasco da Gama had successfully reached India and returned to Portugal.
The Portuguese had found access to the trade regions that they had been searching for, but sailing from Portugal to India and beyond would require too many resources to travel with at once. To remedy this problem, Portugal began establishing a number of forts and trading posts along the route. The Portuguese were able to establish a fort on the west coast of India, Fort Manuel, in 1500, and in 1505 a fort was erected off the coast of Tanzania, thus beginning a trend of European colonization in Africa and Asia that would last for the next 400 years.
The Portuguese Empire and Africa: The History and Legacy of Portugal's Exploration and Colonization of the West African Coast chronicles the early efforts by the Portuguese that helped initiate the Age of Exploration, and the ramifications the colonization had across the world.Author:
Charles River EditorsISBN-10:
11.00h x 8.50w x 0.20d