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The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), is an informal and loosely defined term for the early modern period approximately from the beginning of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century in European history, in which sea-faring European nations explored regions across the globe.

The extensive overseas exploration, led by the Portuguese and the Spanish, emerged as a powerful factor in European culture, most notably the European rediscovery of the Americas. It also marks an increased adoption of colonialism as a national policy in Europe. Several lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited.

European exploration outside the Mediterranean started with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and Azores in 1419 and 1427 respectively, then the coast of West Africa after 1434 until the establishment of the sea route to India in 1498 by Vasco da Gama. The Crown of Castile (Spain) sponsored the transatlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas between 1492 and 1504, and the first circumnavigation of the globe between 1519 and 1522 by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan (completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano). These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia that continued into the late 19th century, followed by the exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.

European overseas exploration led to the rise of global trade and the European colonial empires, with the contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and the New World (the Americas), as well as Australia, producing the Columbian exchange, a wide transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Age of Discovery and later European exploration allowed the mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact. At the same time, new diseases were propagated, decimating populations not previously in contact with the Old World, particularly concerning Native Americans. The era also saw the enslavement, exploitation, military conquest, and economic dominance and spread of European civilization and superior technology by Europe and its colonies over native populations....
 
 
The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), is an informal and loosely defined term for the early modern period approximately from the beginning of the 15th century until the middle of the 17th century in European history, in which sea-faring European nations explored regions across the globe.

The extensive overseas exploration, led by the Portuguese and the Spanish, emerged as a powerful factor in European culture, most notably the European rediscovery of the Americas. It also marks an increased adoption of colonialism as a national policy in Europe. Several lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited.

European exploration outside the Mediterranean started with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and Azores in 1419 and 1427 respectively, then the coast of West Africa after 1434 until the establishment of the sea route to India in 1498 by Vasco da Gama. The Crown of Castile (Spain) sponsored the transatlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas between 1492 and 1504, and the first circumnavigation of the globe between 1519 and 1522 by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan (completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano). These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, and land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Australia that continued into the late 19th century, followed by the exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.

European overseas exploration led to the rise of global trade and the European colonial empires, with the contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia, and Africa) and the New World (the Americas), as well as Australia, producing the Columbian exchange, a wide transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Age of Discovery and later European exploration allowed the mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact. At the same time, new diseases were propagated, decimating populations not previously in contact with the Old World, particularly concerning Native Americans. The era also saw the enslavement, exploitation, military conquest, and economic dominance and spread of European civilization and superior technology by Europe and its colonies over native populations....

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    William of Rubruck, Journey to Mongolia, 1253
  William of Rubruck, Journey to Mongolia, 1253
William of Rubruck was a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer. His account is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature comparable to that of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Born in Rubrouck, Flanders, he is known also as William...
 
    Marco Polo, Travels to China, 1271 - 1295
  Marco Polo, Travels to China, 1271 - 1295
Marco Polo was a Christian merchant from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo,...
 
    Ibn Battuta, Muslim Traveler
  Ibn Battuta, Muslim Traveler
Ibn Battuta, Muslim traveler from Tangier. No other medieval traveler is known to have journeyed so extensively. In 30 years (from c.1325) he made a series of journeys recorded in a dictated account. He traveled overland in North Africa and Syria to...
 
    RENAISSANCE : Beginning of the Modern Age
  RENAISSANCE : Beginning of the Modern Age
The Renaissance (from French: Renaissance "re-birth", Italian: Rinascimento, from rinascere "to be reborn") was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and late...
 
    Zheng He, the Chinese Admiral
  Zheng He, the Chinese Admiral
Zheng He, formerly romanized as Cheng Ho, was a Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court eunuch during China's early Ming dynasty. He was originally born as Ma He in a Muslim family, later adopted the conferred surname Zheng from...
 
    Prince Henry the Navigator
  Prince Henry the Navigator
Henry the Navigator was an infante of the Kingdom of Portugal and an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire. He was responsible for the early development of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents. Henry...
 
    Bartolomeu Dias, 1st to round the Cape - 1488
  Bartolomeu Dias, 1st to round the Cape - 1488
Bartolomeu Dias was a Portuguese navigator. He was the first European to round (1488) the Cape of Good Hope, which he called Cabo Tormentoso [cape of storms]. That voyage opened the road to India. Dias accompanied Cabral on the voyage that resulted i...
 
