Was the Age of Exploration Worth It?

December 20, 2017
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The Age of Exploration is one of the most controversial and delicate times in the world’s history to date. This era is filled with discoveries and hope for a new future, but also mass murders and attacks. Natives against Europeans, tribes versus explorers. Both sides have a unique argument that shows different perspectives on an intricate subject.  For centuries the talk of this situation, if the age of exploration was worth it, has begun. Were the killings of Natives by the Europeans worth it in the end? Would the world be where it is today without the age of exploration? These questions have been on the plate for years and it’s time to face them head on. Though the age of exploration was full of killing and selfishness presented by the European explorers, it was worth it because of the self sustained world that’s on the people’s shoulders today.


One of the most beneficial reasons that the age of exploration was worth it was the fact that exploring and colonizing in America led to the strong economy today. Explorers that found this country were the reason that America got on its feet and was able to start making a name for itself. Without the help of the Europeans, who knows if the Natives would have ever stranded away from that hunting-gathering lifestyle and if America would be anything close to what it is in modern day. In the book, “Ishmael”, it says, “What she (mother culture) says is that the Leavers just didn’t know what they were missing. They didn’t understand the benefits of the agricultural life, and that’s why they clung to the hunting-gathering life so tenaciously” (217). In this scenario, the Leavers represent the Natives living in the land before the explorers came. The hunting and gathering life was so sacred to them that they were scared to let go of it and switch to a different kind of lifestyle. Little did they know that starting a good agricultural base would’ve changed everything for them, and they probably would have outlasted the Europeans who eventually overtook them. Another point of evidence from an article called “The Debate Over Columbus” shines another light on a specific explorer that is known to be profound: Christopher Columbus. On the first page it says, “Probably no single journey changed the world more profoundly than that of Christopher Columbus”(Brown 1). There is much controversy surrounding Columbus, but then again, there’s controversy surrounding every explorer there’s been. But, looking at the aftereffects of Columbus sailing to this New World, it’s only gone up since then. Columbus and explorers like him brought new eyes to this country, even the continent of North America. Ever since they stepped foot on this land, resource production and trading began and the economy was instantly booming. Take a look at the world. It wouldn’t be here today if Europe hadn’t stepped in and created a society for the people. They brought this country up on its feet and gave it a life to look forward to. Lastly, the explorers started America’s economy by developing trade. Looking at the history of America’s trading, it began after the Europeans came and began trade routes like the Columbian Exchange, between the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and the Triangular Trade, between just the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Trading like this brought in major income and helped America to colonize into the country it’s known as today. Without the money that was brought in early from this, civilization would’ve been more difficult to acquire and the world could be entirely different today. In conclusion, the age of exploration was worth it because it led America to the economy it has today and helped to colonize the country as a whole.


Another reason why the age exploration was worth it was because of how it saved Europe. At the time of these events, the Ottoman Empire was inching towards an overtake of Europe. These countries knew that they couldn’t just sit back and watch this happen; they knew they had to do something that would change the momentum. When they decided to start exploring other countries, it was obvious that the discoveries of new lands would bring knew trade and new money for this continent that seemed to be disappearing. Without these explorations, who knows if Europe would even be a continent today or if the Ottoman Empire would have taken it over. This is shown through the observations of this point in time: how Islam was rapidly spreading from Asia into Europe, how they traded with every country and made more money than any other empire, how its territory was still growing. The Ottoman Empire was the top dog at this point, and they weren’t going anywhere. Europe was intimidated. They had to do something to get on top again and that required something no one before had done. Exploring gave them so many opportunities and it gave citizens today an opportunity at life. Without the finding of America or the explorations that came out of Europe, most people in the United States wouldn’t be here today and Europe wouldn’t, either. Another point made in “The Debate Over Columbus” was about the revolution of America. It says “...Columbus’s contact with the Americas so revolutionized the ecologies, economies, and political systems of Europe, Asia, and Africa…”(Brown 2). The explorations didn’t just change America forever, but it also changed Europe and Asia. If not for these expeditions, Europe may have been taken over by the Ottomans and never had the chance to change that. The findings of these explorers not only brought up trade and economy to the Americas, but it also increased the trade in both Europe and Asia since they could now trade with new countries. Europe and Asia were also able to accumulate new resources from the Americas that they couldn’t have before. Discovering North and Central America meant more goods like corn, beans, and tobacco coming into the other countries when before they didn’t have any of this. These new goods and the increase of trade brought about a revolution for many countries that had ties with the Americas. Without the explorers’ findings, the countries there are today may not have been as successful as they are. Lastly, the ideas of God, Gold, and Glory pose the fact that Europe did these explorations because of the Ottoman Empire. Europeans needed to spread the word of Christianity because of how quickly Islam was spreading, and they had to do it fast. They also wanted to find gold and riches to become more wealthy in comparison to the Ottoman Empire and put up a fight in the trading war. Last, Europe wanted the glory and legacy of being the continent to find new lands and create colonizations. Luckily, they were able to accomplish these three goals between the explorations of Spain, Portugal, England, and France. God, Gold, and Glory stemmed the desires of exploration and the fight against the Ottomans. They created a new society for humans by planting a seed of hope in Europe. In conclusion, the need to stride away from the Ottoman Empire began the explorations to America and kept Europe alive in the face of opposition.


