In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Seljuk Turks. A huge victory for the Turks, who later became the Ottomans, the city was renamed Istanbul and transitioned to a profitable and powerful Islamic city. This also marked a huge loss for Europe, who had not only lost a Christian city but had also lost an important trading port with the East.
To avoid trading through Istanbul and with the Ottoman merchants, Europeans set out over the open ocean to find another way to the East. Using newly acquired navigation technology like the magnetic compass, astrolabe, improved maps, and caravels equipped with lateen sails, the Portuguese set out south. Several explorers helped expand the search for a way around Africa, but Bartolomeo Dias was the first to find the Cape of Good Hope, the name he gave to the southern tip of Africa. It was later Vasco da Gama in 1498 who rounded the Cape of Good Hope, sailed along the coast to India, and opened up trade between the East and West over seas.
Not to be outdone by their neighbors, the Spanish were also anxious to start sailing and finding a new route to the East. When an Italian explorer named Christopher Columbus approached the king and queen of Spain with a plan to sail west over the ocean, they agreed; they gave him a small command of three ships with men. While Columbus intended on sailing west and approaching Asia from the opposite direction of the Portuguese, he instead sailed to the Americas, populated with an array of Indigenous people.
Once Europeans received word of the western route to land, more explorers came, eventually confirming that it was a new continent group, mapping it out, and building a trade network between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The initial exchange of goods between Afro-Eurasia (Africa, Europe, and Asia) and the Americas was known as the Columbian Exchange, where Afro-Eurasian crops, livestock, plants, and diseases were brought to the Americas, and vice versa. Europeans found out that some Afro-Eurasian crops, particularly cotton, tobacco, sugar, and coffee, grew exceptionally well in the stable climate of the Americas. The most profitable of these was sugar, which grew in the Caribbean and portions of Central and South America, most notably Brazil. As a result, a new highly profitable trade network was established: the Atlantic Slave Trade, sometimes referred to as Triangular Trade. Europeans purchased enslaved Africans to work on American plantations, all in the name of profit and mercantilism.