    John Cabot, Voyage to coastal North America, 1497
  John Cabot, Voyage to coastal North America, 1497
John Cabot was an Italian navigator and explorer. His 1497 voyage to the coast of North America under the commission of Henry VII of England is the earliest known European exploration of coastal North America since the Norse visits to Vinland in the...
 
    Columbus, Discovers America - 1492
  Columbus, Discovers America - 1492
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general Europe...
 
    Isabella, Queen of Spain
  Isabella, Queen of Spain
Isabella I was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain unde...
 
    Ferdinand II, King of Aragón
  Ferdinand II, King of Aragón
Ferdinand II, called the Catholic, was in his own right the King of Sicily from 1468 and King of Aragon from 1479. As a consequence of his marriage to Isabella I, he was King of Castile jure uxoris as Ferdinand V from 1474 until her death in 1504. He...
 
    The Fall of Constantinople
  The Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire which occurred after a siege laid by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Sultan Mehmed II. The siege lasted from Thursday, 5 April 1453 until Tuesday, 29 May 1453...
 
    Amerigo Vespucci, Namegiver of America
  Amerigo Vespucci, Namegiver of America
America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies. Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian merchant and cartographer who voyaged to and wrote about the Americas. His exploratory journeys...
 
    Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, Historian
  Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, Historian
Peter Martyr d'Anghiera was an Italian-born historian of Spain and its discoveries during the Age of Exploration. He wrote the first accounts of explorations in Central and South America in a series of letters and reports, grouped in the original Lat...
 
    Vasco Da Gama, Sails to India - 1498
  Vasco Da Gama, Sails to India - 1498
Dom Vasco da Gama, (c.1460s-1524) was a Portuguese explorer. He was the first European to reach India by sea, linking for the first time Europe and Asia by ocean route, as well as the Atlantic and the Indian oceans entirely and definitively, and in t...
 
    Pedro Álvares Cabral, Discovery Brazil
  Pedro Álvares Cabral, Discovery Brazil
Pedro Álvares Cabral was a Portuguese noble, military commander, navigator and explorer regarded as the discoverer of Brazil. Cabral conducted the first substantial exploration of the northeast coast of South America and claimed it for Portugal. Whil...
 
    Pizarro, Conqueror Inca Empire - 1531
  Pizarro, Conqueror Inca Empire - 1531
Francisco Pizarro was a Conquistador who seized the Inca empire for Spain. In 1510 he enrolled in an expedition of exploration in the New World, and three years later he joined Vasco Núñez de Balboa on the expedition that discovered the Pacific. He m...
 
    Balboa, Reaches Pacific Ocean - 1513
  Balboa, Reaches Pacific Ocean - 1513
Vasco Núñez de Balboa was a Spanish conquistador who founded the colony of Darién in Panama, the oldest extant European settlement in the mainland of the Americas. He crossed the Isthmus in search of gold, reaching the Pacific Ocean after a 25-day ex...
 
    Oviedo, Spanish Historian
  Oviedo, Spanish Historian
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés was a Spanish historian and writer. He is commonly known as "Oviedo" even though his family name is Fernández. He participated in the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean, and wrote a long chronicle of this proje...
 
    Cortés, Conqueror of Mexico - 1519
  Cortés, Conqueror of Mexico - 1519
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in th...
 
    Columbus Discovers America
  Columbus Discovers America
In 1492, a Spanish-based transatlantic maritime expedition led by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus encountered the Americas, continents which were virtually unknown to and outside of the Old World political and economic system. The four voyages...
 
    Discovery Sea Route to India, Da Gama
  Discovery Sea Route to India, Da Gama
The Portuguese discovery of the sea route to India was the first recorded trip directly from Europe to India, via the Cape of Good Hope. Under the command of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, it was undertaken during the reign of King Manuel I in 14...
 
    Urdaneta, 2nd World Circumnavigator
  Urdaneta, 2nd World Circumnavigator
Friar Andrés de Urdaneta was a Spanish circumnavigator, explorer and Augustinian friar. As a navigator he achieved in 1536 the "second" world circumnavigation (after the first one led by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano and their crew in...
 
    Legazpi, 1st Governor Philippines
  Legazpi, 1st Governor Philippines
Miguel López de Legazpi, also known as El Adelantado and El Viejo (The Elder), was a Spanish conquistador who established one of the first European settlements in the East Indies and the Pacific Islands in 1565. He was the first Governor-General of S...
 
