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European Background Of American History by Edward Potts Cheyney

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Vol. 1 European Background of American History, by Edward Potts
Cheyney, A.M., Prof. Hist. Univ. of Pa.

Vol. 2 Basis of American History, by Livingston Farrand, M.D., Prof.
Anthropology Columbia Univ.

Vol. 3 Spain in America, by Edward Gaylord Bourne, Ph.D., Prof. Hist.
Yale Univ.

Vol. 4 England in America, by Lyon Gardiner Tyler, LL.D., President
William and Mary College.

Vol. 5 Colonial Self-Government, by Charles McLean Andrews, Ph.D.,
Prof. Hist. Johns Hopkins Univ.



Vol. 6 Provincial America, by Evarts Boutell Greene, Ph.D., Prof. Hist,
and Dean of College, Univ. of Ill.

Vol. 7 France in America, by Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL.D., Sec.
Wisconsin State Hist. Soc.

Vol. 8 Preliminaries of the Revolution, by George Elliott Howard,
Ph.D., Prof. Hist. Univ. of Nebraska.

Vol. 9 The American Revolution, by Claude Halstead Van Tyne, Ph.D.,
Prof. Hist. Univ. of Michigan.

Vol. 10 The Confederation and the Constitution, by Andrew Cunningham
McLaughlin, A.M., Head Prof. Hist. Univ. of Chicago.



Vol. 11 The Federalist System, by John Spencer Bassett, Ph.D., Prof.
Am. Hist. Smith College.

Vol. 12 The Jeffersonian System, by Edward Channing, Ph.D., Prof. Hist.
Harvard Univ.

Vol. 13 Rise of American Nationality, by Kendric Charles Babcock,
Ph.D., Pres. Univ. of Arizona.

Vol. 14 Rise of the New West, by Frederick Jackson Turner, Ph.D., Prof.
Am. Hist. Univ. of Wisconsin.

Vol. 15 Jacksonian Democracy, by William MacDonald, LL.D., Prof. Hist.
Brown Univ.



Vol. 16 Slavery and Abolition, by Albert Bushnell Hart, LL.D., Prof.
Hist. Harvard Univ.

Vol. 17 Westward Extension, by George Pierce Garrison, Ph.D., Prof.
Hist. Univ. of Texas.

Vol. 18 Parties and Slavery, by Theodore Clarke Smith, Ph.D., Prof. Am.
Hist Williams College.

Vol. 19 Causes of the Civil War, by Admiral French Ensor Chadwick,
U.S.N., recent Pres. of Naval War Col.

Vol. 20 The Appeal to Arms, by James Kendall Hosmer, LL.D., recent
Librarian Minneapolis Pub. Lib.

Vol. 21 Outcome of the Civil War, by James Kendall Hosmer, LL.D.,
recent Lib. Minneapolis Pub. Lib.



Vol. 22 Reconstruction, Political and Economic, by William Archibald
Dunning, Ph.D., Prof. Hist, and Political Philosophy Columbia Univ.

Vol. 23 National Development, by Edwin Erle Sparks, Ph.D., Prof.
American Hist. Univ. of Chicago.

Vol. 24 National Problems, by Davis R. Dewey, Ph.D., Professor of
Economics, Mass. Institute of Technology.

Vol. 25 America as a World Power, by John H. Latane, Ph.D., Prof. Hist.
Washington and Lee Univ.

Vol. 26 National Ideals Historically Traced, by Albert Bushnell Hart,
LL.D., Prof. Hist. Harvard Univ.

Vol. 27 Index to the Series, by David Maydole Matteson, A.M.



Charles Francis Adams, LL D, President Samuel A Green, M.D., Vice-
President James Ford Rhodes, LL D, ad Vice President Edward Channing,
Ph.D., Prof History, Harvard Univ Worthington C Ford, Chief of Division
of MSS Library of Congress


Reuben G Thwaites, LLD, Secretary Frederick J Turner, Ph.D., Prof Hist
Univ of Wisconsin James D Butler LLD William W Wright, LLD Hon Henry E


Captain William Gordon McCabe, Litt D, President Lyon G Tyler, LL D,
Pres William and Mary College Judge David C Richardson J A C Chandler,
Professor Richmond College Edward Wilson James


Judge John Henninger Reagan, President George P Garrison, Ph.D., Prof
Hist Univ of Texas Judge C W Rames Judge Zachary T Fullmore









CONTENTS [Proofer's Note: Original page numbers included in CONTENTS
for reference purposes.]




I. THE EAST AND THE WEST (1200-1500)...3



















[Proofer's Note: Maps and illustrations omitted.]


CONQUESTS OF THE OTTOMAN TURKS (1300-1525) (in colors)




1625 (in colors)


That a new history of the United States is needed, extending from the
discovery down to the present time, hardly needs statement. No such
comprehensive work by a competent writer is now in existence.
Individual writers have treated only limited chronological fields.
Meantime there, is a rapid increase of published sources and of
serviceable monographs based on material hitherto unused. On the one
side there is a necessity for an intelligent summarizing of the present
knowledge of American history by trained specialists; on the other hand
there is need of a complete work, written in untechnical style, which
shall serve for the instruction and the entertainment of the general

To accomplish this double task within a time short enough to serve its
purpose, there is but one possible method, the co-operative. Such a
division of labor has been employed in several German, French, and
English enterprises; but this is the first attempt, to carry out that
system on a large scale for the whole of the United States.

The title of the work succinctly suggests the character of the series,
The American Nation. A History. From Original Materials by Associated
Scholars. The subject is the "American Nation," the people combined
into a mighty political organization, with a national tradition, a
national purpose, and a national character. But the nation, as it is,
is built upon its own past and can be understood only in the light of
its origin and development. Hence this series is a "history," and a
consecutive history, in which events shall be shown not only in their
succession, but in their relation to one another; in which cause shall
be connected with effect and the effect become a second cause. It is a
history "from original materials," because such materials, combined
with the recollections of living men, are the only source of our
knowledge of the past. No accurate history can be written which does
not spring from the sources, and it is safer to use them at first hand
than to accept them as quoted or expounded by other people. It is a
history written by "scholars"; the editor expects that each writer
shall have had previous experience in investigation and in statement.
It is a history by "associated scholars," because each can thus bring
to bear his special knowledge and his special aptitude.

Previous efforts to fuse together into one work short chapters by many
hands have not been altogether happy; the results have usually been
encyclopaedic, uneven, and abounding in gaps. Hence in this series the
whole work is divided into twenty-six volumes, in each of which the
writer is free to develop a period for himself. It is the editor's
function to see that the links of the chain are adjusted to each other,
end to end, and that no considerable subjects are omitted.

The point of view of The American Nation is that the purpose of the
historian is to tell what has been done, and, quite as much, what has
been purposed, by the thinking, working, and producing people who make
public opinion. Hence the work is intended to select and characterize
the personalities who have stood forth as leaders and as seers; not
simply the founders of commonwealths or the statesmen of the republic,
but also the great divines, the inspiring writers, and the captains of
industry. For this is not intended to be simply a political or
constitutional history: it must include the social life of the people,
their religion, their literature, and their schools. It must include
their economic life, occupations, labor systems, and organizations of
capital. It must include their wars and their diplomacy, the relations
of community with community, and of the nation with other nations.

The true history, nevertheless, must include the happenings which mark
the progress of discovery and colonization and national life. Striking
events, dramatic episodes, like the discovery of America, Drake's
voyage around the world, the capture of New Amsterdam by the English,
George Rogers Clark's taking of Vincennes, and the bombardment of Fort
Sumter, inspired the imagination of contemporaries, and stir the blood
of their descendants. A few words should be said as to the make-up of
the volumes. Each contains a portrait of some man especially eminent
within the field of that volume. Each volume also contains a series of
colored and black-and-white maps, which add details better presented in
graphic form than in print. There being no general atlas of American
history in existence, the series of maps taken together will show the
territorial progress of the country and will illustrate explorations
and many military movements. Some of the maps will be reproductions of
contemporary maps or sketches, but most of them have been made for the
series by the collaboration of authors and editor. Each volume has
foot-notes, with the triple purpose of backing up the author's
statements by the weight of his authorities, of leading the reader to
further excursions into wider fields, and of furnishing the
investigator with the means of further study. The citations are
condensed as far as is possible while leaving them unmistakable, and
the full titles of most of the works cited will be found in the
critical essay on bibliography at the end of each volume. This constant
reference to authorities, a salutary check on the writer and a
safeguard to the reader, is one of the features of the work; and the
bibliographical chapters carefully select from the immense mass of
literature on American history the titles of the most authentic and the
most useful secondary works and sources. The principle of the whole
series is that every book shall be written by an expert for laymen; and
every volume must

therefore stand the double test of accuracy and of readableness.
American history loses nothing in dramatic climax because it is true or
because it is truly told. As editor of the series I must at least
express my debt to the publishers, who have warmly adopted the idea
that truth and popular interest are inseparable; to the authors, with
whom I have discussed so often the problems of their own volumes and of
the series in general; especially to the members of the committees of
the Massachusetts Historical Society, Virginia Historical Society,
Texas Historical Society, and Wisconsin State Historical Society, whose
generous interest and suggestions in the meetings that I have held with
them were of such assistance in the laying out of the work; to the
public, who how have the opportunity of acting as judges of this
performance and whose good-will alone can prove that the series
justifies itself.


EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION This first volume of the series supplies a needed
link between the history of Europe and the history of early America;
for whether it came through a Spanish, French, English, Dutch, or
Swedish medium, or through the later immigrants from Germany, from
Italy, and from the Slavic countries, the American conception of
society and of government was originally derived from the European.
Hence the importance at the outset of knowing what that civilization
was at the time of colonization. Professor Cheyney (chapters i. and
ii.) fitly begins with an account of mediaeval commerce, especially
between Europe and Asia, and the effect of the interposition of the
Turks into the Mediterranean, and how, by their disturbance of the
established course of Asiatic trade, they turned men's minds towards
other routes to Asia by sea. Thence he proceeds to show (chapter iii.)
how the Italians in navigation and in map-making exhibited the same
pre-eminence as in commerce and the arts, and why Italy furnished so
many of the explorers of the western seas in the period of discovery.
It is an easy transition in chapter iv. to the dramatic story of the
efforts of the Portuguese to reach India round Africa. The next step is
to describe in some detail (chapters v. and vi.) the system of
government and of commerce which existed in Spain, France, and Holland
in the sixteenth century; and the book will surprise the reader in its
account of the effective and far-reaching administration of the Spanish
kingdom, the mother of so many later colonies. This discussion is very
closely connected with the account of Spanish institutions in the New
World as described by Bourne in his Spain in America (volume III. of
the series), and we find the same terms, such as "audiencia,"
"corregidor," and "Council of the Indies" reappearing in colonial
history. A much-neglected subject in American history is the
development of great commercial companies, which, in the hands of the
English, planted their first permanent colonies. To this subject
Professor Cheyney devotes two illuminating chapters (vii. and viii.),
in which he prints a list of more than sixty such companies chartered
by various nations, and then selects as typical the English Virginia
Company, the Dutch West India Company, and the French Company of New
France, which he analyzes and compares with one another. It is
significant that not one of these companies was Spanish, for that
country retained in its own hands complete control both of its colonies
and of their commerce.

Since English colonization was almost wholly Protestant and added a new
centre of Protestant influence, Professor Cheyney has, in two chapters
(ix. and x.), given some account of the Reformation and of the
religious wars of the sixteenth century. He brings out not only the
differences in doctrine but in spirit, and shows how, by the Thirty
Years' War, Germany was excluded from the possibility of establishing
American colonies, a lack which that country has found it impossible to
repair in our day.

The mother-country for the American nation was in greater part England;
even Scotland and Ireland contributed their numbers and their
characteristics only in the third and fourth generations of the
colonies. A considerable part of this volume, therefore (chapters xi.
to xvi.), is given up to a description of the conditions of England at
the time of the departure of the first colonists. Everybody knows, and
nobody knows clearly, the religious questions in England from Elizabeth
to James II. Here will be found a distinct and vivid account of the
struggle between churchmen, Catholics, Puritans, and Independents for
influence on the Church of England or for supremacy in the state. Why
did the Catholics in general remain loyal? Why were the Puritans
punished? Why were the Independents at odds with everybody else? Why
did not Presbyterianism take root in England? These are all questions
of great moment, and their adjustment by Professor Cheyney prepares the
way for the account of the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth colony in
Tyler's England in America (volume IV. of the series). An absolute
essential for an understanding of colonial history before the
Revolution is a clear idea of the political system of England, both in
its larger national form and in its local government. Hence the
importance of Professor Cheyney's chapters on English government. The
kings' courts, council, and Parliament all had their effect upon the
governors' courts, councils, and assemblies of the various colonies.
Prom the English practice came the superb, fundamental notion of a
right of representation and of the effectiveness of a delegated
assembly. In local government the likeness was in some respects even
closer; and Professor Cheyney's account of the English county court,
and especially of the township or parish, will solve many difficulties
in the later colonial history. In some ways Professor Cheyney's
conclusions make more striking and original the development of the
astonishing New England town-meetings. As the volume begins with the
rise of the exploring spirit, it is fitting that Prince Henry the
Navigator should furnish the frontispiece. The bibliography deals more
than those of later volumes with a literature which has been a tangled
thicket, and will shorten the road for many teachers and students of
these subjects. The significance of Professor Cheyney's volume is that,
without describing America or narrating American events, it furnishes
the necessary point of departure for a knowledge of American history.
The first question to be asked by the reader is, why did people look
westward? And the answer is, because of their desire to reach the
Orient. The second question is, what was the impulse to new habits of
life and what the desire for settlements in distant lands? The answer
is, the effect of the Reformation in arousing men's minds and in
bringing about wars which led to emigration. The third question is,
what manner of people were they who furnished the explorers and the
colonists? The answer is found in these pages, which describe the
Spaniard, the French, the Dutch, and especially the English, and show
us the national and local institutions which were ready to be
transplanted, and which readily took root across the sea.

AUTHOR'S PREFACE The history of America is a branch of that of Europe.
The discovery, exploration, and settlement of the New World were
results of European movements, and sprang from economic and political
needs, development of enterprise, and increase of knowledge, in the Old
World. The fifteenth century was a period of extension of geographical
knowledge, of which the discovery of America was a part; the sixteenth
century was a time of preparation, during which European events were
taking place which were of the first importance to America, even though
none of the colonies which were to make up the United States were yet
in existence. From the time of the settlement forward, the only
population of America that has counted in history has been of European
origin. The institutions that characterize the New World are
fundamentally those of Europe. People and institutions have been
modified by the material conditions of America; and the process of
emigration gave a new direction to the development of American history
from the very beginning; but the origin of the people, of their
institutions, and of their history was none the less a European one.
The beginnings of American history are therefore to be found In
European conditions at the time of the foundation of the colonies.
Similar forces continued to exercise an influence in later times. The
power and policy of home governments, successive waves of emigration,
and numberless events in Europe had effects which were deeply felt in
America. This influence of Europe upon America, however, became less
and less as time passed on; and the development of the American nation
has made its history constantly more independent. It is, therefore,
only with some of the most important and earliest of these European
occurrences and conditions that this book is occupied. The general
relation of America to Europe is a subject that would require a vastly
fuller treatment, and it is a subject which doubtless will increasingly
receive the attention of scholars as our appreciation of the proper
perspective of history becomes more clear. In so wide a field as that
of this volume, it has been necessary to use secondary materials for
many statements; their aid is acknowledged in the footnotes and in the
bibliography. Other parts, so far as space limits allowed, I have been
able to work out from original sources. For much valuable information,
suggestion, and advice also, I am indebted to friends and fellow-
workers, and here gladly make acknowledgment for such assistance.





To set forth the conditions in Europe which favored the work of
discovering America and of exploring, colonizing, and establishing
human institutions there, is the subject and task of this book. Its
period extends from the beginning of those marked commercial,
political, and intellectual changes of the fifteenth century which
initiated a great series of geographical discoveries, to the close, in
the later years of the seventeenth century, of the religious wars and
persecutions which did so much to make that century an age of
emigration from Europe. During those three hundred years few events in
European history failed to exercise some influence upon the fortunes of
America. The relations of the Old World to the New were then
constructive and fundamental to a degree not true of earlier or of
later times. Before the fifteenth century events were only distantly
preparing the way; after the seventeenth the centre of gravity of
American history was transferred to America itself.

The crowding events, the prominent men, the creative thoughts, and the
rapidly changing institutions which fill the history of western Europe
during these three centuries cannot all be described in this single
volume. It merely attempts to point out the leading motives for
exploration and colonization, to show what was the equipment for
discovery, and to describe the most significant of those political
institutions of Europe which exercised an influence on forms of
government in the colonies, thus sketching the main outlines of the
European background of American history. Many political, economic,
intellectual, and personal factors combined to make the opening of our
modern era an age of geographical discovery. Yet among these many
causes there was one which was so influential and persistent that it
deserves to be singled out as the predominant incentive to exploration
for almost two hundred years. This enduring motive was the desire to
find new routes, from Europe to the far East.

