Reasons for the voyages of discovery

Reasons for the voyages of discovery

Economic Motives

  • Trade: European powers sought new trade routes to Asia as an alternative to the costly and treacherous Silk Road. The search for sea routes to Asia resulted in the accidental discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

  • Wealth: There was the desire to exploit the wealth of newly discovered lands to boost European economies. The discovery of gold and other precious resources in the Americas made these voyages financially lucrative.

  • Spices: The demand for spices to preserve and flavour food was high in Europe. The promise of a sea route to India and the East Indies for spices was a strong incentive.

Religious Motives

  • Spread Christianity: European nations, especially Spain and Portugal, aimed to spread Christianity (specifically Catholicism) to the peoples they encountered during their voyages.

  • Defending Christianity: The voyages were seen as a means to widen the influence of Christianity and protect it against Islam, particularly after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453.

Political Motives

  • Rivalry: The voyages were driven by competition between European powers. Portugal and Spain, in particular, were in a race to explore and colonise new lands.

  • National Prestige: The voyages were a means by which countries could gain international prestige. It was a clear display of a country’s wealth and technology to explore and colonise new lands.

Technological Advances

  • Cartography: Advances in the science of map making allowed explorers to venture further away from home and return safely.

  • Navigation: The perfection of the astrolabe and the advent of the magnetic compass improved sea navigation, making long voyages possible.

  • Shipbuilding: Technological advances in shipbuilding, including the development of caravel and galleon ships, enabled explorers to travel longer distances across open sea.