    Orellana, 1st Navigation Amazon River
  Orellana, 1st Navigation Amazon River
Francisco de Orellana was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. He completed the first known navigation of the length of the Amazon River, which was originally named for him. He also founded the city of Guayaquil in modern-day Ecuador. The story of...
 
    REFORMATION : Protestants vs The Catholic Church
  REFORMATION : Protestants vs The Catholic Church
The Protestant Reformation was the schism within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other early Protestants. Although there had been significant attempts at reform before Luther (notably those of John Wycliffe and Jan H...
 
    Frobisher, Search Northwest Passage
  Frobisher, Search Northwest Passage
Sir Martin Frobisher was an English seaman who made three voyages to the New World to look for the Northwest Passage. All landed in northeastern Canada, around today's Resolution Island and Frobisher Bay. On his second voyage, Frobisher found what he...
 
    Sir Francis Drake, English Captain, Navigator, Pirate
  Sir Francis Drake, English Captain, Navigator, Pirate
Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, a renowned pirate, and a politician of the Elizabethan era. Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English f...
 
    Willem Barentsz, Dutch navigator
  Willem Barentsz, Dutch navigator
Willem Barentsz was a Dutch navigator, cartographer, and Arctic explorer. Barentsz went on three expeditions to the far north in search for a Northeast passage. He reached as far as Novaya Zemlya and the Kara Sea in his first two voyages, but was...
 
    Sir Walter Raleigh, Writer and Explorer
  Sir Walter Raleigh, Writer and Explorer
Sir Walter Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, courtier, spy, and explorer. He is also well known for popularising tobacco in England. He rose rapidly in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I, and was knighted in 1585. He was invo...
 
    Lancaster, 1st East India Company Fleet
  Lancaster, 1st East India Company Fleet
Sir James Lancaster was a prominent Elizabethan trader and privateer. Lancaster came from Basingstoke in Hampshire. In his early life, he was a soldier and a trader in Portugal. On the 10th of April 1591 he started from Torbay in Devon, with Raymond...
 
    Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, Itinerario, 1596
  Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, Itinerario, 1596
Jan Huyghen van Linschoten was a Dutch merchant, trader and historian. He travelled extensively along the East Indies' regions under Portuguese influence and served as the Portuguese Viceroy's secretary in Goa between 1583 and 1588. He is credite...
 
    Hudson, Found New York - 1609
  Hudson, Found New York - 1609
Henry Hudson was an English sea explorer and navigator in the early 17th century. Hudson made two attempts on behalf of English merchants to find a prospective Northeast Passage to Cathay (today's China) via a route above the Arctic Circle. Hudson ex...
 
    Cornelis de Houtman, Sea Route to Indonesia - 1595
  Cornelis de Houtman, Sea Route to Indonesia - 1595
Cornelis de Houtman, was a Dutch explorer who discovered a new sea route from Europe to Indonesia and managed to begin the Dutch spice trade. At the time, the Portuguese Empire held a monopoly on the spice trade, and the voyage was a symbolic victory...
 
    Jacob van Heemskerk, Admiral
  Jacob van Heemskerk, Admiral
Jacob van Heemskerk was a Dutch explorer and later admiral commanding the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Gibraltar. Van Heemskerk's early fame arose from an attempts to discover an Arctic passage from Europe to China. Two vessels sailed from Amsterdam...
 
    Willem Schouten, First to sail Cape Horn, 1616
  Willem Schouten, First to sail Cape Horn, 1616
Willem Cornelisz Schouten was a Dutch navigator for the Dutch East India Company. He was the first to sail the Cape Horn route to the Pacific Ocean. In 1615 Willem Cornelisz Schouten and his younger brother Jan Schouten sailed from Texel in the Ne...
 
    Dirk Hartog, 1st record visit Australia, 1616
  Dirk Hartog, 1st record visit Australia, 1616
Dirk Hartog was a 17th-century Dutch sailor and explorer. Dirk Hartog's expedition was the second European group to land in Australia and the first to leave behind an artifact to record his visit,the Hartog plate. His name is sometimes alternatively...
 
    Jacques Specx, Founder Dutch Japan Trade
  Jacques Specx, Founder Dutch Japan Trade
Jacques Specx was a Dutch merchant, who founded the trade on Japan and Korea in 1609. Jacques Specx received the support of William Adams to obtain extensive trading rights from the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu on August 24, 1609, which allowed him to esta...
 
    Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Governor VOC
  Jan Pieterszoon Coen, Governor VOC
Jan Pieterszoon Coen was an officer of Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the early seventeenth century, holding two terms as its Governor-General in the Dutch East Indies. He was long considered a national hero in the Netherlands, for providing the i...
 
