The daring voyages made by explorers from Spain and Portuguese resulted in exploration and discovery of new lands as well as new routes between various regions. It was by these endeavors that Aristotle's 350 BC idea of a round Earth was validated and the world witnessed tremendous progress and development in trade. Europe saw much more development in this era relating to new techniques in navigation, ship building and metallurgy.
Initially the reason for these voyages was the need to discover an alternate route to Asia, known as Indies back then. The land route was blocked and made dangerous to travel on by ruling Muslims hence the alternate sea route was around Africa or set sail towards the west in a hope to reach Indies by going around the globe. It was Christopher Columbus who sailed west looking for an alternate route but he landed in Americas thinking that he had arrived at the Indies. Later on other countries in Europe understood that Columbus has found a new territory they labeled as the "New World." After this discovery European countries started their own explorations in order to declare their right on the new found land. These voyages were full of hardships and it took approximately three months to cross the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Americas, a question arises here that what were the motivators or the reasons for such an exploration?
The primary reason was trade and resulting wealth that can grant more power to Christians and decrease dependency on Muslim countries for trade routes and expensive commodities. The trade potential was realized when during the 13th century traders and crusaders introduced various commodities from Arab, Africa and Asia to Europe. Desire for such items increased and hence the want of trade with other countries. Europe being a cold region was interested in spices that were used to preserve the taste of food that can be consumed in winter. Although this trade with eastern countries did not come cheap as Muslims and Italians monopolized the trade with the price of these commodities generally high due to many exchanging hands involved. The trade was made even harder when Muslim rulers blocked the trade routes between Asia and Europe, in order to end this monopoly Europe needed to find an alternate route to Asia. Portuguese Vasco da Gama went around Africa and Columbus sailed west looking for the Indies. With this new discovery, explorers with thirst for knowledge and wealth started their own journeys to the new world; many countries claimed the new found land and the riche's. Another historic reason was the spread of Christianity in the native populations of the new land. Soon these missionaries reached the Americas and at times forced the native population to conversion enhancing the power of church and crusaders.
Portuguese Exploration of Americas
The major contribution made in Portuguese exploration was by Prince Henry, although his initial voyage was concentrated towards Africa. The motives behind Henry's voyage were to continue the crusade against the Muslims, trade with other regions and locate gold. It was Pedro Cabrel in 1500 who found the present day Brazil in an attempt to reach India; he declared the land for Portuguese and later on Portugal started establishment of its colonies in the present day Brazil. The native people of Brazil were made slaves and were subjected to abuse and European diseases along with forced conversions to Christianity. Countless natives died due to these diseases and hard work as they were forced to work on sugar cultivation.
The religious motivation stems from the long crusade struggle against Muslims that resulted in capture of Iberian Peninsula and the aim to expand the Christian rule in to North African Islamic states more Christian conversions in the region. After witnessing the success of Portuguese Vasco De Gama, Spanish Monarchs decided to finance the mission by Christopher Columbus in 1492 to explore an alternative route to Asia, by sailing west (Upshur, 490-520).
Spanish Exploration of America
After failing to secure endorsement from Portuguese for a voyage towards west, Columbus and his endeavor was finally endorsed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The motive of the Monarchs was to make Spain a dominant force in the world by finding a new route to Asia and capture the bounties on the way. Columbus made three more voyages to west and founded Indies later on called West Indies but died believing that he founded a new route to Asia (Cohen, 1-320). It was Magellan, who found the path through Pacific Ocean to reach Asia rounding the South American Continent. These Spanish Voyages towards the west resulted in early Spanish settlements in the Indies, these settlements endowed great riches on to the Spanish people and precious materials were found and new crops were introduced to Europe. The bountiful endeavor encouraged Spanish people to further explore the west and in 1519 they came in contact with Aztecs of present day Mexico. This exploration was led by Cortes and after taking the Aztec ruler hostage they took control of Aztec, although later on Spanish soldiers were defeated and were driven out of the Aztec territory. Spain regained the control of Aztec with the help of other tribes and Aztec resistance collapsed. The gold and riches of Aztec's were seized by Spain and these explorations made Spain one of the most powerful and wealthy country in the world. Although the real wealth was in Gold and Silver many other condiments, fruits and vegetables were introduced to Europe resulting in increase of population.
What initially was fueled by Christian religious ideology and supremacy soon turned in to greed and lust for more power and wealth by both Spanish and Portuguese; as explained by Abbas Hamdani in his Journal Columbus and the Recovery of Jerusalem, the motivation of Christopher Columbus was not trade or wealth. It was rather the urge to find a new way to regain Christian supremacy and the recovery of Jerusalem. In opening a new route to Asia Columbus wanted to decrease reliance on Middle Eastern route and hence damaging the Muslim world by not making them a part of trade. The recovery of Jerusalem was only possible if western and eastern Christians combined and by discovery of new lands or routes. The victory over Granada encouraged Spanish Monarch to sponsor the Columbus exploration resulting in a new route with new hope for combining both eastern (Pro Christian Mongolian - Grand Khan) and western Christians against the Muslims. It would be fair to say that Columbus was a crusader himself and wanted Jerusalem under Christian control, his book of Prophecies calls for a messianic figure that would appear from Spain and take Jerusalem back from Muslims and expand Christianity to the whole world (Hamdani, 39-48). In this hope Columbus stumbled upon a new found land and died with the hope that he has found Asia. This motivation of Portuguese and Spanish regimes are noble and ideological but later on with infuse of wealth and new discoveries, these holy men turned in to savages abusing natives in all of South and North America. In Mexico out of 25 Million inhabitants prior to the colonization only one Million were left alive with most of them killed by over work, abuse or infectious diseases carried by the westerners. Spanish and Portuguese both realized that in order to cultivate food and continue mining they need more labor, hence hoards of African slaves were taken to America with many dyeing due to the long journey and inhumane conditions.
Both Spanish and Portuguese accumulated enormous wealth and made considerable profits from their invasion to new found lands later on becoming their overseas colonies. The Spanish acquired gold and silver in abundant amounts from mines of Potosi and…