European Exploration

by Brooke ~ April 15th, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 12: Renaissance and Exploration.


After being denied by the Portuguese government for funding, Christopher Columbus asked the newly formed Spain. After being denied again due to Spain’s involvement and financial commitment to conquer Granada (the final stronghold of the Moors), Columbus patiently waited until the conflict was over. In 1492, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V finally gave funds to Columbus so he could set sail on August 3.

After 70 days at sea, Columbus landed on one of the islands in the Caribbean.

He believed he was very close to finding the path to Asia, so he set sail back to Spain for more money, crew members, and ships. Columbus probably realized he had not found India or any piece of Asia, but he could not go back to the queen and king with that information. So what did Columbus do? He lied to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, stating that he had found India. After four expeditions back to the Caribbean, Columbus never found the passage he was looking for to the Far East.


Although this little fact is sometimes forgotten, England was pretty slow to begin exploration when compared to Spain and Portugal. After Elizabeth I took power in 1559, England officially became Protestant after her sister Mary I’s reign of Catholicism.

Phillip II of Spain, the late Mary I’s husband, believed he had the right to the throne of England, especially because Elizabeth I was Protestant, and he was Roman Catholic. Phillip was even discovered to have been involved in serious plots to overthrow Elizabeth I, including a plot with Mary, Queen of Scots.

After English pirates began robbing Spanish ships, Phillip had had enough. In 1585, Phillip prepared the Spanish Armada in a quest to invade England. The Spanish were defeated in the English Channel in 1588.

In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh sailed from England to the New World in his second attempt at a colony. This colony is remembered today as the Roanoke colony that disappeared while Raleigh was stuck in England due to the battle between England and Spain.

The Virginia Company of London, in 1606, chartered three ships to the New World. After securing a location near the James River (Named after King James I), the colony faced many hardships. The men who had come to the New World were not prepared for the laborious job of establishing a colony. Between 1609 and 1610, hundreds of colonists died.

The Powhatan natives generally acted ambivalent towards the settlers. Powhatan chief Wahunsenacawh, father to Pocahontas, ordered attacks on the colonists, but also attempted trade.

The cartoon is slightly wrong in this aspect. The natives were more apprehensive towards the newcomers, not welcoming with open arms. The Powhatan chief believed that the colonists would ally with an enemy tribe to defeat the Powhatans; therefore, relations were very strained until the marriage between John Rolfe (Not John Smith!) and Pocahontas.


Along with England, France was guilty of pirating Spanish ships. One ship that was robbed held Mexican gold and silver—this, of course, raised quite a few eyebrows in the French monarchy. Francis I commissioned three navigators to travel to the New World and find riches. The three men were Giovanni da Verrazzano, Jacques Cartier, and Sieur de Robervall.

As shown in the first comic, French colonists differed greatly from those of England and Spain. The French explored much further into the interior of North America and also developed relationships with tribes. Samuel de Champlain, for example, became allies with the Algonquin and Huron tribes and offered his guns to help the tribes fight against their enemy the Iroquois.

Here are two more complete maps of some of the names and expeditions I mentioned above!

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