The cross-cultural encounter between Europe and Africa began as Europe aggressively initiated an era of exploration of Africa south of the great savanna. Europe's curiosity, exploration and greed transformed the history of African people. In the study of the cultural history of Africa, much innovation has been attributed to outside origins and influences. Historians and archaeologists have learned a great deal about the developments that emerged from the European influence in Africa. The age of exploration commences as European powers began new pursuits in geographical determinism toward non-European lands and peoples. Against this background, begins the European discovery, exploration and expansion into Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific basin. In accordance with this exploration, I will consider the impact of Europe aggression on a portion of the globe and how it changed forever the history of a continent: Portugal's impact on Africa.
Discovery and Exploration
Just a few short centuries after the country's birth, Portugal became the world's foremost naval power. Portuguese ships sailed all across the world, discovered new routes and started colonies. They influenced many countries worldwide during the height of their empire, but none like their colonies in West Africa. They brought both good and bad to West Africa, including their culture, Christianity, agriculture, and slavery. European mariners were the agents of the encounters among the many peoples of Africa. To understand why the trans-oceanic voyages took place one must first understand Europe's economic growth, one must understand the rise of bureaucratic states, the pace of technological innovation, intellectual and religious turmoil and the continuing crusading tradition of the late medieval period. European exploration, colonization and conquest was set in motion by the breakup of the Mongol empire and the growth of the Ottoman Empire which had blocked Europe's overland trade routes to the East. Our textbook's author, Gloria Fiero, states in Humanistic Tradition, Volume III, " In 1453 the formidable armies of the Ottoman Empire captured Constantinople, bringing a thousand years of Byzantine civilization to an end. At the height of Ottoman power, as the Turkish presence in Southwest Asia threatened threatened the safety of European overland caravans to the East, Western rulers explored offensive strategies: warfare against the Turks and the search for all water routes to the east. Natural curiosity and greed for gold, slaves, and spices- the major commodities of Africa and Asia- also encouraged the emerging European nations to compete with Arab and Turkish traders for control of foreign markets and, thus, to seek faster and more efficient routes to East Asia." (2006, p.135) The search for new trade routes, the rise of merchant capitalism, and the desire to exploit the potential of a global economy initiated the European Age of Discovery. Wikipedia states, " During the fifteenth century, Prince Henry the navigator', son of King John I, planned to acquire African territory for Portugal. Under his inspiration and direction, Portuguese navigators began a series of voyages of exploration which resulted in the circumnavigation of Africa and establishment of Portuguese sovereign rights wherever its navigators landed, but these were not exercised in the south of the continent." (2006) The motivations for exploration were common to other European nations. The pursuit of economic gain by trade, the acquisition of land, fishing and the availability of timber and gold and silver served as the impetus for commercial expansion and an explosion of European capitalist enterprise. Wikipedia notes, "It was the Portuguese hope that the Islamic nations could be bypassed by trading directly with West Africa by sea. It was also hoped that south of the Sahara, the states would be Christian and potential allies against the Muslims and Maghreb....
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