Gold, God, and Glory as Key Reasons for European Exploration: Essay

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When Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, the world as we know it changed forever. Kings and queens, as well as their subjects, were now introduced to the New World. Filled with new resources that Europe had lost, filled with new and different species of plants, and animals like turkeys and buffalo. They had a readily accessible guide and labor source in the natives who befriended them. Despite the legacy of the conquistadors and the decimation of native populations, at first, counters were far from hostile. They were encouraged as sources of trade and new tools. Most colonists were single men, the sons of writers, or those from the poorest agricultural regions of Europe who wanted to find their fortunes. They often married the native populations, producing the mestizo and mulatto populations, and were more tolerant of racial differences than later settlers. Even the natives were very peaceful, holding their own in early peaceful trading for metals, communicating through sign language, and generally rejecting attempts to become 'civilized' by European standards. Europeans treated natives as part of prehistory and uncivilized. Thinking that the natives were people who had been isolated and cut off from humanity, thus unable to be exposed to the civilizing influences of Christianity and classical learning. Many European explorers viewed the accomplishments of earlier tribes, such as the mounds of Cahokia, as being beyond the abilities of the Native Americans they encountered. Unfortunately, their accomplishments were attributed to ancient European visitors or natural features of the landscape. Others attributed the achievements to lost civilizations, which truly led to many theories that these lost civilizations had been defeated by the natives they now found. The idea was that Jesus and the apostles of the Bible had visited the New World and because the natives had rejected them Christians should reclaim their 'lost Possession'. This allowed for the European conquest of lands without one ounce of guilt, much as the Christian ideology of the Crusades had allowed for the prolonged warfare and death in the conquest of God's holy lands in the Middle East. This ideology would continue for hundreds of years, into the nineteenth century, despite those who tried to convince the Europeans otherwise.

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Whatever the reasons behind conquest, it seems almost inevitable. Perhaps, then, European conquest was part of human nature: our desire for more, for better, no matter the cost. That may be why myths of cannibalism, of the decimation of previously glorious civilizations like the lost city of Atlantis, and many other rumors were spread to help shred the guilt of murder and conquest. Or, perhaps, it would have happened by nature anyway, as new diseases and the uprooting from their traditional lands ravaged native populations and decreased their numbers from millions to only thousands of mixed descent. Smallpox, influenza, and measles were only some of the culprits that thrived in the close quarters of native settlements and slavery quarters. Aided by the Europeans' superior military technology and resistance to diseases through centuries of exposure to foreign lands, it would have been easy to enslave populations that were dying. In general, however, most historians attribute colonization to mixed causes. The thirst for land. The need for resources to support growing populations in Europe. The desire for new trade routes and luxury goods. The ideology of existing slavery and indentured servitude. The religious backing of the Church whose ideology seems to have changed to fit the circumstances and expand its pockets. All and all it comes down to the three G's: God, Gold, and Glory. And a combination of the right time, the right place, and the right people to not only explore the New World but to conquer it and thereby change the world as we knew it forever.

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Gold, God, and Glory as Key Reasons for European Exploration: Essay. (2023, December 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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