Sample Classic English Literature Presentation Paper on Impact of European Exploration of the Americas

Introduction

The European exploration of distant lands began in the Fifteenth Century. Christopher Colombus was the first European to land in the Americas in 1492. The European exploration of distant lands was motivated by a range of reasons including: the desire for wealth and power; the aim to spread Christianity across the world; and the availability of technology (better ships and maps) which facilitated traveling across vast waters. Europeans also sought to settle on the new lands they discovered. Thus, the impacts of European exploration of the Americas were both short-term and long-term. Some of the immediate impacts included: establishment of The Line of Demarcation; conquest of the Aztec empire; and the introduction of European diseases. Some of the long-term impacts included establishment of European colonies in the Americas; expansion of the hoped-for wealth and power; establishment of the triangular trade route; expansion of slave trade; and the rise of capitalism. The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of the impact of European exploration of the Americas. The arguments presented will rely on the suggestion that: while some of the impacts of exploration were immediate, their significance can be felt to date.

            In the Fifteenth Century when Europeans were exploring distant lands, including the Americas, the pope had an important influence on western culture. It is his influence that inspired early missionaries to explore distant lands in an effort to spread Christianity and cement dominance over Islam. Nonetheless, Europeans were not united in their quest to conquer new territories, with Spanish and Portuguese explorers fiercely competing for new lands they discovered. In an attempt to address the dispute, the pope at the time, Alexander VI, drew the Line of Demarcation. The imaginary line divided the globe to two parts, with Portugal being allowed to claim all Non-Christian territories to the east as Spain was permitted to claim the lands to the west. This decision was however revised in 1494 after King John II of Portugal protested (Pagden 23). The Treaty of Tordesillas allowed Portugal to explore lands further west. Following this treaty, Portugal claimed much of Southern America. The land they claimed would later become the Portuguese colony of Brazil. As such, the changes that resulted from treaty have influenced the structure of the land to this day.  

            It was not until the early Sixteenth Century that the Spanish began their conquest of the Americas. Under Hernando Cortés’ leadership, Spain invaded the Aztec Empire and defeated its powerful and influential ruler, Montezuma (Pagden 23). Cortés’ victory was partly facilitated by an outbreak of smallpox which was brought by Europeans to the land (Pagden 23). It is reported that the spread of European disease wiped out millions of Native Americans over the years (Lang 201). The ability by Cortés to find collaborators who were opposed to the Aztec rule also played a significant role in helping him to conquer Montezuma. In commemorating their victory, the Spanish built Mexico City, where the Aztec capital previously lay (Pagden 24). Considering that modern Mexico, including its culture is the result of the Aztec conquest, the Spanish exploration had both short-term and long-term impacts.

            One of the long-term impacts of the establishment of European colonies in the Americas is the expansion of the hoped-for wealth and power. In the new setup, Spain and Portugal extended their territories beyond Europe so that they also gained control over vast American territories. By encroaching new lands, they also obtained valuable minerals and found vast farming territories (Sokolow 101). This made it easy for them to increase wealth. While a majority of the communities that previously occupied the Americas were exterminated, those that remained were converted to become Christians. As such, the objective of spreading Christianity and making it dominant over Islam succeeded.  Moreover, the triangular trade route was established (Sokolow; Pagden). This was a network of trading between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Africans supplied slaves, in exchange for goods produced by Europeans. The slaves were used to provide free labor on the vast fields in the Americas, with the resulting produce being used traded back to Europe (Sokolow 112). The slave trade became diverse as the slaves were not only needed in Europe but also in both South and North America (Sokolow 115). Ultimately, the expansion of trade, accumulation of wealth and rise of cities paved way for the rise of capitalism. This system favored rich individuals as they could now possess property privately. Economic growth also paved way for the rise of mercantilism. To date, capitalism is the dominant economic system, through which America and European nations are governed.

Conclusion

In their quest to conquer the Americas, the Europeans were motivated by: the need to expand wealth and power; to spread Christianity; and to take advantage of new technology. Upon taking over the Americas, the Europeans were able to exercise dominance, eventually taking up ownership of the new lands. The resulting impacts included: establishment of The Line of Demarcation; conquest of native empires; introduction of European diseases; establishment of European colonies in the Americas; expansion of the hoped-for wealth and power; establishment of the triangular trade route; expansion of slave trade; and the rise of capitalism.

Work cited

Butzer, Karl W. “The Americas before and after 1492: An introduction to current geographical research.” Annals of the association of american geographers 82.3 (1992): 345-368. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2563350

Lang, James. Conquest and commerce: Spain and England in the Americas. New York:   Academic Press, 1975.             https://books.google.co.ke/books/about/Conquest_and_commerce.html?id=OJkWAAAAYAAJ&redir_esc=y

Pagden, Anthony. Peoples and empires: A short history of European migration, exploration,    and conquest, from Greece to the present. London: Modern Library, 2007.             https://books.google.co.ke/books/about/Peoples_and_Empires.html?id=Lnq8UMmQWAMC&redir_esc=y

Sokolow, Jayme A. The Great Encounter: Native Peoples and European Settlers in the Americas, 1492-1800: Native Peoples and European Settlers in the Americas, 1492-1800. NJ: Routledge, 2016.             https://books.google.co.ke/books/about/The_Great_Encounter.html?id=5pTDZpmRu1kC&redir_esc=y