Unit 9 Key Concepts

  • China 

    The Chinese was a world leader in trade and exploration during the 14th century under the Ming Dynasty. Zheng He was the world famous Chinese explorer who led a fleet of Ming Treasure Ships as far away as Africa. After considerable exploration the Chinese considered themselves the most advanced civilization in the world and thought that foreigners had very little to offer the Chinese.

    Europe (Age of Exploration)

    The European Age of Exploration had  profound, lasting impacts on the world. European nations created vast empires, conquering the less industrialized civilizations in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. As a result, Europe became the most powerful region in the world. The conquest led to the exchange of a number of resources, technology, and, in some cases, disease.

    Causes of European Exploration

    • Ottoman conquest of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 (see Unit 8).
    • 3 G's
      • Gold—get rich, discover gold
      • Glory—power, fame, military bases
      • God—spreading Christianity, missionary movements


    Vasco da Gama—Portuguese explorer who was the first to sail around the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) and reach India by ship. Opened the door for further European exploration to South and Southeast Asia.

    Christopher Columbus—In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean blue! Columbus' "discovery" of the Americas led to an explosion of European explorers, conquerors, and immigrants to the New World.

    Ferdinand Magellan—Magellan is credited with being the first person to circumnavigate (sail around) the world. This is actually incorrect as Magellan was killed in a skirmish on the Philippines. Members of his crew, however, did finish the voyage.

    Important Terms

    • Mercantilism—The economic system based on the relationship between a mother country and their colonies. The purpose of the colony was solely to provide raw materials, labor, and/or a market to the mother country.
    • Columbian Exchange—Term given to the exchange of plants, animals, technology, and disease between the Americas (New World) and Europe (Old World). 
    • Triangle Trade—Trading system that included Europe, Africa, and the Americas. This is commonly called the slave trade.


    Hernan Cortes—Spanish conquistador who conquered the Aztec Empire.

    Francisco Pizzaro—Spanish conquistador who conquered the Inca Empire

    Advanced military technology, disease, and alliances with local states allowed a small group of Spanish soldiers to conquer enormous American empires. 

    * They built the foundation of a large Spanish Empire stretching from North America to South America.