Why Did Europeans Want a New Route to Asia?

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After the first century, trade routes enabled goods to be transported across long distances. This helped cultures establish connections with other parts of the world. These routes were dangerous, and Europeans wanted a new route.

Why Europeans Wanted to Trade with Asia
Europeans knew that trade with Asia would bring great wealth to their countries, but the trade routes were dangerous to travel. One of the main things traders wanted was spices. Europeans valued the spices because they thought the spices could make their food taste better. Europeans did not have refrigeration, so the spices could cover up the taste of meat that was spoiling. Popular spices at that time were cloves, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. The traders were also interested in jewels, gold, silver, perfumes and silk. By trading with Asia, some countries gained strength during the 1400s and 1500s. Those countries included Spain, France, England and Portugal. Kings and queens of these countries used the wealth to build their militaries.

Why Asia Wanted to Trade with Europe
Asian countries did not want a lot of the western luxury goods. They were more interested in western scientific technology. They would trade for European medicine. They were also interested in mirrors, glassware and instruments, such as clocks.

Early Travels
The first explorers and traders to travel the Silk Road were Marco Polo and his brother. The Silk Road was a land route to China. The route went through Armenia, Persia and Afghanistan in the late 1200s. In their first trip along The Silk Road, they encountered a war zone. So, the brothers turned back and returned to Europe. Ten years later, the brothers tried again along another route. This route took them through deserts, mountains and disease-plagued human settlements. Europeans recognized that they needed a vast amount of resources and defense in order to travel this route. Because of this, European explorers began looking for a sea route to Asia, which they thought would be easier.

The Portuguese
The Portuguese were helped by Henry the Navigator to find new trade routes. He established a school for mapmakers, geographers and astronomers. Bartholomeu Dias became the first explorer from Europe to successfully travel around the southern tip of Africa in 1488. He named that tip the Cape of Storms. The King of Portugal then re-named it the Cape of Good Hope, because he did not want other explorers to be afraid. Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama was the first European to sail around Africa and land in Asia (India) during his journey from 1497 to 1499. After da Gama's journey, European countries with seafaring ships became very powerful. When the Portuguese travelers arrived in Asia, they found a trading network in ports. They discovered goods they knew would appeal to Europeans. This lead to Asia creating a mass market of commodities to appeal to Europeans.

How Trade Affected Europe and Asia
The trade routes created by explorers acted as communication highways. The things learned and discovered by explorers and traders along the route had an impact on religion and culture. This lead to new religious beliefs, inventions, artistic designs, language and social customs.