Columbus sailed on his great voyage in 1492, "his object being to reach
the Indies." [Footnote: Columbus's Journal, October 3, 21, 23, 24, etc
Cf. Bourne, Spain in America, chap, 11] When he discovered the first
land beyond the Atlantic, he came to the immediate conclusion that he
had reached the coast of Asia, and identified first Cuba and then Hayti
with Japan. A week after his first sight of land he Reports, "It is
certain that this is the main-land and that I am in front of Zayton and
Guinsay" [Footnote: Columbus's Journal, November 1] Even on his third
voyage, in 1498, he is still of the opinion that South America is the
main-land of Asia. [Footnote: Columbus's will] It was reported all
through Europe that the Genoese captain had "discovered the coast of
the Indies," and "found that way never before known to the East."
[Footnote: Ramusio, Raccolta de Navigazioni, I, 414] The name West
Indies still remains as a testimony to the belief of the early
explorers that they had found the Indies by sailing westward.

When John Cabot, in 1496, obtained permission from Henry VII. to equip
an expedition for westward exploration, he hoofed to reach "the island
of Cipango" (Japan) and the lands from which Oriental caravans brought
their goods to Alexandria. [Footnote: Letter of Soncino, 1497, in Hart,
Contemporaries, I., 70.] It is true that he landed on the barren shore
of Labrador, and that what he descried from his vessel as he sailed
southward was only the wooded coast of North America; but it was
reported, and for a while believed, that the king of England had in
this manner "acquired a part of Asia without drawing his sword."
[Footnote: Ibid. Cf. Bourne. Spain in America, chap v.] In 1501 Caspar
Cortereal, in the service of the king of Portugal, pressed farther into
the ice-bound arctic waters on the same quest, and with his companions
became the first in the dreary list of victims sacrificed to the long
search for a northwest passage. [Footnote: Harrisse, Les Cortereal]
When the second generation of explorers learned that the land that had
been discovered beyond the sea was not Asia, their first feeling was
not exultation that a new world had been discovered, but chagrin that a
great barrier, stretching far to the north and the south, should thus
interpose itself between Europe and the eastern goal on which their
eyes were fixed. Every navigator who sailed along the coast of North or
South America looked eagerly for some strait by which he might make his
way through, and thus complete the journey to the Spice Islands, to
China, Japan, India, and the other lands of the ancient East.
[Footnote: Bourne, Spain in America, chap viii.] Verrazzano, in 1521,
and Jacques Cartier, in 1534, 1535, and 1541, both in the service of
the king of France, and Gomez, in the Spanish service, in 1521, were
engaged in seeking this elusive passage. [Footnote: Pigeonneau,
Histoire du Commerce de la France, II, 142-148.] For more than a
hundred years the French traders and explorers along the St. Lawrence
and the Great Lakes were led farther and farther into the wilderness by
hopes of finding some western outlet which would make it possible for
them to reach Cathay and India. Englishmen, with greater persistence
than Spaniards, Portuguese, or French, pursued the search for this
northwestern route to India. To find such a passage became a dream and
a constantly renewed effort of the navigators and merchants of the days
of Queen Elizabeth; the search for it continued into the next century,
even after colonies had been established in America itself; and a
continuance of the quest was constantly impressed by the government and
by popular opinion upon the merchants of the Hudson Bay Company, till
the eighteenth century.

A tradition grew up that there was a passage through the continent
somewhere near the fortieth parallel. It was in the search for this
passage that Hudson was engaged, when, in the service of the Dutch
government, in 1609, he made the famous voyage in the Half Moon and hit
on the Hudson River; just as in his first voyage he had tried to reach
the Indies by crossing the North Pole, and in his second by following a
northeast route. [Footnote: Asher, Henry Hudson, the Navigator, cxcii.-
cxcvi.] Much of the exploration of the coast of South America was made
with the same purpose. To reach India was the deliberate object of
Magellan when, in 1519 and 1520, he skirted the coast of that continent
and made his way through the southern straits. The same objective point
was intended in the "Molucca Voyage" of 1526-1530, under the command of
Sebastian Cabot, [Footnote: Beazley, John and Sebastian Cabot, 152.] as
well as in other South American voyages of Spanish explorers. Thus the
search for a new route to the East lay at the back of many of those
voyages of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which gradually made
America familiar to Europe.

The same object was sought in explorations to the eastward. The
earliest voyages of the Portuguese along the coast of Africa, it is
true, had other motives; but the desire to reach India grew upon the
navigators and the sovereigns of that nation, and from the accession of
John II., in 1481, every nerve was strained to find a route to the far
East. Within one twelvemonth, in the years 1486 and 1487, three
expeditions left the coast of Portugal seeking access to the East. The
first of these, under Bartholomew Diaz, discovered the Cape of Good
Hope; the second was an embassy of Pedro de Cavailham and Affonso de
Paiva through the eastern Mediterranean to seek Prester John, a search
which carried one of them to the west coast of India, the other to the
east coast of Africa; the third was an exploring expedition to the
northeast, which reached, for the first time, the islands of Nova
Zembla. [Footnote: Beazley, Henry the Navigator.] The Portuguese
ambition was finally crowned with success in the exploit of Vasco da
Gama in reaching the coast of India by way of the southern point of
Africa, in 1498; the Spanish expedition under Magellan reached the same
lands by the westward route twenty years afterwards. Even after these
successes, efforts continued to be made to reach China and the Indies
by a northeast passage around the northern coast of Europe. Successive
expeditions of Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch were sent out
only to meet invariable failure in those icy seas, until the terrible
hardships the explorers endured gradually brought conviction of the
impracticability of this, as of the northwestern, route. What was the
origin of this eagerness to reach the Indies? Why did Portuguese,
Spaniards, English, French, and Dutch vie with one another in centuries
of effort not only to discover new lands, but to seek these sea-routes
to the oldest of all lands? Why were the old lines of intercourse
between the East and the West almost deserted, and a new group of
maritime nations superseding the old Mediterranean and mid-European
trading peoples? The answer to these questions will be found in certain
changes which were in progress in those lands east of the Mediterranean
Sea, which lie on the border-line between Europe and Asia. Through this
region trade between Europe and the far East had flowed from immemorial
antiquity; but in the fifteenth century its channels were obstructed
and its stream much diminished.

Mediaeval Europe was dependent for her luxuries on Asia Minor and
Syria, Arabia and Persia, India and the Spice Islands, China and Japan.
Precious stones and fabrics, dyes and perfumes, drugs and medicaments,
woods, gums, and spices reached Europe by many devious and obscure
routes, but all from the eastward. One of the chief luxuries of the
Middle Ages was the edible spices. The monotonous diet, the coarse
food, the unskilful cookery of mediaeval Europe had all their
deficiencies covered by a charitable mantle of Oriental seasoning.
Wines and ale were constantly used spiced with various condiments. In
Sir Thopas's forest grew "notemuge to putte in ale." [Footnote:
Chaucer, Sir Thopas, line 52.] The brewster in the Vision of Piers
Plowman declares:

"I have good ale, gossip, Glutton wilt thou essay? 'What hast thou,'
quoth he, 'any hot spices?' I have pepper and peony and a pound of
garlic, A farthing-worth of fennel seed for fasting days" [Footnote:
Text C, passus VII, lines 355, etc.]

Froissart has the king's guests led to "the palace, where wine and
spices were set before them." [Footnote: Froissart, Chronicles, book
II, chap lxxx] The dowry of a Marseilles girl, in 1224, makes mention
of "mace, ginger, cardamoms, and galangale." [Footnote: Quoted in
Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, II, 433, n.] In the garden in the
Romaunt of the Rose, "Ther was eek wexing many a spyce, As clow-
gelofre, and licoryce, Gingere, and greyn de paradys, Canelle, and
setewale of prys, And many a spyce delitable, To eten when men ryse fro
table." [Footnote: Chaucer (Skeat's ed), lines 1367-1373.]

When John Ball wished to draw a contrast between the lot of the lords
and the peasants, he said, "They have wines, spices, and fine bread,
when we have only rye and the refuse of the straw." [Footnote:
Froissart, Chronicles, book II, chap lxxiii.] When old Latimer was
being bound to the stake he handed nutmegs to his friends as keepsakes.
[Footnote: Froude, History of England.]

Pepper, the most common and at the same time the most valued of these
spices, was frequently treated as a gift of honor from one sovereign to
another, or as a courteous form of payment instead of money. "Matilda
de Chaucer is in the gift of the king, and her land is worth 8 pounds,
2d, and 1 pound of pepper and 1 pound of cinnamon and 1 ounce of silk,"
reads a chance record in an old English survey. [Footnote: Festa de
Nevil, p 16.] The amount of these spices demanded and consumed was
astonishing. Venetian galleys, Genoese carracks, and other vessels on
the Mediterranean brought many a cargo of them westward, and they were
sold in fairs and markets everywhere. "Pepper-sack" was a derisive and
yet not unappreciative epithet applied by German robber-barons to the
merchants whom they plundered as they passed down the Rhine. For years
the Venetians had a contract to buy from the sultan of Egypt annually
420,000 pounds of pepper. One of the first vessels to make its way to
India brought home 210,000 pounds. A fine of 200,000 pounds of pepper
was imposed upon one petty prince of India by the Portuguese in 1520.
In romances and chronicles, in cook-books, trades-lists, and customs-
tariffs, spices are mentioned with a frequency and consideration
unknown in modern times.

