Age of Discovery  

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"European manufacturers dream night and day of Africa, of a lake in the Saharan desert, of a railroad to the Soudan. They anxiously follow the progress of Livingston, Stanley, Du Chaillu; they listen open-mouthed to the marvelous tales of these brave travelers. What unknown wonders are contained in the “dark continent”! Fields are sown with elephants’ teeth, rivers of cocoanut oil are dotted with gold, millions of backsides, as bare as the faces of Dufaure and Girardin, are awaiting cotton goods to teach them decency, and bottles of schnaps and bibles from which they may learn the virtues of civilization." --The Right to Be Lazy (1883) by Paul Lafargue

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The Age of Discovery or Age of Exploration was a period from the early 15th century and continuing into the early 17th century, during which European ships traveled around the world in search of new trading routes and partners to feed burgeoning capitalism in Europe. They also were in search of trading goods such as gold, silver and spices. In the process, Europeans encountered peoples and mapped lands previously unknown to them. Among the most famous explorers of the period were Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Captain James Cook.

The Age of Exploration was rooted in new technologies and ideas growing out of the Renaissance. These included advances in cartography, navigation, firepower and shipbuilding. Many people wanted to find a route to Asia through the west of Europe. The most important development was the invention of first the carrack and then caravel in Iberia. These vessels evolved from medieval European designs with a fruitful combination of Mediterranean and North Sea designs and the addition of some Arabic elements. They were the first ships that could leave the relatively placid and calm Mediterranean and sail safely on the open Atlantic.

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