There were many motives that impelled European nat
ions to embark on overseas exploration from the fifteenth century onward. Each of these reasons was slightly different depending on the nation but one thing is for certain; overseas exploration provided vast opportunities and riches for those who dared to voyage into the unknown.The Portuguese had a need for better land. The agriculture opportunities in Portugal were poor and better land was available overseas in the Atlantic islands and Muslim territories. Prince Henry the Navigator took up the task of overtaking these lands. During this time Henry became interested in the profit that could be earned through trade. Eventually, the Portuguese opened a new trade in such things as slaves and gold. After signing the Treaty of Tordesillas Portugal gained control of all lands to the east of a boundary that lied about 300 miles west of the Azores. This allowed Portugal to retain the only practical route to India. By 1513 Portugal had trading posts beyond India into the Spice Islands.
Spain had many of the same ambitions that Portugal did. However, after many voyages including those of Columbus and Magellan, Spain realized that Portugal had the fastest way to the East and the goods that were located there. Therefore, Spain devoted its attention toward the Americas. It turned out that this move revealed the great riches that the Americas had to offer. The birth of the conquistadors brought about a period of overtaking America in order to gain wealth, land, and glory. Hernando Cortes overtook the Aztecs of Mexico in nearly two years thanks to the superstitions of the Aztecs that he exploited. He only had an army of 600 troops and a few weapons but it was intelligence that won this victory. It didnt take long for Spain to establish themselves in the Americas and too take advantage of the riches they had to offer. For example, in 1545 a lode of silver was discovered in Bolivia, which brought great wealth to Spain.
Although Spain and Portugal led the age of exploration, England, France, and Holland soon followed with expeditions to the Americas and Asia. Their motives were nearly the same as Portugal and Spain with wealth being a driving force.
After these powerful European nations took over these new lands they formed new colonies, and, despite the great dangers of sea travel, people readily boarded ships in search of a better life. Many came in hope of becoming rich. Others, particularly the clergy, came to preach and spread the word of god to the natives who were unfamiliar with Christianity. Others still, came because they were simply following orders. These people were normally talented in an area and they came to receive more power and wealth for these traits. As well as those who chose to voyage overseas there were also those who were desperate. Partly in thanks to the population increase, there were many more homeless people than before and these people sought a better life, which meant leaving their native country. There were also those who were of religious minority, and because of the need for settlers, nations such as England and France allowed those of the minority to practice their own religions overseas without fear of persecution; to a certain extent of course.
Technologically, many new advances aided in the success of the various explorations. For example, new sails were put on ships that adopted the Arabs lateen sails idea and combined them with the previous sails achieving good speed and maneuverability. Ships were also armed with cannons after realizing that cannons were much more beneficiary than soldiers were; at least at sea. Also established, was the method of traveling in fleets instead of single ships. This gave the fleets much more safety and firepower compared to one single ship.
As time progressed new ideas and thoughts were established that enhanced explorations and changed the view of the world at that time. Original pioneers in exploration such as Columbus and Magellan paved the way for the gain of wealth and colonization overseas and even today men like these are regarded as heroes.