Age of Exploration and 19th Century Colonization Discrepancies

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08/02/20 History Reference this

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 In the entirety of this paper, the disparities between Age of Exploration colonialism and nineteenth century colonialism will be discussed. It discusses in what ways motivations for colonizing were different during the Age of Discovery and the New Imperialism period. Most colonists in the Age of Exploration colonized in order to spread their religion and to accumulate wealth. Colonizers in nineteenth century Europe mainly settled into alien lands in order to spread their country’s power with military force, however they were also invested in gaining resources to improve their economy. This essay will explain how nineteenth century colonizers centralized on the ideology of imperialism while Age of Exploration explorers emphasized distributing their faith. The primary examples of these distinct features will cover explorers such Christopher Columbus, a Catholic pathfinder, as well as King Leopold II, an imperialist ruler during the Scramble For Africa. While both time periods hold several similar incentives for colonization, they are ultimately dissimilar due to the forces of religion and national power.

 Keywords: Colonization, Age of Exploration, Economy, Imperialism, Religion, Incentives

Colonization has been a system used throughout history when traveling to unknown lands of the globe. Explorers would be sent to these foreign lands, traveling vast distances in order to assist their country. Countries would colonize for a variety of reasons, however colonization during the Age of Exploration and nineteenth century had major motives to travel to foreign lands. The Age of Exploration colonization was mainly based on the spread of religion. On the other hand, nineteenth-century colonization believed they needed to colonize in order to extend their country’s power. Motivations to colonize during the Age of Exploration and the nineteenth century were dissimilar due to the divergent motivators of the spreading of religion and base on imperialism.

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 The fourteen hundreds was a period of time where Europeans began to explore past their borders into foreign areas, prompting the fifteenth century to explore even more with the addition of colonization. This lead to significant technological advancements, such as geographical knowledge and improved trade routes. As reported by Krasner (2007), trade routes were a significant aspect during the Age of Exploration, where powerful European countries would rely on cartographers’ routes in order to bring materials back into their country. One example of a result from trade routes is Spain’s connection with Asia, where valuable items, such as silk and spices, were brought from Asia to Spain, increasing Spain’s economy due to their extended market of goods. One individual, named Henry the Navigator, was a Portuguese prince who voyaged to foreign lands and was guided by the geographical knowledge of cartographers. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography (2004), Henry the Navigator visited different lands in order to spread Christianity, discover Christian allies, and to increase Portugal’s income. Motivations to colonize during the Age of Discovery were recognized by three motives, God, gold, and glory. European countries traveled to areas in order to gain gold for their economy, which also caused colonization of foreign areas. Europeans sought goods also from foreign markets by creating continental relationships in order to gain global recognition. However, the main justification for colonizing was due to the spread of religion. The major religions that were spread during the Age of Exploration was Christianity and Catholicism. For instance, Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese explorer, set on a voyage under the statement, “To serve God and His Majesty, to give light to those who were in darkness and to grow rich as all men desire to.” Strictly speaking, these colonizers from Europe believed that their main goal for voyages was to influence other individuals with their religion, whether Catholic or Christian. Several of these explorers were missionaries, who were sent to foreign areas in order to perform God’s duty. This caused the formation of missions in these lands, where natives of the area would be taught new, alien beliefs. One missionary, Francis Xavier, was a Portuguese Catholic explorer determined to convert Indians to God. By traveling to this foreign area, Xavier learned the local languages and was able to preach to the foreigners. This caused religion to be spread effectively during the age. According to Marshall (1998), another motive for colonizing during the age was the desire of fortune and self fortune, leading to the rise of Christopher Columbus. This explorer, who was also a deeply religious individual, traveled to unknown areas for the want of popularity. Rulers during this period also desired the aspects of grandeur, causing them to promote explorers in order to spread their country’s influence. “…the Royal Court … used the enlargement of the Spanish realm not only to increase the Crown’s resources, but to gather knowledge that enriched European understanding of the wider world,” (Source 9, 2005, para.2). For instance, Columbus arranged a deal with Spain’s rulers that enabled him to keep part of the fortune, control lands, and given nobility. With the addition of technological advances, such as the printing press, figures in Europe were able to gain vast amounts of popularity, several reasons for the drive of colonization.