Though these wonderful discoveries were made and problems were solved, there’s still another side of the argument that needs to be recognized. The people that lived on this land before it was discovered are named the Natives. They are named that solely because they are the Native people of the Americas. Through the explorations that took place, many of them were killed by European explorers in order to gain the land that they had in control. It was an unfortunate series of events and has caused much controversy today. Looking back in history, it’s hard to forget the lives that were lost because of these selfish killings, and it’s possible to see the impact on Native lives today. The majority of modern Native Americans live in extreme poverty and are or know someone who is an alcoholic. The rate of suicides are higher than in most parts of the country and alcohol rates are through the roof. This causes many problems with their culture, and a lot of times, it’s hard for them to keep a smile on their face. It’s no surprise that the age of exploration caused problems for the Indians, and the mass genocide that the Europeans encouraged destroyed their culture as a whole. Next, in a poem written by Sherman Alexie, named “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel” it talks of the terrible lives of the modern day Indians; “In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written, all of the white people will be Indians and all the Indians will be ghosts”(Alexie). The meaning behind this quote represents events that have lead America to modern times. First, the Indians became outnumbered by white, and were ultimately wiped out. The white people became the Indians and claimed themselves as the natives. Now that Indian culture is gone today, like that of a ghost. If exploration wouldn’t have happened, those Indians and that culture could’ve still been here today. There’s no knowing if the Natives would’ve flourished through the years or not, but it’s known that if they hadn’t died out some of the culture would still exist today. It’s unfortunate that the way the Europeans chose to save the world was by mass murder, but it had to be done to give Europe a taste of hope again. Last, in the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, also by Sherman Alexie, the protagonist talks of the hard life he had as a young Indian; “You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian”(Alexie 13). As the quote says, Indians have a hard time believing in themselves and knowing their self worth. It’s hard to see it when other races and cultures can be seen as superior to them and hold the power when they have none. When the explorers came, they set a new standard for this country, a standard of white people being the most powerful, in every scenario. If the Natives still ruled the country today, the racism and culture would most likely be much different than what we see now. To see the lives of the people who lived on the land of America would be interesting, but at the time of the exploration, to the Europeans, there was no other option than to kill the Indians. They didn’t come to new lands just to kill the people living there, they had a purpose behind it. And that purpose has changed the world forever either way it is looked at. Without the age of exploration, the success of countries around the world would be much lower and America would have made no progress in becoming a world power.


Looking through the context of the Age of Exploration, people may think that the time period was not worth it because of the way the explorers treated the Natives. But if people would just think about it logically, the world would be an entirely different place with entirely different people if the explorations didn’t happen. America would still be living the hunting- gathering lifestyle and there would be no Europe; it would just be the Ottoman Empire. The age of exploration has given the world a chance and made this country a contender in economy. Americans should be grateful for what the explorers did and move past the mistakes made in history.






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