What (3) factors led to Europe's "Age of Exploration?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The three factors that led Europeans to want to explore during the Age of Exploration are typically listed as “god, gold, and glory.”  It is said that some mixture of these three factors influenced Europeans to go exploring.

Most people today would say that gold was the most important factor.  The term “gold” refers not just to gold itself but to wealth in general.  The Europeans wanted to explore because they felt it would make them wealthy.  They thought, for example, that it would allow them to trade directly with the Spice Islands of Asia, which was the source of valuable spices that the Europeans could only buy through Muslim middlemen.  Thus, exploration was driven by a desire for greater profit.

Exploration was also driven by a desire for both personal and national glory.  Individual explorers wanted to be the ones who got the glory of finding new sailing routes or, later, new lands.  (They also wanted the wealth from those lands.)  European monarchs wanted the glory of ruling countries that had large overseas empires.  Thus, exploration was partly about status and about gaining bragging rights.

Finally, exploration was driven by religion.  Europeans of the time were generally Christian and they believed that only Christians could go to Heaven.  They felt that it was their duty to go out and spread the word of God to people who were not Christian.  By converting these people, the Europeans could increase the glory of God and could also save the souls of the people they converted.  Thus, religious motives also played a role in encouraging exploration.