Yet the location of "the isles where the spices grow" was very distant
and obscure to the men of the Middle Ages. John Cabot, in 1497, said
that he "was once at Mecca, whither the spices are brought by caravans
from distant countries, and having inquired from whence they were
brought and where they grew, the merchants answered that they did not
know, but that such merchandise was brought from distant countries by
other caravans to their home; and they further say that they are also
conveyed from other remote regions." [Footnote: Letter of Soncino, in
Hart, Contemporaries, I., 70.] Such lack of knowledge was pardonable,
considering that Marco Polo, one of the most observant of travellers,
after spending years in Asia, believed, mistakenly, that nutmegs and
cloves were produced in Java. [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed.), book
III., chap vi., 217, n.] It was only after more direct intercourse was
opened up with the East that their true place of production became
familiarly known in Europe. Nutmegs and mace, cloves and allspice were
the native products of but one little spot on the earth's surface: a
group of small islands, Banda, Amboyna, Ternate, Tidore, Pulaway, and
Prelaroon, the southernmost of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, just
under the equator, in the midst of the Malay Archipelago. Their light,
volcanic soil, kept moist by the constant damp winds and hot by the
beams of an overhead sun, furnished the natural conditions in which the
spice-trees grew. Here the handsome shrubs that-yield the nutmeg and
its covering of mace produced a continuous crop of flowers and fruit
all the year around. Cloves grew in the same islands, as clusters of
scarlet buds, hanging at the ends of the branches of trees which rise
to a greater height and grow with even a greater luxuriance than the
nutmeg-bushes. [Footnote: Wallace, The Malay Archipelago, chap. xix.]

Pepper had scarcely a wider field of production. The forests that
clothed a stretch of the Malabar coast of India some two hundred miles
in length, and extending some miles back into the interior, were filled
with an abundant growth of pepper-vines. One of the earliest of
European travellers in India, Odoric de Pordenone, says: "The province
where pepper grows is named Malabar, and in no other part of the world
does pepper grow except in this country. The forest where it grows is
about eighteen days in length." [Footnote: Odoric de Pordenone
(D'Avezac's ed), chap. x.] John Marignolli, in 1348, also speaks of
this district as "where the world's pepper is produced." [Footnote:
Quoted in Marco Polo (Yule's ed), II., 314, n., and Sir John
Mandeville, chap, xviii.] Its habitat was, however, somewhat more
extensive, for in less abundance and of inferior quality the pepper-
vines were raised all the way south to Cape Comorin, and even in the
islands of Ceylon and Sumatra.

Cinnamon-bark was the special product of the mountain-slopes in the
interior of Ceylon, but this also grew on the Indian coast to the
westward, [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed), book III, chaps, xiv.,
xxv.] and, in the form of cassia of several varieties, was obtained in
Thibet, in the interior provinces of China, and in some of the islands
of the Malay Archipelago. Ginger was produced in many parts of the
East; in Arabia, India, and China. Odoric attributes to a certain part
of India "the best ginger that can be found in the world" [Footnote:
Odoric de Pordenone (D'Avezac's ed), chap. x.] and Marco Polo records
its production of good quality in many provinces of India and China.
[Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed), book II, chap. lxxx., book III.,
chaps, xxii., xxiv., xxv, xxvi.] A great number of other kinds of
spices were produced in various parts of the Orient, and consumed there
or exported to Europe. Precious stones were of almost as much interest
to the men of the Middle Ages as were spices. For personal ornament and
for the enrichment of shrines and religious vestments, all kinds of
beautiful stones exercised an attraction proportioned to the small
number and variety of articles of beauty and taste in existence.

"No saphir ind, no rube riche of price, There lakked than, nor emeraud
so grene." [Footnote: Chaucer, Court of Love, lines 78, 79.]

These were as much characteristic products of the East as were spices.
Diamonds, before the discovery of the American and African fields of
production, were found only in certain districts in the central part of
India, especially in the kingdom of Mutfili or Golconda. Marco Polo
tells the same story of the method of getting them there that is
reported by Sindbad the Sailor. [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed), book
III., chap, xix.; Arabian Nights.] Rubies, the next most admired stone
of the Middle Ages, were also found, to some extent, in India, but more
largely in the island of Ceylon, in farther India, and, above all, in
the districts of Kerman, Khorassan, Badakshan, and other parts of the
highlands of Persia along the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers. [Footnote:
Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., App., I.] Sapphires, garnets,
topaz, amethyst, and sardonyx were found in several of the same
districts and also in the mountains and streams of the west coast of
India, from the Gulf of Cambay all the way to Ceylon. The greatest
markets in the world for these stones were the two Indian cities of
Pulicat and Calicut; the former on the southeastern, the latter on the
western shore of the great peninsula. Pearls were then, as now,
produced only in a very few places, principally in the strait between
Ceylon and the mainland of India, and in certain parts of the Persian
Gulf. In the native states in the south of India they were, however,
accumulated in enormous quantities, and scarcely a list of Eastern
articles of merchandise omits mention of them. One of the early
European expeditions brought home among its freight 400 pearls chosen
for their size and beauty, and forty pounds of an inferior sort. The
passion of the native rajahs of India for gems had made the treasury of
every petty prince a storehouse where vast numbers of precious stones
had been garnered through thousands of years of wealth and
civilization. This mass served as the booty of successive conquerors,
and from time to time portions of it came into the hands of traders,
along with stones newly obtained from natural sources. An early
chronicler, in describing the return of the Polos to Venice from the
East, tells how, from the seams of their garments, they took out the
profits of their journeys in the East, in the form of "rubies,
sapphires, carbuncles, diamonds, and emeralds." [Footnote: Ramusio,
Raccolta, quoted in Marco Polo (Yule's ed.), book I., chap, xxxvii.]
Drugs, perfumes, gums, dyes, and fragrant woods had much the same
attraction as spices and precious stones, and came from much the same
lands. The lofty and beautiful trees from which camphor is obtained
grew only in Sumatra, Borneo, and certain provinces of China and Japan.
Medicinal rhubarb was native to the mountainous districts of China,
whence it was brought to the cities and the coast of that country on
the backs of mules. Musk was a product of the borderlands of China and
Thibet. The sugar-cane, although it grew widely in the East, from India
and China to Syria and Asia Minor, was successfully managed so as to
produce sugar in quantities that could be exported only in certain
parts of Arabia and Persia. Bagdad was long famous for its sugar and
articles preserved in sugar. Indigo was grown and prepared for dyeing
purposes in India. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II.,
App., I.] Brazil wood grew more or less abundantly in all parts of the
peninsula of India and as far east as Siam and southern China. This
wood, from which was extracted a highly valued dye, made a particularly
strong impression on the mediaeval imagination. European travellers in
India gave accounts of its being burned there for firewood, as their
strangest tale of luxury and waste. It gave its name to a mythical
island of Bresil, in the western seas, which was the subject of much
speculation and romance. The same name was eventually applied to the
South American country that now bears it, because it produced a similar
dye-wood in large quantities. Sandal-wood and aloe-wood, which were
valuable for their beautiful surface and fragrance when used in
cabinet-work, and for their pleasant odor when burned as incense, grew
only in certain parts of India.

Many articles of manufacture, attractive for their material, their
workmanship, or their design, came from the same Eastern lands. Glass,
of superior workmanship to anything known in Europe, came from
Damascus, Samarcand, and Kadesia, near Bagdad. Objects of fine
porcelain came from China, and finally became known by the name of that
country. A great variety of fabrics of silk and cotton, as well as
those fibres in their raw state, came from Asia to Europe. Dozens of
names of Eastern origin still remain to describe the silk, cotton,
hair, and mixed fabrics which came to Europe from China, India,
Cashmere, and the cities of Persia, Arabia, Syria, and Asia Minor.
Brocade, damask, taffeta, sendal, satin, camelot, buckram, muslin, and
many varieties of carpets, rugs, and hangings, which were woven in
various parts of those lands, have always since retained the names of
the places which early became famous for their manufacture. The metal-
work of the East was scarcely less characteristic or less highly valued
in the West, though its varieties have not left such specific names.
[Footnote: Heyd, Geschtchte des Levantehandels, II., App., 543-699.]
Europe could feed herself with unspiced food, she could clothe herself
with plain clothing, but for luxuries, adornments, refinements, whether
in food, in personal ornament, or in furnishing her palaces, her manor-
houses, her churches, or her wealthy merchants' dwellings, she must, in
the fifteenth century, still look to Asia, as she had always done. It
is true that in the later Middle Ages many articles of beauty and
ornament were produced in the more advanced Western countries; but not
spices nor drugs, nor precious stones, nor any great variety of dyes.
Oriental rugs are even yet superior to any like productions of the
West; and a vast number of other articles of Eastern origin then held,
and indeed still hold, the markets.

In return for the goods which Europe brought from Asia a few
commodities could be shipped eastward. European woollen fabrics seem to
have been almost as much valued in certain countries of Asia as Eastern
cotton and silk goods were in Italy, France, Germany, and England.
Certain Western metals and minerals were highly valued in the East,
especially arsenic, antimony, quicksilver, tin, copper, and lead.
[Footnote: Birdwood, Hand-book to the Indian Collection (Paris
Universal Exhibition, 1878), Appendix to catalogue of the British
Colonies, pp. 1-110.] The coral of the Mediterranean was much admired
and sought after in Persia and India, and even in countries still
farther east. Nevertheless the balance of trade was permanently in
favor of the East, and quantities of gold and silver coin and bullion
were used by European merchants to buy the finer wares in Asiatic
markets. There was much general trading in Eastern marts. Numbers of
Oriental merchants, like Sindbad the Sailor and his company, "passed by
island after island and from sea to sea and from land to land; and in
every place by which we passed we sold and bought and exchanged
merchandise." The articles enumerated above were almost without
exception in demand throughout the whole East, and were bought by
merchants in one place and sold in another. Marco Polo, in describing
the Chinese city of Zayton, says: "And I assure you that for one
shipload of pepper that goes to Alexandria or elsewhere destined for
Christendom, there come a hundred such, aye and more too, to this haven
of Zayton." [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed), book II., chap. lxxxii]
Even as late as 1515, Giovanni D'Empoli, writing about China, says:
"Ships carry spices thither from these parts. Every year there go
thither from Sumatra 60,000 cantars of pepper and 15,000 or 20,000 from
Cochin and Malabar--besides ginger, mace, nutmegs, incense, aloes,
velvet, European gold-wire, coral, woollens, etc." [Footnote: Quoted in
ibid, book II., 188.] Nevertheless the attraction of the West was
clearly felt in the East. Extensive as were the local purchase and sale
of articles of luxury and use by merchants throughout India, Persia,
Arabia, Central Asia, and China, yet the export of goods from those
countries to the westward was a form of trade of great importance, and
one which had its roots deep in antiquity. A story of the early days
tells how the jealous brothers of Joseph, when they were considering
what disposition to make of him, "lifted up their eyes and looked, and,
behold, a travelling company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead, with
their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down
to Egypt." [Footnote: Genesis, xxxvii. 25.] When the prophet cries,
"Who is this that cometh from Edom, with garments dyed red from
Bozrah?" he is using two of the most familiar names on the lines of
west Asiatic trade. Solomon gave proof of his wisdom and made his
kingdom great by seizing the lines of the trade-routes from Tadmor in
the desert and Damascus in the north to the upper waters of the Red Sea
on the south. The "royal road" of the Persian kings from Sousa to
Ephesus made a long detour through northern Asia Minor, which was
inexplicable to modern archaeologists until it was perceived that it
was following the line of a trade-route much more ancient than the
Persian monarchy. [Footnote: Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia
Minor, chap. i.] The harbor of Berenice, named after the mother of
Ptolemy Philadelpnus, was built by him as a place of transit for goods
from India which were to be carried from the Red Sea to the Nile.
[Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India, I., 40.] Roman roads
followed ancient lines through Asia Minor and Syria, and medieval
routes in turn, in many places, passed by the remains of Roman
stations. Thus the East and the West had been drawn together by a
mutual commercial attraction from the earliest times, an attraction
based on the respective natural productions of the two continents, and
favored by the vast superiority of the East in the creation of articles
of beauty and usefulness.



In the fifteenth century Eastern goods regularly reached the West by
one of three general routes through Asia. Each of these had, of course,
its ramifications and divergences; they were like three river-systems,
changing their courses from time to time and occasionally running in
divided streams, but never ceasing to follow the general course marked
out for them by great physical features. The southernmost of these
three routes was distinguished by being a sea-route in all except its
very latest stages. Chinese and Japanese junks and Malaysian proas
gathered goods from the coasts of China and Japan and the islands of
the great Malay Archipelago, and bought and sold along the shores of
the China Sea till their westward voyages brought them into the straits
of Malacca and they reached the ancient city of that name. This was one
of the great trading points of the East. Few Chinese traders passed
beyond it, though the more enterprising Malays made that the centre
rather than the western limit of their commerce. Many Arabian traders
also came there from India to sell their goods and to buy the products
of the islands of the archipelago, and the goods which the Chinese
traders had brought from still farther East.

The Indian and Arabian merchants who came to Malacca as buyers were
mostly from Calicut and other ports on the Malabar coast, and to these
home ports they brought back their purchases. To these markets of
southwestern India were also brought the products of Ceylon, of the
eastern coast, and of the shore of farther India. From port to port
along the Malabar coast passed many coasting vessels, whose northern
and western limit was usually the port of Ormuz at the entrance to the
Persian Gulf. A great highway of commerce stretched from this trading
and producing region, and from the Malabar ports directly across the
Arabian Sea to the entrance of the Red Sea. When these waters were
reached, many ports of debarkation from Mecca northward might be used.
But the prevailing north winds made navigation in the Red Sea
difficult, and most of the goods which eventually reached Europe by
this route were landed on the western coast, to be carried by caravan--
to Kus, in Egypt, and then either by caravans or in boats down the line
of the Nile to Cairo.

Cairo was a very great city, its population being occupied largely in
the transmission of goods. A fifteenth-century traveller counted 15,000
boats in the Nile at one time; [Footnote: Piloti, quoted in Heyd,
Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., 43.] and another learned that there
were in all some 36,000 boats belonging in Cairo engaged in traffic up
and down the river. [Footnote: Ibn Batuta, quoted, ibid.] From Cairo a
great part of these goods were taken for sale to Alexandria, which was
in many ways as much a European as an African city. Thus a regular
route stretched along the southern coasts of Asia, allowing goods
produced in all lands of the Orient to be gathered up in the course of
trade and transferred as regular articles of commerce to the
southeastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

A second route lay in latitudes to the north of that just described.
From the ports on the west coast of India a considerable proportion of
the goods destined ultimately for Europe made their way northward to
the Persian Gulf. A line of trading cities extending along its shores
from Ormuz near the mouth of the gulf to Bassorah at its head served as
ports of call for the vessels which carried this merchandise. Several
of these coast cities were also termini of caravan routes entering them
from the eastward, forming a net-work which united the various
provinces of Persia and reached through the passes of Afghanistan into
northern India. From the head of the Persian Gulf one branch of this
route went up the line of the Tigris to Bagdad. From this point goods
were taken by caravan through Kurdistan to Tabriz, the great northern
capital of Persia, and thence westward either to the Black Sea or to
Layas on the Mediterranean. Another branch was followed by the trains
of camels which made their way from Bassorah along the tracks through
the desert which spread like a fan to the westward, till they reached
the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Antioch, and Damascus. They finally
reached the Mediterranean coast at Laodicea, Tripoli, Beirut, or Jaffa,
while some goods were carried even as far south as Alexandria.

Far to the north of this complex of lines of trade lay a third route
between the far East and the West, extending from the inland provinces
of China westward across the great desert of Obi, south of the
Celestial mountains to Lake Lop; then passing through a series of
ancient cities, Khotan, Yarkand, Kashgar, Samarcand, and Bokhara, till
it finally reached the region of the Caspian Sea. This main northern
route was joined by others which crossed the passes of the Himalayas
and the Hindoo-Kush, and brought into a united stream the products of
India and China.[Footnote: Hunter, Hist. of British India, I., 31.] A
journey of eighty to a hundred days over desert, mountain, and steppes
lay by this route between the Chinese wall and the Caspian. From still
farther north in China a parallel road to this passed to the north of
the desert and the mountains, and by way of Lake Balkash, to the same
ancient and populous land lying to the east of the Caspian Sea. Here
the caravan routes again divided. Some led to the southwestward, where
they united with the more central routes described above and eventually
reached the Black Sea and the Mediterranean through Asia Minor and
Syria. Others passed by land around the northern coast of the Caspian,
or crossed it, reaching a further stage at Astrakhan. From Astrakhan
the way led on by the Volga and Don rivers, till its terminus was at
last reached on the Black Sea at Tana near the mouth of the Don, or at
Kaffa in the Crimea. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels,
II., 68-254.]

