European History

A research guide, organized by time period, of European history from ancient history to post-WWII

The Age of Discovery Overview

image of Maris Pacifici by Abraham OrteliusDuring the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans broke out of their continent to explore, trade, conquer, and colonize throughout Africa, Asia, and the new continent of America. By 1600, only Australasia remained unknown to Europeans. The explorers' motives were a mixture of greed (there were medieval tales of fabulous wealth in Asia), religious fervour (saving the souls of pagans), desire for fame and glory, and plain curiosity. In essence exploration was an overseas expression of the Renaissance: a new ‘human-centred’ world ready to conquer and question.

Image: Maris Pacifici by Abraham Ortelius. This map was published in 1589 in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. It was not only the first printed map of the Pacific, but it also showed the Americas for the first time - from Wikimedia Commons

Selected Books