How did Christopher Columbus' voyages affect Europe?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Christopher Columbus's voyages had a profound impact on Europe. As it became clear that he had discovered a new continent and as wealth from this continent began pouring into Spain, Spain became more powerful. Other European countries were thus galvanized to send out their own expeditions to explore and to start colonies in the New World. This led, of course, to the British and French establishing colonial outposts in the New World. Europe benefitted from the abundant natural resources of the new continent, and cultural thought and the European sense of cultural superiority were impacted by contact with what were considered more primitive cultures. Exploration of these hitherto unknown cultures and geographies also changed European life by introducing new products, such as tobacco, corn, potatoes and tomatoes. 

It's important to note, however, the name "Christopher Columbus" can act as a shorthand for all sorts of currents that were already in play and that it is difficult to tease out particular contributions that were Columbus's alone: the age of exploration and the quest for faster routes to Asia had begun before his voyages, and contacts with other civilizations in the East and in Africa had already inspired the development of racist ideologies in Europe. Columbus's greatest influence was perhaps to accelerate processes already in play. 

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Christopher Columbus made several voyages to the Americas. These voyages impacted Europe in many ways.

Many European countries were looking for a quicker way to reach the Far East. These countries were hoping to find minerals and to increase trade in the Far East. Columbus decided to try to reach the Far East by heading west. When he traveled westward, he came across various places in the Americas. His reports of the availability of land in what is now called the Americas encouraged other countries to try to come to the Americas. The explorers of these countries hoped to discover a shorter route to Asia. While they never discovered the shorter route, other explorations led to the discovery of many minerals. Explorers claimed these lands for their country, and efforts were made to mine the minerals and bring them back to Europe. This led to the establishment of colonies by several European nations. These countries got the minerals and also benefited economically by increasing their trade with the colonies they established.

While these discoveries had disastrous effects on the Native Americans, the Europeans benefited greatly from these explorations, discoveries, and the creation of colonies. Africans were also eventually enslaved and were negatively impacted by these explorations.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say the Columbus' voyages had a direct impact on Europe in that it helped to bring out the idea that the Age of Exploration can morph into the Age of Exploitation quite easily.  The Columbian Exchange would be the primary example that I could cite to help explain how Europe was directly impacted through Columbus' voyages.  Once Europeans were able to see how Columbus was able to bring back rarities and valuable commodities such as food, knowledge, and people in the form of slaves, the door was swung wide open for nations in Europe to be able to see exploration as a way of being able to take advantage of indigenous people as Columbus did.  This ended up increasing more exploration throughout the world and increasing European profits as a result.

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