How did Columbus' voyage influence European exploration?

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Christopher Columbus's voyages to the New World profoundly altered European exploration. Before Columbus's voyage, most Europeans believed the only feasible route to India was sailing east around the tip of Africa. Indeed, this was the route Vasco da Gama eventually took between 1497 and 1499 to reach India. Columbus believed there was a western route to the East, so he set sail in 1492 to discover it. What Columbus did not realize was that there was a gigantic landmass—North and South America—sitting in his way. Columbus initially believed he had reached the East, but it was not long before explorers realized this was a new continent.

Nevertheless, Columbus' discovery of America caused European explorers to turn their focus to the West. First, explorers desired to explore the newly-discovered land and find out what riches it contained. They also desired to find a passage through the continent to reach the East. However, there was no feasible passage through the continent (other than sailing through the arctic), which is why the United States eventually financed the creation of the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.

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How did European exploration impact Europe?

European exploration, or the Age of Discovery, occurred mostly from the 15th to 18th centuries. It began with the Portuguese exploration of West Africa and the Spanish exploration of the Americas. This exploration greatly expanded Europe's power and land through its colonial powers and increased its resources and trading abilities.

The connection of Europe, Asia, and Africa to the Americas created a new trade route known as the Columbian Exchange: the transfer of plants, animals, food, humans (slavery), diseases, and cultures between the east and west. Trade routes to India and China, notably for spices, were also discovered. Eventually the Pacific Ocean was also explored in search of gold. In addition to increasing European power and resources, it also led to increased knowledge of the world and the first world maps. 

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