The quest for survival and wealth was one of the main reason why many nations explored the world with an aim of arriving at new opportunities. These explorations enabled many nations to discover new trade opportunities and to conquer great nations. In turn, countries that emerged as the leaders in explorations eventually ruled in economic and military prowess. Among the earliest nations to engage in these explorations were the Mongol and the Zeng He dynasties. More recently, the Portuguese through Vasco da Gama and the Spanish through Christopher Columbus engaged in these prosperous explorations.
Similarities in Explorations
Basically, the most unifying factor that was in all the explorations was the search for new opportunities, especially those that existed in the Indian Ocean trade. For instance, the discovery of America was simply a coincidence while trying to discover a new trade route to Asia. In fact, Spain hoped that these new trade route would enable them to have access to the lucrative trade opportunities, such as access to spices, silk, and gold that were traded in these areas. In addition, Columbus would be able to Christianize the world. Similarly, the Vasco da Gama crossing past Cape of Good Hope enabled the Portuguese to find a new trade route that they could use to access the Indian Ocean trade. Among ancient dynasties, such as the Mongol and the Zeng He, the explorations and subsequent conquests enabled these nations to have new trade opportunities by controlling trading paths and ports. For instance, the vast Mongol empire spread from China to the Middle East. Importantly, it connected trade in towns that existed within these areas.
The scarcity of resources was another issue that led to these explorations. For instance, the rise of the Mongol empire was preceded by a shortage of grazing lands for their cattle. In order to solve this problem, the Mongol’s conquered its neighboring communities (Pollard and Rosenberg). As the dynasty continued to increase in size and might, it continued to spread in most of China and the Middle East. In a similar case, the rise in Europe’s colonization of most of the world was preceded by a disease outbreak, The Black Death. This plague left most of the European nations extremely poor and they had to seek other opportunities that they could exploit (White 44-45). With the discovery of the America’s by Columbus, trade opportunities for slaves, silk, and farm produce across the Atlantic Ocean emerged. As a result, most of these countries colonized African countries in order to access trade merchandizes (Olaudah 180-183).
The use of force, especially military prowess was common in all conquests. Basically, all nations used their military superiority or force to ensure that their explorations and colonization was effective. Nonetheless, at time diseases and natural calamities enabled these nations to have an edge over their newfound colonies. Notably, diseases and natural afflictions were not methods that could be relied upon. In fact, they were simply a coincidence.
Differences in Explorations
Some explorations were a matter of coincidence while others had been properly planned and purposed. The discovery of the Americans and the subsequent visits were coincidences. Notably, these discoveries were not part of the initial journey. In a similar case, Ibn Battuta visit to Mombasa and Kilwa was a coincidence. In fact, this prince had only purposed to have a one and a half year trip from Morocco to Mecca. However, he eventually ended having a twenty-four-year trip and exploring many towns along the East African, South East Asia, Central Asia, and India that he had not planned (Hamdun and King 21-25).
Notably, the administration structure differed immensely among various countries. In some dynasties, such as the Zheng He, they had a central administrative system. In particular, this system enabled them to administer their regions firmly. On the contrary, other preferred having a distributed system of authority. The Mongol dynasty, although it had a single king, his powers were distributed among the various rulers of his region.
Role of Violence and Trade
Violence was essential in conquering nations and suppressing rebellions. In particular, the invasions were normally violent and were characterized with a lot of bloodsheds. Due to the high number of deaths and the overrunning of towns by the invading armies, most weak colonies normally gave in to the dominant countries. Similarly, violence was also used in retaliatory attacks (Xajil’a 171-191). Therefore, it was essential in regaining freedom or in suppressing rebellions.
Trade was an essential factor in influencing the direction of the explorations. Specifically, most countries were interested in the trade opportunities that were present in various areas of the world. For instance, the Vasco da Gama explorations of the towns along the Indian Ocean and those in South and Central Asia was influenced by the trade opportunities present in these regions. Similarly, the Columbus exploration along the Atlantic Ocean aimed at finding new ways of traveling to Asia and India (Pollard and Rosenberg). In essence, this shows that the explorations were largely influenced by the trade opportunities in these countries. In addition, trade was an important factor in influencing local and international politics. For instance, the execution of Portuguese merchants by the Zheng He dynasty led to the punishment of the executioners (Pereira16-21).
Trade was also an important source of income to the colonizing empires. For instance, the Mongol empire used to charge their colonials royalties in the part of Hangzhou. Similarly, Vasco da Gama placed a form of shipping tax (Pollard and Rosenberg). Similarly, the colonialist government benefitted immensely from the slave trade in Africa. In fact, the trade was one of the factors that influenced them to acquire more colonies.
To sum up, the ancient trade system led to many social and cultural exchanges besides huge losses in human lives. There were many interruptions during the trade activities, which led people to share language, culture, and religious practices. In addition, the search for wealth and new trading opportunities led to discoveries of new trade paths and countries. Overly, this resulted in increased wealth and power in countries that engaged in this trade.
Hamdun, S. and Noel K. Ibn Battuta in Black Africa. Translated by Markus Wiener. Princeton, NJ: (1975)
Jean de Lery. History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil (1578)
Pereira, G. et al. South China in the 16th Century. Edited by C.R. Boxer. London: UK. (1953)A Portugues Voyage to China (1561)
Pollard E. and Rosenberg C. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A Companion Reader. (2nd Ed.)New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company. (2015). Print.
Olaudah Equiano, “The Case Against the Slave Trade” pp. 180-183.
White, A. Problems in English History. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers. (1951).
Xajil’a A. Plague in Central America; 1590-1560. Translated by Brinton, D. (1885). Pp. 171-191.