How did the Crusades indirectly lead to the discovery of America?
The Crusades brought Europeans into contact with different cultures in the Middle East. These cultures enjoyed spicier foods than what was common in Europe at the time, and many Europeans returned from the Crusades craving Eastern spices. This drove the desire for a spice market and encouraged Europeans to start looking for better ways to reach China. This would ultimately lead to Columbus's attempt to reach China, which did not quite meet its goal.
The Crusades also brought about a new sense of religious fervor. Many Europeans hoped to find the Christian kingdom of Prester John during the Crusades. This never materialized, but they hoped that there were Christian kingdoms elsewhere. As the fight between religious sects in Europe heated up, many Europeans hoped to bring Christianity to Asia whenever they did their trading. When the New World was discovered, missionary work became nearly as important as trade. The Spanish, French, and English were looking for converts that could come in handy in the event of a religious war.
Even though the crusades were launched for religious purposes, they eventually impacted the economy, knowledge and exploratory activities of Europeans. After their interaction with the ‘infidels,’ the crusaders brought back home luxury items such as spices and silk that in turn triggered interest among the traders and merchants. They then set out to find ‘the holy land’ from where these luxury items originated causing the trade to be even more lucrative. Unfortunately, their efforts were hindered by the Ottoman Empire which hiked taxes and blocked ports. The Europeans, knowing too well the cost of war, sought other routes to still access the products. The Portuguese set out first and found a route to India through Africa but it was too long. Christopher Columbus then proposed to get a shorter route that would boost Spain’s trade by sailing west. It is during his journey towards the west that Columbus stumbled upon the new world, America.
The Crusades caused Europeans to have increased desire for goods from the East. While the Crusades lasted from 1095 to 1291, only about 24 years of that time involved actual fighting. During the rest of the time, the Crusaders were trading with Muslims in the East. They found food in the East such as sugar, coffee, lemon, ginger, and rice that they ate while on the Crusades and that they brought back with them to Europe. In addition, Crusaders discovered items of trade such as writing paper, water wheels, mirrors, compasses, shawls and other useful tools that they brought back to Europe, stimulating demand for more of these goods. When Columbus inadvertently ran into the New World in 1492, he was seeking a route east for the purposes of trade. Therefore, the trade that Crusaders conducted, and the discoveries they made, indirectly resulted in Columbus's trip to the New World.
The Crusades led indirectly to the discovery of the Americas in a number of ways. Among the most important of these were:
- The Crusades allowed Westerners to come into contact with scientific knowledge from classical times that had been lost in Europe but kept alive by the Muslims. The Muslims had also added to that knowledge. This contact helped to bring about the Renaissance and the advance of science, which helped make the voyages of exploration possible.
- The Crusades helped create a situation in which Europeans had an incentive to go exploring. The Crusades helped weaken the Byzantine Empire, whose eventual collapse made access to Asian spices more difficult. This gave Europeans a greater incentive to find other ways to get to Asia. It was in pursuit of such trade routes that Columbus "discovered" the New World.