    ENLIGHTENMENT : The Age of Reason and Science
  ENLIGHTENMENT : The Age of Reason and Science
The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual movement in 18th-century Europe. The goal of the Enlightenment was to establish an authoritative ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge based on an "enlightened" rationality. The movement's leaders viewed thems...
 
    VOC, Dutch East India Company
  VOC, Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, "United East India Company") was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial act...
 
    Abel Tasman, Tasmania and New Zealand
  Abel Tasman, Tasmania and New Zealand
Abel Janszoon Tasman was a Dutch seafarer and explorer best known for his voyages of 1642 and 1644, in the service of the VOC (Dutch East India Company). His was the first European expedition to reach the islands of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) a...
 
    Willem Janszoon finds Australia, Duyfken
  Willem Janszoon finds Australia, Duyfken
In 1606, the small Dutch ship Duyfken sailed from the Indonesian island of Banda in search of gold and trade opportunities on the fabled island of Nova Guinea. Under the command of Willem Janszoon, Duyfken and her crew ventured south-east. They saile...
 
    Founding of the 13 American Colonies
  Founding of the 13 American Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of colonies of Great Britain on the Atlantic coast of America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries which declared independence in 177...
 
    Jan van Riebeeck, Founder Cape Town, 1652
  Jan van Riebeeck, Founder Cape Town, 1652
Jan van Riebeeck was a Dutch navigator and colonial administrator who arrived in Cape Town in the Dutch Cape Colony at the behest of the Dutch East India Company. He also spent some time in Malaysia as part of his profession and served as an assis...
 
    Jacob Roggeveen, Discovery Easter Island, 1722
  Jacob Roggeveen, Discovery Easter Island, 1722
Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis, but he instead came across Easter Island. On 1 August 1721 he left on his expedition, in the service of the Dutch West India Company, to seek Terra Australis. It consisted of...
 
    Vitus Bering, Danish Explorer
  Vitus Bering, Danish Explorer
Vitus Bering was a Danish explorer. Explored the Siberian Far East and Alaska and claimed it for Russia. The value of Bering's work was not fully recognized for many years, but Captain Cook was able to prove Bering's accuracy as an observer. Nowadays...
 
    The British Empire
  The British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by E...
 
    Captain James Cook, British Navigator, Explorer
  Captain James Cook, British Navigator, Explorer
Captain James Cook was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer, ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the...
 
    Arthur Phillip, Founder of Sydney, 1788
  Arthur Phillip, Founder of Sydney, 1788
Admiral Arthur Phillip RN was a British admiral and colonial administrator. Phillip was appointed Governor of New South Wales, the first European colony on the Australian continent, and was the founder of the settlement which is now the city of Sydne...
 
    George Vancouver, English Navigator, Explorer
  George Vancouver, English Navigator, Explorer
An English navigator and explorer, Vancouver sailed on Capt. James Cook's 2nd and 3rd voyages. In 1791, he set out for the NW coast of America. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope, explored the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, and visited Tahiti and...
 
    Alexander von Humboldt, Naturalist
  Alexander von Humboldt, Naturalist
Alexander von Humboldt was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist, Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). Humboldt's quantitative work on botanical geography was foundational to the fi...
 
    Philipp F. von Siebold, Japanese flora and fauna
  Philipp F. von Siebold, Japanese flora and fauna
Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold was a German physician, botanist, and traveler. He taught some pupils Western medicine in Japan. He achieved prominence for his study of Japanese flora and fauna, and was the father of female Japanese doctor, Kusum...
 
    The Lewis and Clark Expedition
  The Lewis and Clark Expedition
The Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition, was the first American expedition to cross what is now the western portion of the United States, departing in May, 1804 from near St. Louis on the Mississippi River, mak...
 
    Alexander Burnes, Scottish Explorer
  Alexander Burnes, Scottish Explorer
Captain Sir Alexander Burnes, was a Scottish traveller and explorer who took part in The Great Game. He was nicknamed Bokhara Burnes for his role in establishing contact with and exploring Bukhara, which made his name. At the age of sixteen, Alex...
 
    Charles Darwin, Evolution Theory - 1859
  Charles Darwin, Evolution Theory - 1859
Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist who realised and presented compelling evidence that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs beca...
 
    Dr. David Livingstone, Missionary
  Dr. David Livingstone, Missionary
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Perhaps one of the most popular national hero...
 
       
         
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