"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


The Age of Discovery

Period of Exploration & Discovery:

Early 15th Century (1400’s) – Early 17th Century (1600’s)


Video for Age of Exploration


Motives for Age of Exploration & Discovery

POWER: European countries were eager to explore and claim new territories to expand their power & prestige. Rivalry amongst European nations was foremost in this regard. Cost of exploration (ships, men, raw materials) meant that national monarchies/governments were involved in sponsoring these voyages of discovery.

CULTURE: Europeans believed in spreading Christianity and their language. Much of this belief was based on the common European ideal of ‘civilisation’ and ‘progress’ i.e. that it was Europeans’ duty to ‘enlighten’ and ‘educate’ less advanced peoples.

ECONOMICS: One particular motive for exploration was that of spices in particular and resources in general. Great wealth and prosperity for themselves, their King and their country in general could be achieved in securing these resources and raw materials in far-off territories.


Map of European Exploration & Resources


New developments/ Inventions in Age of Exploration:


Portuguese Caravel sailing ship developed in early 1400’s. Faster sailing ship, using triangular sails and a rudder for sailing against the wind.



Astrolabe was a device that used the positions of the stars to determine ship’s position

Magnetic Compass

The development of the Magnetic Compass greatly aided navigation during the Age of  Discovery; it helped sailors to determine their position in relation to North, South, East & West.




In a world where Europeans had rarely if ever travelled outside the ‘known world’ the prospect of sailing right out into the ‘Western Ocean’ (Atlantic Ocean) filled many sailors with dread. Superstitions affected national cultures and their desire to travel and explore. One of the most prevalent of superstitions was based on a religious ‘world-view’ i.e. that the Earth was the centre of the universe and the sun, moon and stars revolved around the Earth. Within this view, Earth was usually seen as being flat. Therefore sailing out into the extremes of the Western Ocean could very well mean “Falling off the edge of the Earth”.

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