English Across the Curriculum

Age of Exploration


By the end of the 15th century many things were changing in Europe. The population started to grow more quickly and a new class of merchants emerged. They wanted to buy and sell expensive and valuable products from Asia - like gold, jewels and silk.

In those days, people had no refrigerators to preserve their food. They dried meat and often used salt to make it last longer. To make food taste better they used spices , like pepper or cinnamon.

For centuries Europeans brought these goods on a land route from Asia over thousands of dangerous kilometres . In the 15th century the overland routes were being controlled by the Turkish Empire, which made it even more difficult for European merchants to pass through.

As a result, some European countries, like Spain and Portugal, decided to find out if there was a sea route to India. With the help of new kinds of ships that could sail faster and instruments , like the quadrant, they started the Age of Exploration.

Quadrant on display in Madrid

Quadrant on display in Madrid
Image: Dorieo [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons