1 answer

Why were explorers interested in sailing to Asia?

Question:

Why were explorers interested in sailing to Asia?

Answers

The Portuguese were interested in getting access to cheap spices without having to go through Muslim and Venetian middle-men.

Explanation:

Portugal was a small |European power but a maritime nation. They reasoned that another trade route to Asia -- and its precious spices -- could be found by sailing around Africa. At the time, Mameluke Egypt and Venice controlled the routes from India and raised the prices for cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and other spices as high as they could.

Starting in the Middle of the 15th Century, the Portuguese kept sending expeditions south along the African coast (funded by trading for slaves, ivory and gold), until they found the Cape of Good Hope and and access to the Indian Ocean. In the late 1490s, they pushed on for India.

Once there, they used the superiority of their ships, gunnery, fortifications and European fighting tactics to squeeze out Muslim traders and to dominate the sea-lanes. For a small country, this was an enormous (and daring) achievement, and much depended on the skill and aggressiveness of men like the de-Gamas, Albuquerque and others.

  • A good recent history of this process can be found in Roger Crowley; "Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire"; Faber and Faber, London, 2015
.

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