Great navigations summary/Historical context/causes/Consequences

The Great Navigations took place between the 15th and 16th centuries and represented a period of expansion of commerce and mercantilism in Europe. Great navigations summary

These were voyages undertaken by European navigators, with great emphasis on the Portuguese and Spanish, who undertook in search of new routes essentially for economic and territorial reasons. The period is also known as the Age of Discovery .

The Great Navigations are part of the European Maritime Expansion , which allowed Europeans to sail to different continents (such as the Americas and Africa) and discover previously unseen routes.

Historical context of the Great Navigations

To understand the reasons that led to the great navigations, it is interesting to understand the historical and social context that existed at the time.

The European Continent was going through a moment of transition, marked by important events that influenced and boosted the Great Navigations. Briefly, Europe was in a transitional period from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the Modern Age. Great navigations summary

The emergence of mercantilism is also an important factor of the moment, as it determined some changes in the economic bases of society. The system, like later capitalism, began to stimulate the accumulation of wealth, especially precious metals and stones – riches that were highly valued at the time.

Another important event was the emergence of Anthropocentrism , ideas that changed the way of thinking at the time, as they placed man at the center of questions. Anthropocentrism was a form of opposition to Theocentrism, highly valued at the time, which had God as the source of all answers. This new possibility of questioning also encouraged the new discoveries of European navigators.

The causes of the Great Navigations

As we have seen, the Great Navigations took place for territorial and economic reasons, linked to the emergence of mercantilism. The principles of the system begin to appear, taking the place of old practices and making commerce a more profitable activity. Great navigations summary

While these are the main causes, other factors also contributed:

  • Emergence of political centralization : until that moment, political power was decentralized and essentially exercised by feudal lords, in the measure of their domains. After the emergence of the first National States (more politically and territorially organized), greater political centralization began to occur, which strengthened and financed the desire for maritime expansion.
  • Bourgeoisie growth : the emergence of this social class caused changes in the bases of the economy at the time, the main one being the strengthening of commerce. In addition, the bourgeois also supported the consolidation of political centralization.
  • New navigation technologies : the emergence of innovations linked to navigation also encouraged the Great Navigations. The evolution of mapping and the creation of mechanisms that facilitated location, such as the compass, were fundamental.
  • Expansion of trade : with the growth and consolidation of commercial activities, the need arose to find new markets that could also be consumers of products made on the European continent.
  • Conquest of New Territories : Reaching new locations and expanding territorial domains were the main goals of navigators. For this, it was necessary to explore new navigation routes. Great navigations summary

Portuguese pioneering

The Portuguese were the first navigators who went to the American Continent in search of new routes. Its pioneering spirit is due to a few factors:

  • Portugal was one of the first countries to form a National State;
  • already had navigation experience;
  • the country had a privileged geographic location.

The first Portuguese navigation took place in 1415, when ships arrived at the island of Ceuta, in the African continent. The navigations to Ceuta were motivated by a precious metals crisis that had hit Portugal. The trigger for the crisis came from the ban on the export of gold, which happened at the beginning of the 15th century. The ban created obstacles to the production of coins, which were made from this precious metal.

After the first, other important Portuguese navigations were carried out. Some examples are: arrival in the Azores (1419), Cape Verde (1444), Cape of Good Hope (1488) and the arrival of Vasco da Gama (1469-1524) in India (1498). Great navigations summary

The first arrival in Brazilian territory took place in the year 1500, when the vessels captained by Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467-1520) arrived in the Porto Seguro region.

the Spanish navigations

Spain was the second country to undertake navigation in search of new routes. The first record took place in 1492, when the navigator Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) arrived in America.

The first Spanish arrival in Brazilian territory also took place in 1500, when the navigator Vicente Pinzón (1462-1514) arrived in the region of the state of Amazonas.

Also noteworthy in the Spanish navigations: arrival in the region of Venezuela (1499), the first circumnavigation voyage (1519) undertaken by Fernão de Magalhães (1480-1521) and Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476-1526) and the arrival at Paraguay (1537).

Other European navigations

In addition to the Portuguese and Spanish navigations, there were also exploratory navigations from Holland, France and England. The voyages undertaken by navigators from these countries were equally motivated by territorial and economic conquests. Great navigations summary

The Dutch managed to reach the territories of the Caribbean and Indonesia. In Brazil, they occupied part of the current northeast region, being present in Bahia and Pernambuco, where they founded a colony called Nova Holanda.

French navigators undertook voyages towards North America. They also arrived in Brazil, at two different points: Maranhão and Rio de Janeiro.

The British were successful in reaching both North and South America.

Consequences of the Great Navigations

The Great Navigations had many consequences and were responsible for countless changes in world history. The main ones were:

  • consolidation of trade as one of the economic bases of the modern period,
  • large amount of conquered territories,
  • greater appreciation of Portugal and Spain in economic matters,
  • beginning of the enslavement and trade of Africans,
  • beginning of the processes of colonization of territories in several continents. Great navigations summary

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