Along these devious and dangerous routes, by junks, by strange Oriental
craft, by river-boats, by caravans of camels, trains of mules, in
wagons, on horses, or on human shoulders, the products of the East were
brought within reach of the merchants of the West. These routes were
insecure, the transportation over them difficult and expensive. They
led over mountains and deserts, through alternate snow and heat. Mongol
conquerors destroyed, from time to time, the cities which lay along the
lines of trade, and ungoverned wild tribes plundered the merchants who
passed through the regions through which they wandered. More regularly
constituted powers laid heavy contributions on merchandise, increasing
many-fold the price at which it must ultimately be sold. The routes by
sea had many of the same dangers, along with others peculiar to
themselves. The storms of the Indian Ocean and its adjacent waters were
destructive to vast numbers of the frail vessels of the East; piracy
vied with storms in its destructiveness; and port dues were still
higher than those of inland marts.

With all these impediments, Eastern products, nevertheless, arrived at
the Mediterranean in considerable quantities. The demands of the
wealthy classes of Europe and the enterprise of European and Asiatic
merchants were vigorous enough to bring about a large and even an
increasing trade; and the three routes along which the products of the
East were brought to those who were able to pay for them were never,
during the Middle Ages, entirely closed. They found their western
termini in a long line of Levantine cities extending along the shores
of the Black Sea and of the eastern Mediterranean from Tana in the
north to Alexandria in the south. In these cities the spices, drugs,
dyes, perfumes, precious stones, silks, rugs, metal goods, and other
fabrics and materials produced in far Eastern lands were always
obtainable by European merchants.

The merchants who bought these goods in the market-places of the Levant
for the purpose of distributing them throughout Europe were for the
most part Italians from Pisa, Venice, or Genoa; Spaniards from
Barcelona and Valencia; or Provencals from Narbonne, Marseilles, and
Montpellier. [Footnote: Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, II., chap.
vi.] They were not merely travelling buyers and sellers, but in many
cases were permanent residents of the eastern Mediterranean lands. In
the first half of the fifteenth century there were settlements of such
merchants in Alexandria in Egypt; in Acre, Beirut, Tripoli, and
Laodicea on the Syrian coast; at Constantinople, and in a group of
cities skirting the Black Sea. Even in the more inland cities of Syria,
such as Damascus, Aleppo, and Antioch, Italians were established.
[Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., 67.] The position
of European merchants varied in the different cities on this trading
border between the East and the West, from that of mere foreign
traders, living on bare sufferance in the midst of a hostile community,
to that of citizens occupying what was practically an outlying Venetian
or Genoese or Pisan colony.

In the greater number of cases the Italian and other European merchants
had quarters, or fondachi, granted to them in the Eastern cities by the
Saracen emirs of Egypt and Syria, or by the Greek emperor of Asia
Minor, Constantinople, and Trebizond. These fondachi were buildings, or
groups of dwellings and warehouses, often including a market-place,
offices, and church, where the merchants of some Italian or Provencal
city carried on their business affairs according to their own rules,
under permission granted to them by the local ruler. A Genoese or
Venetian fondaco was usually governed by a consul or bailiff, appointed
by the home government, or elected among themselves with the approval
of the senate and doge at home. Two or more advisers were usually
provided by the home government to act with the consul in negotiations
with the local government. In more important matters embassies were
sent directly from the doge to the ruler on whose toleration or self-
interest the whole settlement was dependent.

For whole centuries Italians had made up an appreciable part of the
population of many cities of the Levant; the galleys of Venice, Genoa,
and Pisa lay at their wharves discharging produce of the West and
loading the products of the East; a large part of the income of the
local potentates, or governors, was made up of export and import
duties, harbor charges, and other impositions paid by the Western
merchants. The prosperity of these Greek and Saracen seaboard cities
was as largely dependent on this trade as was that of the merchants who
came there for its sake. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des
Levantehandels, I., 165, 168, 316, 363, 414, 443. etc., II., 430, 435,

We have seen how the merchandise of the far East flowed to the Eastern
cities of the Mediterranean, and how it was gathered there into the
hands of European merchants. It remains to follow the routes by which
it was redistributed throughout Europe. Both Genoa and Venice had
possessions in the Greek Archipelago which formed stepping-stones
between the home cities and their fondachi in the cities of the Levant.
Trading from port to port along these lines of connection, or sometimes
carrying cargoes unbroken from their most distant points of trade, the
galleys of the Italian, French, or Spanish traders brought Eastern
goods along with the products of the Mediterranean islands and shores
to the home cities. These cities then became new distributing-points of
Eastern and Mediterranean goods as well as of their own home products.

Venice may fairly be taken as a type of the cities which subsisted on
this trade. Her merchants were the most numerous, widely spread, and
enterprising; her trade the most firmly organized, her hold on the East
the strongest. To her market-places and warehouses a vast quantity of
goods was constantly brought for home consumption and re-export. From
Venice, yearly fleets of galleys went out destined to various points
and carrying various cargoes. One of these fleets, after calling at
successive ports in Illyria, Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Portugal, and
after detaching some galleys for Southampton, Sandwich, or London, in
England, reached, as its ultimate destination, Bruges, in Flanders.
[Footnote: Brown, Cal. of State Pap., Venetian.]

Other goods were taken by Venetian merchants through Italy and across
the mountains by land. Most of the re-export from Venice by land was
done by foreigners. Over the Alps came German merchants from Nuremberg,
Augsburg, Ulm, Regensburg, Constance, and other cities of the valleys
of the Danube and the Rhine. They had a large building in Venice set
apart for their use by the senate, the "Fondaco dei Tedeschi," much
like those settlements which the Venetians themselves possessed in the
cities of the Levant. [Footnote: Simonsfeld, Der Fondaco dei Tedeschi
in Venedig, II,] The goods which they purchased in Venice they carried
in turn all through Germany, to the fairs of France, and to the cities
of the Netherlands. Merchants of the Hanseatic League bought these
goods at Bruges or Antwerp or in the south German cities, and carried
them, along with their own northern products, to England, to the
countries on the Baltic, and even into Poland and Russia, meeting at
Kiev a more direct branch of the Eastern trade which proceeded from
Astrakhan and Tana northward up the Volga and the Don.

Thus the luxuries of the East were distributed through Europe. With
occasional interruptions, frequent changes in detail, and constant
difficulties, the same general routes and methods of transfer and
exchange had been followed for centuries. It was the oldest, the most
extensive, and the most lucrative trade known to Europe. It stretched
over the whole known world, its lines converging from the eastward and
southward to the cities of Syria, Asia Minor, and the Black Sea coast,
and diverging thence to the westward and northward throughout Europe.

With the close of the Middle Ages this ancient and well-established
trade showed evident signs of disorganization and decline. The Levant
was suffering from changes which interrupted its commerce and which
made the old trade-routes that passed through it almost impracticable.
The principal cause for this process of decay and failure was the rise
of the Ottoman Turks as a conquering power. About 1300 a petty group of
Turks, in the heart of Asia Minor, under a chieftain named Osman, began
a career of extension of their dominions by conquering the other
provinces of Turkish or Greek origin and allegiance in their vicinity.
[Footnote: Zinkeisen, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches in Europa, I.,
65-132.] Little by little the Osmanli pushed their borders out in every
direction till they reached the Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmora, and
the Black Sea. Within a century and a half, by the close of the reign
of Murad II., in 1451, they had built vessels on the Aegean, plundered
the Greek islands and laid them under tribute, crossed the Dardanelles
and made conquests far up in the Balkan Peninsula, pressed close upon
the Christian cities along the south coast of the Black Sea, and
reduced the possessions of the Greek Empire to a narrow strip of land
around Constantinople. [Footnote: Ibid., 184-708.] The Turkish Empire
was admirably organized for military and financial purposes and
governed by a series of able sultans.

Thus a great power arose on the border-line between the Orient and the
Occident, of which the merchant states of Italy and the West evidently
had to take account. But its existence did not at first appear to be
necessarily destructive to their interests. In many cases comparatively
favorable commercial treaties were made with the Turkish sultans, and
the facile Italians modified their trading to meet the new conditions.
[Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels, II., 259, 260, 267, 275, 284,
etc.] Nevertheless, with the Turks there could be no such close
connection as that which had existed between the Western traders and
the old-established states in the East, under which they enjoyed
practical independence so long as they paid the money. The Turks were
not only Mohammedans, they were barbarians; they added to the Moslem
contempt for the Christian the warrior's contempt for the mere
merchant. They were without appreciation for culture or even for
refined luxury.

