Was European exploration a good thing?  

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The ultimate answer to this question depends on your perspective. Many Europeans of the time would likely argue that exploration was necessary, righteous, and inevitable. Explorers were backed by religious doctrine. Many explorers were of the belief that their work was holy. This ideology carried itself into the 19th century...

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The ultimate answer to this question depends on your perspective. Many Europeans of the time would likely argue that exploration was necessary, righteous, and inevitable. Explorers were backed by religious doctrine. Many explorers were of the belief that their work was holy. This ideology carried itself into the 19th century as the United States justified their colonial practices with Manifest Destiny. This is the belief that Westerners are Godly and have a Christian duty to take control of the less civilized world. Christopher Columbus was a classic example of European explorers. He thought of himself and his country as an extension of God. Columbus was credited with discovering the New World. However, it has been documented that many previous explorers had landed on the Americas. Even more so, there was already established trade between African and Indigenous American peoples across the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, Columbus did not necessarily discover anything. He can, however, be credited with effectively colonizing the lands. It is estimated that between 3 and 6 million Indigenous people died during the 6 years that Columbus was in the Americas. This provides significant evidence that European exploration was not beneficial for the Indigenous people whose lands were explored. Furthermore, many have critiqued whether or not colonization has been psychologically and spiritually beneficial for colonizers. Native American theorist and writer, Vine Deloria, writes often of the sickness of Whiteness. He argues that colonial practices ranging from European exploration to manifest destiny has caused White people to lose their sense of morality and caused an inner sickness.

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It can certainly be argued that European exploration was a good thing for Europeans. Exploration contributed to rapid and profound economic expansion by pumping massive amounts of wealth into the European economy. The influx of new crops like potatoes and corn contributed to rapid population growth and longer lifespans for European peoples. The knowledge and contact with other peoples gained through exploration was arguably instrumental in the so-called Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. But whatever gains were made by Europeans must be balanced against the almost inconceivable costs borne by millions of Native and African peoples. Native Americans suffered staggering population losses (perhaps as high as 90% of their pre-contact numbers) due to contact with European disease. Contact with Europeans also set a process in motion by which virtually all indigenous Americans were driven from their lands. European exploration also created the Atlantic slave trade, which saw millions of African people kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Americas. So if exploration was "good" for Europeans, it was disastrous for many ordinary West African people and for almost all Native Americans.

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