European Expansion from the 15th Century to the 17th Century, Essay Example

The Protestant movement that was sweeping through Europe led to the revolt of the Low Countries against Spain. Eventually some parts of the Low Countries broke away from Spanish rule, and developed a new government. They rejected the idea of being ruled by a monarch and established a republic instead. This would have a significant impact on the rest of Europe as the Age of Enlightenment changed the way many people thought about the Church and royalty.

Beginning in the 15th century several European nations began to grow their efforts to develop international trade and to expand their reach and influence beyond their borders. This expansion was driven by several factors, such as the interest in goods from Asia, India and other parts of the world. Another significant factor that drove the European expansion in this period was the desire to promote and spread the Christian faith to other parts of the world. The Islamic religion was growing significantly at the time, and Islam and Christianity were competing for influence. These cultural and economic factors were the main reasons behind the expansion of European colonization and trade in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The Spanish conquistadors were able to eventually defeat both the Incas and the Aztecs despite being vastly outnumbered. There were a number of factors that helped the conquistadors succeed. The Inca Empire, though very large, had been weakened by civil war by the time the Spanish arrived there. The Spanish forces were able to forge alliances with some tribes as the expanded their reach in the area, while they clashed with others. One of the most significant factors in the eventual Spanish defeat of the Incas was the introduction of European diseases that the Incas were not immune to. These diseases killed tens of thousands of Incas, which helped to weaken their society and make it more difficult for them to resist the conquering Spanish forces. A similar problem arose for the Aztecs, as the European diseases killed many of them. Aztec leader Moctezuma believed the conquistador leader Hernan Cortes was a god, because Cortes had guns and horses, which were new to the Aztecs. Despite being outnumbered, the conquistadors were able to eventually defeat the Aztecs and take control over their territory.

In the 1500s and beyond a trade system developed among Africa, Asia, and Europe, with people from one region wanting to buy and sell goods to and from people in other regions. African slaves and ivory were popular in parts of Asia, and people in Africa wanted to buy textiles from other regions. People in Europe wanted to buy porcelain, silk, and other goods from Asia and India. These desires led to the rise of a global trade system that involved ships crossing the Indian Ocean bringing goods, materials, and slaves from one part of the world to another. It was the desire of the Europeans to find better trade routes to India and other regions in the East that would eventually lead to the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and later to the rise of the colonial era in that region.


McKay, John P., et al. A History of World Societies. 8th ed. Vol. I: To 1715.                              New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.