Early American History
The Age of Exploration
Mediterranean Sea
Middle East
Key Concepts
For hundreds of years, European traders carried on a busy trade with traders from Asia. The goods the Europeans wanted most were gold, jewels, silk, perfumes, and especially spices. In the time before refrigeration, Europeans prized the spices that could make food taste better and cover up the taste of spoiling meat. Pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg were the favorite spices of Europeans.

Traveling all the way to Asia was too difficult for most European traders.
Instead, they traveled only part way, to the cities in North Africa and
Southwest Asia. The Europeans called this area the Middle East. The larger Middle East cities were Alexandria, Constantinople, Damascus, and Baghdad.

Alexandria, Constantinople, and Damascus could be reached directly from the Mediterranean Sea. This area of the world is often called the crossroads between Europe and Asia. At the crossroads, European traders would exchange their goods from Europe with the goods of traders from Asia.

European traders charged the highest prices they could get for their goods.
The two Italian city-states of Venice and Genoa became very wealthy from
trade with Asia.

In 1453, trade with Asia suddenly stopped. The Turks, a people from the Ottoman Empire, captured the city of Constantinople and took control of the Middle East. This closed the trade routes between Europe and Asia. This change also motivated Europeans to find an all-water route to Asia.
Trade Routes to the east
North Africa
Ottoman Empire
Silk Road
Southwest Asia
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Additional Information
difficult - Until water routes to the Far East were discovered, the only way to get there was by a land route. Travelers from Europe had to travel through
Turkey and the Middle East. The land route become very dangerous. Islamic Empires in the East were fighting for control of the region. Also, the region was filled with thieves who robbed merchant caravans.

Genoa - Venice and Genoa were two Italian city on the Mediterranean Sea. During the 15th Century, Genoa and Venice grown rich on trade from the Far East. Italian Merchants would pick up goods from the Far East at ports along the Mediterranean Sea. Then they would sail the goods back to European ports where they would sell the goods for a profit.

Pepper - One pound of pepper from India was traded dozens of times, before it reached Europe. Each time it was traded, the price of the pepper was increased. Each person who traded the pepper had to make a profit.

silk- Since the time of Marco Polo, silk was in great demand in European countries. A chain of Chinese, Indian, Arab, and Italian traders carried the silk over a long land-route from China to the European ports. First the silk worked its way from from China to Persia. Then the silk was brought to Mediterranean ports in the Middle East. Finally the silk was carried on Italian ships to European cities. The land route the silk was carried over became known as the Silk Road. Very few traders traveled the entire Silk Road. Most traders passed goods from one trading post to another.











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