1500 CE

World About A. D. 1500.—Previous to this century the nations with which we have been concerned has been restricted to Europe, a little of western Asia, and a small part of northern Africa. An immense enlargement of these bounds now suddenly occurs in consequence of the application of the compass to navigation. From this time dates the period of greatest maritime enterprise and discoveries.

The Portuguese took the lead in bold projects of adventure by sea. The Cape of Good Hope was discovered and doubled by Bartholomew Diaz in 1487, and in 1498 the feat of reaching India by water was accomplished by Vasco da Gama, who, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, reached Calicut in Malabar.

The general excitement about maritime discovery among the Portuguese suggested to Columbus the bold plan of reaching India, not by way of Africa, but by steering to the west across the Atlantic. The result of his voyage was the final discovery of the American continents. India he did not reach, but discovered instead, the island of Guanahani or San Salvador, in 1492, the main continent being discovered a few years later (June 24, 1497) by John Caboto, or Cabot, a Venetian sailor.

In the far east China had recovered its independence under the Ming dynasty, and its supremacy was acknowledged over Mongolia and eastern Turkestan, though the states of Tonquin and Cochin China, in the southern peninsula beyond India, had assumed a political independence. Western Asia had been reconquered by Timur, or Tamerlane, of western Turkestan. The Ottoman Turks had extended their European territory to its widest limit over the ruins of the Greek Empire; and Russia had become a united kingdom under Ivan the Great, and threw off the Tartar yoke.

In western Europe, the Swiss mountaineers had secured their independence. France was recovering from the calamities inflicted on it by the English, who had all but lost their hold on the land. In the south the reaction of Christendom against Mohammedanism had begun. The Christian kingdoms of Spain and Portugal had driven back the Moors across the Straits into Africa, and had consolidated their strength over the whole Peninsula. The Moors in turn settled along the north African coast. Morocco at this time had been formed into a monarchy, and enjoyed great prosperity.

ABOUT A.D. 1500