The ideology of imperialism rose during the early nineteen hundreds due to new country leaders, such as Bismarck, focusing their power on the military. In addition to new leaders, theories such as Social Darwinism and the White Man’s burden arose, promoting segregating philosophies. This steered European countries to the continent of Africa due to the popularity of natural selection. This is vividly displayed through the works of John Middleton and Joseph Miller who state, “Africa became an object of reformist imperialism because it could be portrayed as a slavery-ridden continent that was held in check by tyrants and isolated from the beneficial effects of commerce,” (John Middleton and Joseph Miller, 2008, para.4). To put in perspective, the attraction of Africa was initiated due to the native peoples and resources of the continent. Radical ideologies, such as The White Man’s burden, influenced colonizers to claim foreign lands due to the promotion of segregation, which made colonizers believe that it was their natural rights to pilferage these lands. The drive for colonization were mainly for political and economic reasons due to the rise of European capitalism from the Industrial Revolution. Lexile vividly exhibits these motives through the statement, “Increasingly, a nation’s power and prestige had become dependent upon the amount of money and material wealth held by the country, and the best way to become a world power was, in effect, to build a trade empire,” (Lexile, 2003, para.4). Strictly speaking, past industrialization of Africa prompted the desires of raw materials during the period, causing Africa to be desired due to its vast lands. Because imperialists believed that growing their countries’ power was their main objective, they used wealth as well as military power in order to be viewed as vigorous to other countries. This prompted powerful countries, such as Britain, Belgium, and Portugal, to visit Africa and colonize in order to gain power over one another. One way to demonstrate national superiority was through the acquisition of territories around the world, including Africa. These colonial states were the primary functions for establishing dominance over other countries, where these societies would be exploited through military control and racist ideologies due to the imperialist push. In addition, European imperialists were also attracted to information collected during the mid eighteenth century. Explorers, such as Henry Livingstone, who successfully built missions in the land. This attracted European imperialists due to the realization that the native people of the are can be manipulated, promoting them to use military force. This inspired the European country of Belgium to explore the lands, leading to their leader, King Leopold II, claiming the Congo, displaying them as powerful. This incited other European countries to compete for power, initiating the catalyst for the colonizations during the nineteenth century.

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Although there were missionaries during nineteenth century colonizations, they were often jeopardized due to the constant warfare within Africa. Due to the industrial period of Europe, consumerism and capitalism rose in European countries, prompting missionaries to broadcast their religion to the working class. Because of their success with the working class, European missionaries who inspired to spread religion into Africa. Although they were able to establish missions in Africa, the threats they received caused colonizers to instead focus on raw materials and extending their country’s influence. As believed by Matthew Miskelly and Jaime Noce (2002), the conquests of imperialism in the colonies provided military and labor services, causing European countries’ power to vastly grow. In other words, imperial governments sought ways to maximize profits in order to gain power for their country. However, the Age of Exploration mainly colonized due to the subject of religion. Spain, in particular, heavily put the spread of Catholicism as the main matter for colonization. Spaniards ventured into lands, such as the Americas, in order to convert Native American folk to their beliefs. As stated in the Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War (2009), European countries colonized in Native America, establishing relationships with the Native Americans for religious, cultural, and matrimonial purposes in order to extend their missions for god and gold. Although they also wanted wealth, they mainly focused on spreading their religion, demonstrated by how they sent significant figures, such as priests, to also visit these colonies. This event caused the substantial term, conquistadors, to be created due to their purpose of spreading Catholicism in colonies as well as accumulating wealth.

 Colonization motives during the times of the Age of Exploration and nineteenth century were disparate due to the desires of globalizing religion and implementing imperialism. Not only did the Age of Exploration enable globalization and increase wealth, but also heavily expanded Christian and Catholic followers in non-European areas. The colonization during the nineteenth century also grew European economies, but was mainly conducted through the ideas of imperialism and radical ideologies. Although continued through different motives, both periods of time greatly influenced the world of the twentieth century, whether in forms of government or regional beliefs. Although the Age of Exploration’s main motive for colonizing was religion, the voyages it prompted was ultimately a stimulus for future expeditions, such as the nineteenth century dispatches.


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