Resting along the western shoreline of Europe, Spain and Portugal sit, staring out across the enormous blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to 1521, the massive body of water was a mystery, a hope, and an opportunity to explore and expand. At first, the countries were unsure of what they would discover once venturing into the unknown. Wishing for trade, riches, and new lands, they paid explorers to set sail and follow the ocean currents. Fortunately, Spain and Portugal were among the first countries to benefit from overseas exploration.
Beginning exploration in 1418, Portuguese began the sailing trend. After Christopher Columbus made his first voyage in 1492, Portugal was pleased to find an entire continent hiding across the waves. Soon, other countries were interested in sharing in the wealth of the “New World.”
Upon discovering North America, Columbus began to create new trades with the Natives. “Their Highnesses may see that I shall give them all the gold they enquire, if they will give me a little assistance; spices also, and cotton,…and mastic…I think also I have found rhubarb and cinnamon, and I shall find a thousand other valuable things,” Columbus wrote, recalling the trades he had transacted and the valuable resources he had brought back to Europe. Soon the Columbian Exchange was created and goods were constantly sailing the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the Americas.
Unfortunately, the Columbian Exchange did not only spread valuable resources and goods, but also unpleasant nuisances. Upon viewing Aztec drawings, one can view the diseases, plagues, and illnesses that struck the Indians, coming from the foreign countries across the sea. Aztecs were covered with spots from diseases such as small pox, as they were sick to their stomachs. Many became ill, and some did not survive the epidemic.
With new equipment such as astrolabes that determined the latitude of ships, and rudders that were used to steer through the ocean, explorers were able to journey all over the world. In 1497, Vasco da Gama made his first voyage to India, opening the portal between the Western World and the Eastern World. New knowledge was shared, along with trade, resources, and inventions. In 1519, Magellan Elcano sailed around the entire world, proving the Earth’s roundness and revealing unexplored waterways. After Spain and Portugal began overseas expeditions, the world began to grow more connected.
Mankind is constantly changing and striving to progress and with the vast unknown sprawled before Spain and Portugal, overseas expeditions were born. Upon finding new land, Europe began to expand and benefit from new trades, resources, and goods. Even the Natives of the Americas were affected, if not always in a fortunate manner. Prior to 1521, Portuguese and Spanish sailors left a lasting impact on England, the Americas, Asia, and the entire world.