The Age of Discovery, also sometimes called the Age of Exploration, was a period in global history ranging from the 15th to the 17th centuries. During this era, many European and Asian nations learned much more about the globe, establishing new trade routes, creating better maps, and meeting new people. It is considered to be a very important and fruitful period, especially in European history, although the native populations disrupted by explorers might disagree.
Several things brought about the Age of Discovery in Europe. The first were the scientific and technical advances of the Renaissance, a period which also created a demand for unique and unusual trade goods, including spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. These advances led to much more seaworthy ships that were capable of surviving in the Atlantic ocean. Shipbuilding and navigation progressed by leaps and bounds in the period leading up to, as well as during, the Age of Discovery. Previously, explorers had been limited to overland routes and minimal shipping possibilities.
Some of the motivation for exploring the world was probably also political and religious. Some European nations were unhappy with the Muslim dominance of trade from the East, and wanted to seek out alternate routes and trade directly. This desire was probably economically motivated as well, since traders stood to gain more profit by cutting out the middleman.
During the Age of Discovery, many Europeans explored the East on overland routes, such as the Silk Road. They brought back unusual trade goods, driving up the demand for more, and the era built trade relationships between Europe and Asia. There was also a growing exchange of information and ideas between East and West that probably enriched many cultures. Many traders also began to wonder if oversea routes would be more efficient, and the sailing aspect of the period was born.
Numerous nations built and sailed ships during the Age of Discovery, including England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and several Scandinavian countries. In addition to discovering two new continents, North and South America, these nations also formed colonies all over the globe. The formation of colonies would have far reaching impacts which continue to this day. By forming a colony, a nation could monopolize a particular product, and expand it political and social power. Many of these nations were very reluctant to let their colonies go, and many were not returned to native rule until the 20th century.