Q 6 Compare and contrast the early colonial empires of Portugal, Spain, and England in terms of motives, economic foundations, and relations with Africans and Indians. What factors explain the similarities and differences in the two ventures? The Age of Exploration was a period from the early 1600’s to the 1700’s during which Europeans explored the world, searching for trade partners and desirable goods. During this time, the three most influential European nations were Portugal, Spain, and England.
If fingers had to be pointed at which country started the Age of Exploration, it would be Portugal, because if it had not been for the carrack and then the caravel, Atlantic trade would not have been started.
However, the Spanish had the first global empires, rivaling the English’s largest empire. Each country had different motives for acquiring these colonies, different economic backgrounds, and different relations with the Africans and Indians. They also went about creating relations with the Africans and Indians in different ways.
However, despite these differences, the same basic goal was accomplished, to discover new trade. The first English attempt at colonization was in Newfoundland. This collapsed when the promoter died at sea. However, this was only the start of English exploration and colonization. As the seventeenth century began, the population of England was skyrocketing to about 4 million and England’s economy was in ruins. Thousands of farmers were kicked off their farms and were unemployed. It was these unemployed people that would sail to the Americas.
Years later, in 1606 Englishmen set sail on a ship headed towards Virginia.
The people received a charter from King James I of England. The attraction that drew men was gold with a desire to find a new passage through America to the Indies. Later that year, the settlers from the Virginia Bay Company were attacked by Indians. This forced them to move the location of their colony up the James River. Their new location was called Jamestown. Two years later, an Englishmen was captured by local Indians and was almost executed, had he not been saved by a woman Indian.
However, it was later found out hat the Indians never intended on killing him, but they wanted to prove to the English their power and desire for peaceful relations. Two years after that, the English had decided to use aggressive military action against the Indians. Relations remained tense between the Indians and English, especially when the English raided their food supply. To the English, the Indians had no value or valuable commodities, so they could be “disposed” without harm to the colony.
When colonizing, the English did not think of anybody but themselves. All they wanted to do was get rid of the unemployed in their own country, send them off to acquire a system of mercantilism (a colony for the sole purpose of trade with the mother country) with spices, gold and silver, and would do this at any cost (i. e. murder of Indians and stranding sick Englishmen). Portugal invented two devices that were vital for the Age of Exploration to be made possible, the carrack and the caravel.
The Portuguese hoped that with the use of these ships and further exploration, they would be pulled out of their current recession. The current recession proposed the problem of finding people to sponsor these expeditions. However, spices and silk were in such a high demand that people and companies came forth to sponsor. The first wave of expeditions by Portugal were launched by Prince Henry, or Henry the Navigator. His primary project was off the coast of West Africa where established trade routes brought slaves and gold.
Over time the Portuguese state proved to be too small and did not have efficient funds to keep up the colonies and empire. They could not compete with larger nations and therefore was not a long-term successful colonizer of the New World. Spanish Conquistadors are known for rapidly colonizing the Americas at a pace that could not be rivaled by another nation. The purpose of these colonies was to spread the word of G-d to other parts of the world and to attain gold. While achieving this, the Spanish Conquistadors completely destroyed the culture of the native people.
The Spanish were said to have hit so hard with their culture and everything they had, that no trace of what was previously there stood. When the Spanish arrived in the Incan empire, the European disease of smallpox had wiped out mass amounts of Incas, including the emperor, inciting a civil war. The Spanish used the Indians that were left, putting them to work in mines and had traded gold and silver with them. Even some of the Spanish Conquistadors described their conquest as “pure destruction”.
When people currently learn about the Age of Exploration, it is looked at as a positive thing. However, that is because our country sprouted as a result of it. But, many disastrous things occurred as a result of it too. In the Americas, the Indian civilizations were destroyed and used for their resources and sometimes raided for food. In Africa, explorers worked with the Africans to catch slaves and mine for gold. However, this would not last, as eventually the greedy Europeans would take over the slave trade in Africa putting Africans out of work.
Regardless of what the Europeans did to the people there before them, they all had the same goals in mind and a similar economic background. They were all in search of spices, gold, and permanent trading partners and all of Europe was in recession. Some countries were able to pull out of that recession, unlike Portugal who was too small to sustain their colonies through the recession. In total, the countries discovered new lands, established new trade lines, and without the Age of Exploration, the world would not be remotely similar to how it is today.