During the Age of Exploration, why was there a need to create an alternate trade route to Asia?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The major motivation for Europeans to open a new route to Asia was profit.  For the previous two centuries since Marco Polo’s journeys to the orient and China, Europeans had acquired a taste for the spices of the East.  Europeans traded their wares in exchange for silk and spices.  The demand for these exotic goods was very high in Europe.  The journey for this exchange was done primarily over land and was a long and expensive endeavor.  Many merchants felt that this route could be achieved by taking the seas to the west and then south around Africa.  This new route could potentially make the trade more profitable and less dangerous.  

An important development was the defeat of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1453.  Christian Europeans were not the least bit comfortable traveling through this powerful Muslim empire.  More importantly, the Ottomans charged exorbitant taxes to the merchants from the West. Profits plummeted while prices soared.  This motivated Europeans to look to the seas as a solution to an economic problem.

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