Christopher Columbus is one of the most prominent of European explorers to arrive in North America. Motivated by riches such as a 10% stake in any riches found and automatic membership to Spanish nobility for generations, Columbus landed in what he thought was India, but turned out to be North America. Following Columbus' lead in 1513, Juan Ponce de León explored the coasts of Florida. This was another exploration that found its way into North America during the Age of Discovery. From 1539 to 1542, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado discovered the Grand Canyon and explored much of the present day Southwestern portion of the North American land mass. Coronado explored this region in search for gold and riches.
In each of these examples, there was a desire to accumulate wealth. Exploration of this "new world" helped to feed this desire. It was here in which one can see how European explorers were able to concentrate their efforts onto using exploration as a way to generate wealth and power. Exploration became a force by which power could be displayed, and these explorers were not afraid to embrace this construction.
The Age of Discovery is a period that began in the early fifteenth century and continued through the seventeenth century. Three European explorers who came to North America during this period are as follows:
1. Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), a Venetian led a series of English expeditions into North America as there was hope of finding a Northwest Passage through the ocean to the East; however, no passage was ever found.
2. Another Italian, Giovannie Verranzzano, sponsored by Francois I of France, sailed to the Atlantic Coast from South Carolina to Newfoundland. Also, he is the first recorded European to have visited what later was called in the United States the Virginia Colony. His discoveries gave Great Britain its claim to North America. Here is an interesting footnote about Cabot:
It is customary to note the similarities in the lives and careers of Cabot and Columbus... born in the same Italian city at about the same time...both convinced foreign monarchs to back a search for a westward route to Asia. While Columbus achieved greater fame and fortune, he lived long enough to suffer greater disgrace. Cabot the explorer simply disappeared and left all controversy behind.
3. A very famous explorer, the Frenchman Jacques Cartier, who was believed to have accompanied Verranzzano to Nova Scotia, became the first European to explore inland in North America in 1534-1536. Cartier discovered the Saint Lawrence River Valley and named the area surrounding it "The Country of Canadas" and claimed the territory now known as Canada for Francois I. And, although colonization would not begin until much later, Cartier established France as a power in North America.