Early American History
The Age of Exploration
Key Concepts
By the time the Turks captured Constantinople, many changes had taken place in Europe. These changes helped European sailors begin to explore the Oceans and to look for an all-water route to the East.

Nations like Spain, Portugal, France, and England had once been ruled by warring nobles. Now they had become countries ruled by a monarch. Most monarchs were strong leaders who kept close watch over their land. Monarchs wanted their countries to be powerful.

Between 1400 and 1600 is a period of time in Europe called the Renaissance. Renaissance is a French word that means "rebirth." During the Renaissance there were major advances in science and technology.

During the Renaissance, faster ships were invented. The new ships had a new type of sail called a lateen sail. The lateen sail allowed ships to sail into the wind. The sail had a triangular shape. Until the invention of the lateen sail, ships used square sails. It was much more difficult for square sailed ships to sail into the wind.

The Chinese invented the compass about 100 A.D. But news of the compass did not spread to the rest of the world. Traders were the first to use the compass to find their way across deserts. Early compasses were just pieces of magnetic iron floating on straw or cork in a bowl of water. By the 1400s, sailors were using a magnetic needle for the compass. They had found ways to make the compass more accurate for sea exploration.

Another invention of the Renaissance was the astrolabe. The astrolabe was used by sailors in the early 1400s. Sailors used this tool to find the position of the sun or the North Star above the horizon. Then they consulted tables to determine their location in the ocean.
Changes in Europe
lateen sail
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Additional Information
Astrolabe - A sailor was able to know his latitude by using an astrolabe to measure how high the North Star was above the horizon. But the rolling of
the ship made the astrolabe readings uneven.

Compass - The ancient Chinese discovered that if a magnet swings freely, it will always point north. The Arabs brought the compass from China to Europe. At first, early compasses were not very reliable. In the 15th Century, the Arab sailors improved the compass. Then it became a useful navigation tool.

consulting tables - Good navigators kept records of the winds, the speed of their ship, and the compass direction. This information was used to determine the distance traveled or longitude position of the ship at sea.
Calculating longitude in this way was called "dead reckoning."

monarch - Before the time of nation states, the Iberian Peninsula was a
group of kingdoms. Today, the Iberian Peninsula is countries of Portugal and Spain. Isabella was queen of Castile, a powerful kingdom. Ferdinand was King of Aragon, a neighboring kingdom. The two kingdoms united as Spain, when Queen Isabella married King Ferdinand. Together they fought a war against the Muslims who controlled the region in the north. After they won the war, they were able to support Columbus in his exploration.

Renaissance - The 15th Century was a time of progress in Europe. I t is
usually called the "Renaissance." Before the Renaissance, Europe was in a difficult period called the "Dark Ages." The Dark Ages was a time of superstition, poverty, war and disease. During the Renaissance, things began to improve. Poets, painters, and sculptors created works of art. New inventions were also made.

science - In the 15th Century people believed that the Earth did not move and was the center of the solar system. They believed the sun and stars
moved about the Earth. They also believed that the earth had a three-part
mass of land. The three parts consisted of Africa, Asia and Europe. People
believed there was one ocean and it surrounded the land.












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