The conquests of the Turks proceeded steadily to their completion. In
1452 Sultan Mohammed II. built the fort of Rumili Hissari, on the
European side of the Bosporus, and gave the commander orders to lay
every trading-vessel that passed the straits under tribute. The next
year saw the final siege, the heroic resistance, and the fall of

Among its defenders were Venetians, Genoese, Florentines, and Italian
colonists from various settlements, summoned to the help of their
coreligionists against the Mohammedans. On its capture all their goods
were plundered, their leaders beheaded, those of rank held for ransom,
and the common men slaughtered or sold as slaves. [Footnote: Pears, The
Destruction of the Greek Empire.] The neighboring colony of Pera was
left to the Genoese, but humbled to the rank of a Turkish village with
a sadly restricted trade. Trade was allowed to and from Constantinople,
but all the old privileges were abrogated, and the city was now the
capital of a semi-barbarous ruler and race, who placed but small value
on things brought by trade and continually engaged in war.

Especially destructive to trade were the wars between the Turks and the
Italian colonists of the eastern Mediterranean. Such wars were
inevitable. In the progress of their career of conquest the Ottoman
fleets early attacked the island possessions of Venice and Genoa in the
Aegean and their independent or semi-independent settlements on the
shores of the Black Sea. Efforts for the defence of these involved war
between the home governments and the rising Eastern power. From 1463 to
1479 war between the Turkish Empire and Venice raged in Syria and Asia
Minor, in the islands of the eastern Mediterranean, on the main-land of
Greece, and northward to Albania. The Italian republic lost some of its
best territories, including the Greek islands, and only obtained
permission to take its vessels through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus
on payment of a heavy annual sum. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des
Levantehandels, II., 325-332.] The few remaining island possessions of
Genoa were also lost--Lesbos in 1462, Chios in 1466. A brave defence of
their island homes was made by the Italians, but one after another
these succumbed to the terrible attacks of the Turks. [Footnote: Bury,
in Cambridge Modern History, I., 75-81.]

In the mean time the possessions still farther east had the same fate.
Immediately after the downfall of Constantinople the Turks placed a
fleet upon the Black Sea and attacked the colonies on the north coast
at Kaffa, Soldaia, and Tana, and on the south at Trebizond and other
ports. One after another these cities were placed under tribute;
repeated battles destroyed their possessions; their population was
enslaved and their property plundered. In 1461 Trebizond was captured;
in 1500 Kaffa was finally conquered and the whole Christian population,
after many sufferings, carried off to live as a subject race in a
suburb of Constantinople. In 1499 and 1500 Venice lost almost all the
rest of her possessions.

Some of the cities of the West which had never had landed possessions
in the East fared better under the Ottoman than did Venice and Genoa.
Florentines, Ragusans, and men of Ancona, for some decades, took their
galleys from port to port of the Turkish coasts and islands, or passed
as individual traders back along the trade-routes seeking goods for
export. Nevertheless, the flow of Eastern goods along these routes was
becoming less and less; the internal wars of rival Tartar rulers and
those between Tartars and Turks threw the northern routes and parts of
the central route into even more than their usual confusion; and the
lessened demands at the ports of the Black Sea and Asia Minor
discouraged the bringing of goods from the Eastern sources of supply.

The Turkish thirst for conquest brought under the control of that race,
in the half-century between 1450 and 1500, half the western termini of
the trade-routes with the East. It crushed out all semblance of
independence in the settlements of the European merchants in Asia Minor
and on the Black Sea, and left to them a bare foothold for purposes of
trade under the most burdensome restrictions. These conquests were very
destructive to life and property. Mercantile firms failed, old families
died out, the mother-states were exhausted, and the flow of merchandise
was dried up. The system of trade which had been in existence in these
regions for centuries was quite destroyed by this violence.

The central and southern routes for a time remained open; indeed, the
blocking of the more northerly outlets sent a greater proportion of the
trade in Eastern products through Syria and through the Red Sea ports.
The markets at Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut, and Alexandria were better
filled than ever with the products of the East. Even the Genoese, who
had so completely lost their prosperity, still had a fondaco in
Alexandria in 1483; while the Venetians, notwithstanding their losses
in the northeastern Mediterranean and their bitter struggles with the
Turks, continued to make closer and closer trade arrangements with the
Saracen emirs of the Syrian cities and the Mameluke sultans of Egypt.
Under heavy financial burdens and amid constant disputes they still
kept up an active trade. Ten or fifteen galleys came every year from
Italy, France, and Spain to Alexandria, which in the later years of the
fifteenth century was by far the greatest market for spices in the
world. Even Florence, in the later years of the fifteenth century,
opened up a trade with Egypt and Syria. [Footnote: Heyd, Geschichte des
Levantehandels, II., 427-494.]

The southeastern Mediterranean was now destined to be swept by the same
storm as the other parts of the Levant. In the early years of the
sixteenth century the Ottoman army invaded Syria and Egypt. In 1516 the
sultan captured Damascus; in 1517 he entered Cairo as a conqueror.
Syria and Egypt became a part of the Turkish Empire, as Asia Minor, the
Balkan Peninsula, and the coasts of the Black Sea had already done.
Treaties, it is true, were even yet formed by which Venice, at the
price of humiliating conditions, obtained permission from the Ottoman
government to continue a heavily burdened trade in the blighted cities
of Egypt and Syria, as she was already doing in Constantinople. But the
process by which Turkish conquest was attained, and the whole spirit
and policy of that power, were adverse to trade between the East and

The old trade-routes between Asia and Europe were effectually and
permanently blocked by the Turkish conquests. Not only routes of trade,
but methods of exchange, forms of transportation, and, in fact, the
whole system by which Eastern goods had been brought to Europe for
centuries, were interrupted, undermined, and made almost impracticable.
During this period the city republics of Italy, which had been the
chief European intermediaries of this trade, were losing their
prosperity, their wealth, their enterprise, and their vigor. This was
due, as a matter of fact, to a variety of causes, internal and
external, political and economic; but the sufferings in the wars with
the Turks and the adverse conditions of the Levant trade on which their
prosperity primarily rested were far the most important causes of their

Thus the demand of European markets for Eastern luxuries could no
longer be met satisfactorily by the old methods; yet that demand was no
less than it had been, and the characteristic products of the East were
still sought for in all the market-places of Europe. Indeed, the demand
was increasing. As Europe in the fifteenth century became more wealthy
and more familiar with the products of the whole world, as the nobles
learned to demand more luxuries, and a wealthy merchant class grew up
which was able to gratify the same tastes as the nobles, the demand of
the West upon the East became more insistent than ever. Therefore, the
men, the nation, the government that could find a new way to the East
might claim a trade of indefinite extent and extreme profit.

This is the explanation of that eager search for new routes to the
Indies which lay at the back of so many voyages of discovery of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Southward along the coast of Africa,
in the hope that that continent could be rounded to the southeast;
northward along the coast of Europe in search of a northeast passage;
westward relying on the sphericity of the earth and hoping that the
distance from the west coast of Europe to the east coast of Asia would
prove not to be interminable; after America was reached, again
northward and southward to round and pass beyond that barrier, and thus
reach Asia--such was the progress of geographical exploration for a
century and a half, during which men gradually became familiar with a
great part of the earth's surface. A study of the history of trade-
routes corroborates the fact disclosed by many other lines of study--
that the discovery of America was no isolated phenomenon; it was simply
one step in the development of the world's history. Changes in the
eastern Mediterranean led men to turn their eyes in other directions
looking for other sea routes to the East. When they had done so, along
with much else that was new, America was disclosed to their vision.

To follow out all the remote effects of the upheaval in western Asia
and eastern Europe would lead too far afield: but the diversion of
commercial interest was only a part: the restless energies of the Latin
races of southern Europe turned into a new channel; search for trade
led to discovery, discovery to exploration, exploration to permanent
settlement; and settlement to the creation of a new centre of
commercial and political interest, and eventually to the rise of a new




Although in the fifteenth century Italy lost the commercial leadership
which she had so long held, she did not cease to be the teacher of the
other countries of Europe. In those arts which lay at the base of
exploration, as in so many other fields, Italy was far in advance of
all other Western countries. Through the Middle Ages she preserved much
of the heritage of ancient skill and learning; by her Renaissance
studies she recovered much that had been temporarily lost; and in
geographical science she early made progress of her own. "The greatness
of the Germans, the courtesy of the French, the valor of the English,
and the wisdom of the Italians" is the tribute paid by a fifteenth-
century Portuguese chronicler to the nations of his time, and this
"wisdom of the Italians" he especially connects with exploration and
navigation.[Footnote: Azurara, "Chronicle of Guinea," chap. ii.]

