American Exploration

Sustained European exploration to the North American continent began in the late fifteenth century. At that time, Western European nations began sending expeditions to the North and South American continents. The most important European objectives in what they called the New World included finding specie, converting Native Americans to Christianity, growing crops for export (which depended on the exploitation of the labor of Native Americans and Africans), developing new markets for European goods, and establishing permanent European settlements in the Americas. The first people to arrive in North America were hunters from Asia searching for game. Between 40,000 and 20,000 years ago, they crossed into Alaska from Siberia via a land bridge that spanned the Bering Strait at the time. By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, between 7 million and 18 million native people lived in the part of North America north of Mexico, with twice as many living in the rest of North America. Rather than a virgin land, pre-Columbian North America was a continent with numerous, complex indigenous societies. Christopher Columbus was not the first European to arrive in North America. Norsemen are believed to have visited and settled present-day Newfoundland, Baffin Island, and Labrador sometime in the eleventh century. The first European thought to have sighted part of the North American continent was Bjarni Herjolfsson in 986. Leif Eriksson, another Norseman, landed in Newfoundland in 1000. The Norse are not credited with the Old World’s discovery of North America, however, since settlements did not mark the beginning of sustained contact between the Americas and Europe. The Portuguese and the British also claim to have sent out western expeditions between 1431 and 1492, which may have led to other European sightings of or landings in the Americas before Columbus. The Portuguese even argue that Jo£o Fernandes of the Azores landed in the Americas shortly before Columbus, but this account has not been corroborated. In addition, the British claim that British fishing ships from Bristol began fishing along the Newfoundland coast as early as 1482. Atlantic Exploration, 1492 1610. During this period, Spanish, English, and French explorers charted various routes across the Atlantic Ocean. The Spanish largely concentrated on routes to the Caribbean and South America, while the English and French focused on routes to the North American mainland. (Carto-Graphics) Even if the British, Portuguese, and Scandinavians sighted and visited the Americas before Columbus, several qualities distinguish Columbus’s expeditions from all earlier ventures. One difference is the royal backing Columbus received. Moreover, unlike the small fishing expeditions of the British and Scandinavians, Columbus’s expeditions were carefully planned and documented so that later European adventurers could replicate them. Finally, another major difference was that news of Columbus’s voyages spread rapidly throughout Europe, while news of the earlier expeditions had not. Christopher Columbus’s arrival on one of the outer islands of the present-day Bahamas which he named San Salvador but which the local inhabitants, the Tainos, referred to as Guanahan­ on October 12, 1492, marked the beginning of sustained contact between Europe and the Americas. Columbus never realized the vast impact that his New World expeditions had. When he died in 1506, he thought that he had simply landed in parts of the Asian continent. The writings of Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian merchant who wrote about his two voyages to South America in 1499 and from 1501 to 1502 as part of Spanish and Portuguese expeditions, helped popularize the idea of the discovery of a New World. Amerigo Vespucci, unlike Columbus, believed that Columbus had discovered a continent between Europe and Asia previously unknown to Europeans and the rest of the world. JF Ptak Science Books: Pre-Columbian American “Exploration”–St … All Collections: Digital Collections for the Classroom I. Age of Exploration & Colonization – Team Sigma – Social Studies

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