There were any number of things which led Europe to expand beyond its borders; the discovery and conquest of America was incidental to that expansion, which also extended into Asia:
- There was also renewed interest in the art of navigation: The principle of the Compass was known in the twelfth century; but by the 15th century, the astrolabe allowed one to navigate at night for long distances outside the sight of land.
- The rise of towns had given rise to a growth in trade with profit the driving motive.. Trade with the far East had originated as early as the Crusades when crusading knights at Constantinople and other areas saw products of orient; silk, spices, dyes, perfumes, rugs, even oranges. Trade continued throughout the Mediterranean world with Arab and Christian merchants frequently trading with one another.
- The Description of the World; or The Travels of Marco Polo (1298-1299), provided impetus for trade and exploration. Although there is some speculation about the accuracy of his book and even its authorship; it was widely read and increased speculation about travel to the East. Christopher Columbus kept a copy of Marco Polo's book which was annotated in Latin.
- The rise of nation states. Ruling monarchs had the power and money to sponsor a search for a water route to Asia. This worked well also for merchants, who wanted a uniform currency, trade laws, and the elimination of trade barriers. Important incidences were the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella to form modern Spain; and the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry VII.
- The Crusades were also important. European crusaders had had contact with Eastern Monarchs –there was no feudal system in the Orient. They also learned of new weapons, gunpowder, and developed standing armies; all of this made Monarchs stronger and feudal lords weaker.