What effect did Columbus' voyages have on Europe?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Christopher Columbus’ voyages had many effects on Europe.  These ranged from relatively mundane things like impacts on European cuisine to more “big picture” effects like an increase in Spanish power and efforts by other countries to find their own New World territories.  We should note, of course, that these things were not necessarily caused by Columbus himself but by the fact that his voyages “discovered” the New World.

When Columbus “discovered” the New World, Europeans were exposed to new kinds of plants that did not exist in the Old World.  Some of the most important of these were corn, potatoes, and tomatoes.  When those plants were introduced to Europe, European cooking changed irrevocably.

After Columbus’ voyages, Spain became much more powerful than it had been.  Columbus’ voyages led to further exploration of the Americas by Spain.  When Spain did this, it found tremendous new resources, including major silver mines in modern-day Mexico and Peru.  These new resources allowed Spain to become richer and more powerful for a time.

Not surprisingly, Spain’s good fortune led other countries to try to get the same thing.  Portugal claimed part of the New World for itself.  This led to the creation of the Treaty of Tordesillas, which allowed Portugal to rule Brazil.  It also led to exploration by people like John Cabot, who sailed for England.  Eventually, England and France had major New World empires as well.  In this way, Columbus’ voyages helped lead to greater competition between European countries for New World resources.

Of course, none of these things happened as a direct result of Columbus’ voyages, which never even reached mainland South America.  Instead, they are results of exploration and other actions that came after (and were made possible by) Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World.

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