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Motives for Sailing the Ocean Blue

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Motives for Sailing the Ocean Blue

Why did Europeans sail the ocean blue in an effort for a land of new? The explorers that sought to discover the new world had many motives for doing so. The reasons for their venture were numerous. Most importantly was the search for gold, expansion of power, and spread of Christianity. This was the period between 1450 and 1650, which is known for European exploration into other parts of the world; an era referred to as the "Age of Discovery".

In the early 1400's, Europe had scant resources in precious metals and the economy was in need of gold. Europeans knew that the far east was rich in luxuries, just waiting to be taken by those adventurous and courageous enough to make the voyage. Perhaps the most important of these endeavors was Christopher Columbus, whose will to discover the new world was fueled by his greed and obsession over finding gold. Once he discovered gold, he attempted to persuade King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I for more exploration funding. Columbus on the Indians in his Report of the First Voyage:

I forbade that they should be given things so worthless as pieces of broken crockery and broken glass, and ends of straps, although when they were able to get them, they thought they had the best jewel in the world; thus it was ascertained that a sailor for a strap received gold to the weight of two and a half castellanos. (Perkins, 16)

Columbus' goal in this report was to present the Indians to the king and queen as if they were giving their gold away for basically nothing in return. He adds, "for new blancas, for them they would give all that they had, although it might be two or three castellanos' weight of gold or an arrova or two of spun cotton." (Perkins, 17) Columbus knew that if the king and queen thought gold was that easy to obtain, more funding for his voyages would be issued, as he was guaranteed by contract to have control of all the lands he founded and ten percent of all the riches, inherited by him and his family forever. He would also be admitted to the Spanish nobility; all a legacy he couldn't refuse.

Columbus' pursuit to build his legacy was similar to that of most European explorers and nobility as they all wished to establish power in the new world. "They believe very firmly that I, with these ships and people, came from the sky, and in this belief they everywhere received me," Columbus claimed.(Perkins, 17) He used this logic in his favor to undermine the Indians. Just as the race for the moon was the driving force of American scientific exploration during the 1950's and 1960's, the race to find new land to expand its power became the driving force of European foreign and domestic policy during the Age of Discovery. Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first documented person to be on the East Coast, also portrayed the Indians as easy to dominate.

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