Identify, describe, and assess multiple causes and consequences of European exploration and conquest/colonization in the Americas.

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The initial causes of European exploration and conquest/colonization of the Americas were the need to fund military defense budgets, the need to circumvent the economic blockade to Eastern trade, and a desire to discover and settle new lands.

Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator launched the age of exploration, citing the...

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The initial causes of European exploration and conquest/colonization of the Americas were the need to fund military defense budgets, the need to circumvent the economic blockade to Eastern trade, and a desire to discover and settle new lands.

Portugal's Prince Henry the Navigator launched the age of exploration, citing the need for new trade routes to the east and gold to pay his troops to halt and rollback Ottoman Imperialism. Cristobal Colon (Columbus), in his El Libro de la Primera Navegacion, cited the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, once Europe's largest and wealthiest city, as now blocking critical access to Eastern trade. After the discovery and colonization of America, European rulers like Emperor Philip II of Spain (1527–1598) regarded America as not just a source of precious metals to finance military defense budgets but also as a potential refuge should Europe fall to the then much wealthier and more powerful Ottoman Empire.

The urgency of the European drive for exploration and colonization cannot be properly understood outside of this context, for it wasn't until the late 17th and 18th centuries that gold and silver from the "New World," re-established Eastern trade, and expanding science and commerce had strengthened Europe sufficiently to resist and push back against the Ottoman military advance in Europe.

The consequences of European exploration and conquest/colonization of America have been enormous, impacting almost every person on Earth. The Columbian exchange of diseases, foods, and technologies transformed human life everywhere, as did the mass migration to the Americas.

Europeans had long since adjusted to diseases encountered from early animal husbandry of cattle, sheep, and pigs to which Native Americans had no resistance. Native populations were decimated, with mortality rates estimated as high as eighty to ninety percent. Europeans, in turn, returned home with syphilis, which was not only disfiguring but often deadly until the 17th century. The unanticipated labor shortage from the greatly reduced Native population, which was exploited for labor to the benefit of colonists—sometimes in the form of slave labor—led the Spanish and Portuguese to import African slave laborers. Over 12 million African slaves were brought to the Americas, impacting cultures on both sides of the Atlantic. Their destinations were primarily the sugar islands of the Caribbean and the agricultural plantations of Central and South America. This began the centuries-long practice of slavery, which brutally impacted cultures of the African regions from which they were kidnapped as well as those of the African slaves, the effects of which can still be seen today.

Old World products like sugar and coffee were produced on such a scale in the Americas as to become available for the first time to the average white consumer. The large profits from sugar production helped finance the later industrial revolution, just as the newly affordable sugar in coffee and tea helped fuel the industrial workforce and the economic rise of Europe. "New World" staple foods like potatoes, maize (corn), cassava and sweet potatoes have transformed global diets and improved childhood nutrition. Other influential crops include tomatoes, eggplant, red and green peppers, sunflower seeds, pineapple, tobacco, chocolate, and vanilla, which have transformed world cuisine, as well as natural rubber, which transformed modern industry. Quinine gave resistance to Malaria.

The Americas, in turn, were introduced to new European technologies in addition to horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and all the Old World's many crops and fruits. Nations worldwide have been permanently transformed, and the economic impact of the expanded trade has raised average living standards. It is important to understand, however, that the Native American population has never recovered, and Native Americans are still disadvantaged and far displaced from the lands they were forced out of by settlers. Native populations were also enslaved to varying degrees throughout the Americas, and African slavery, though it was eventually abolished, tortured individuals and cultures for centuries and continues to influence race relations in the United States today.

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