As a nation Italy played but a slight part in the discoveries of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; but through her scattered sons she
used her fine intelligence to initiate and guide much of the work that
was completed by the ruder but more efficient and vigorous nations of
the Atlantic seaboard. Educated men from Venice, Genoa, Pisa, and
Florence emigrated to other lands, carrying with them science, skill,
and ingenuity unknown except in the advanced and enterprising Italian
city republics and principalities. Italian mathematicians made the
calculations on which all navigation was based; Italian cartographers
drew maps and charts; Italian ship-builders designed and built the best
vessels of the time; Italian captains commanded them, and very often
Italian sailors made up their crews; while at least in the earlier
period Italian bankers advanced the funds with which the expeditions
were equipped and sent out.

Columbus, Cabot, Verrazzano, and Vespucci were simply the most famous
of the Italians who during this period made discoveries while in the
service of other governments. The Venetian Cadamosto led repeated and
successful expeditions for Prince Henry of Portugal; Perestrello, the
discoverer of Porto Santo, in the Madeiras, and Antonio de Noli, the
discoverer of the Cape Verd Islands, were both Italians. [Footnote:
Ruge, "Der Zeitalter der Entdeckungen," 217.] This was no new condition
of affairs. In the time of Edward II. and Edward III., in the service
of England, we find the names of Genoese such as Pesagno and Uso de
Mare. Another Genoese, Emanuel Pesagno, was appointed as the first
hereditary admiral of the fleet of Portugal, and by the terms of his
engagement was required to keep the Portuguese navy provided with
twenty Genoese captains of good experience in navigation. Of the sixty
men who made up the complement of Magellan's fleet of 1519, in the
service of Spain, twenty-three were Italians, mostly Genoese.
[Footnote: Navarrete, quoted in Ruge, Zeitalter, 466, n.] At the same
time all Spanish taxes were administered by Genoese bankers, and they
or other Italians had a monopoly of all loanable capital. [Footnote:
Hume, Spain, Its Greatness and Decay, 87]

Long before the great period of discoveries Italians contributed to the
increase of geographical knowledge by travel and narratives of travel
over the world as it was already known, but only known vaguely and by
dim report. Down to the middle of the thirteenth century the total
knowledge of the lands and waters of the globe possessed by the
educated men of Europe was not appreciably greater than it had been a
thousand years earlier. The disintegration of the old Roman world, the
more stationary habits of life, and the narrower interests of men
during the early Middle Ages were unfavorable to travel.

The later Middle Ages were not lacking in keen intellect, in large
knowledge, in powers of systematization and elaboration of what has
already been acquired; but they had neither the material equipment nor
the mental temperament to carry the boundaries of knowledge further.
What was known of the world to Ptolemy in the second century made up
the sum of knowledge possessed by the geographers of all the following
centuries to the thirteenth. Indeed, the mediaeval tendency to
establish symmetrical measurements, to adopt fanciful explanations, and
to find analogies in all things, obscured earlier knowledge and made
geographers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries less correct in
their knowledge of the world than were those of the second or the
third. [Footnote: Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography.]

The discoveries, conquests, and settlements of the Northmen in the
north of Europe and the northern Atlantic were so detached from the
knowledge of the south and came to a pause so early in time that
notwithstanding their potential value they contributed practically
nothing to the general geographical knowledge of Europe. Nor did
Christian, Jewish, or Arabic accounts of Eastern lands written by
travellers of the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries
become widely known or influential. [Footnote: Ibid., II., chaps, i.-
iv.] Even the knowledge brought home by the Crusaders was of a
restricted territory, most of it already comparatively familiar; and
therefore they added little to the common stock.

About the middle of the thirteenth century, however, began a series of
journeys which were more fully recorded in narratives more widely
circulated and in a more receptive period. Three incentives habitually
carry men into distant and unknown lands--missionary zeal, desire for
trade, and curiosity. Actuated by one or other of these influences, an
increasing number of Europeans visited lands far beyond the eastern
terminations of the trade-routes, and some of them brought back reports
of which the influence was wide and lasting.

Among the earliest and most observant were a succession of Franciscan
friars, sent after 1245 on missionary journeys to the court of the
ruler of the great Tartar Empire, which was then so rapidly
overspreading Asia and eastern Europe. The first of these was John de
Piano Carpini, a native of Naples, who belonged to a Franciscan house
near Perugia. He went through Bohemia, Poland, southern Russia, and the
vast steppes of Turkestan, and found the Khan at Karakorum, in
Mongolia. He was two years on the journey, and after his return wrote
an exact and interesting account of his observations and experiences.
[Footnote: Travels of John de Piano Carpini (D'Avezac's ed.).]

A few years afterwards William de Rubruquis--a Fleming in this case,
not an Italian--was sent to visit the Mongol emperor by Louis IX. when
he was in the East. He followed a more southerly route than Carpini,
skirting the northern shores of the Black Sea, the Caspian, and the Sea
of Aral, and then passing northward to Karakorum. Returning he crossed
the Caucasus and passed through Persia and the lands of the Turks,
finally reaching the Mediterranean through Syria. The account which he
wrote of his adventures was much fuller than that of Piano Carpini, and
gives descriptions of China as well as of the central Asiatic lands.
[Footnote: Travels of William de Rubruquis (D'Avezac's ed).]

Just at the beginning of the next century two other travellers, John de
Monte Corvino [Footnote: Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, II, chap
v.] and Odoric de Pordenone, [Foornote: Travels of Odoric de Pordenone
(D'Avezac's ed)] both Italians, made journeys through Persia, India,
southern Asia, and China, and later wrote accounts of these more
southern lands quite as full as were those already mentioned concerning
the northern parts of the great eastern continent. The most famous of
all mediaeval travellers in the East were the Venetian merchants Nicolo
and Matteo Polo and their nephew Marco. These enterprising traders,
leaving their warehouses in Soldaia on the Crimea, in two successive
journeys made their way along the northern and central trade-routes to
Pekin, in northern China, or Cathay, which had become the capital of
the Great Khan. For almost twenty years the Polos were attached to the
court of Kublai Khan, the nephew, Marco, rising higher and higher in
the graces of that ruler.

Marco Polo was one of the well-known type of Italian adventurers who
appeared at foreign courts, and, with the versatility of their race,
made themselves useful, and indeed indispensable, to their masters. He
learned the languages of the East, and went upon missions for the Great
Khan to all parts of his vast empire. When, in 1292, the Polos obtained
permission to return home they followed the longest and most important
of the three main trade-routes which have been described. They sailed
from Zaiton, a seaport of China, and passing along the shores of
Tonquin, Java, and farther India, made their way from port to port,
through the Bay of Bengal to Ceylon, then to the Malabar coast of
India, along which they passed to Cambay, and thence through the Red
Sea to Cairo, and so to Venice. Their journey homeward from China, with
its long detentions in the East Indies, took almost three years.

All the world knows of Marco Polo's subsequent experiences in Venice,
his capture and imprisonment in Genoa, the stories of his travels with
which he whiled away the weary days of his captivity, and the gathering
of these into a book which spread widely through Europe within the next
few years and has been eagerly read ever since. [Footnote: Marco Polo
(Yule's ed,), Introduction.]

Neither the travels of Marco Polo nor those of his predecessors or
immediate successors disclosed any lands the existence of which was not
before known to Europeans; but they gave fuller knowledge of many
countries and nations of which the names only were known; and they gave
this knowledge with astonishing freshness, minuteness, and accuracy.
The writers of these books travelled over many thousands of miles, and
they described, in the main, what they saw, although, of course, they
repeated, with more or less of exaggeration, much which they only knew
from conversation or from hearsay. Besides the written stories of such
experiences, other Europeans who accompanied these travellers, or who
made independent journeys to various parts of Asia, spread knowledge of
the same things. The author of a later popular volume of travels,
passing under the name of Sir John Mandeville, managed, by making use
of a slight acquaintance with Asia, of a fuller knowledge of the
writings of other travellers, and, most of all, of the resources of a
fertile imagination, to weave a tissue of mendacious description which
really lessened knowledge. [Footnote: Travels of Sir John Mandeville
(ed. of 1900).]

Nevertheless, as a result of these travellers' reports, the traditions
of earlier times and the knowledge of the nearer East possessed by
traders were supplemented and popularized. The journeys of the
travellers of the later thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries were a
veritable revelation to Europe of the condition of Tartary, Persia,
India, China, and many intervening lands. Especially strong was the
impression made by the reports about China and Japan. The land of the
Seres, lying on the border of the eastern ocean, had indeed been known
to the ancients, and mentioned by tradition as the source from which
came certain well-known products; but under the name of Cathay, which
Marco Polo and his contemporaries gave to it, it attained a new and
strong hold on men's imaginations. Its myriad population, its hundreds
of cities, its vast wealth, its advanced civilization, its rivers,
bridges, and ships, its manufactures and active trade, the fact that it
was the easternmost country of Asia, washed by the waters of the
external ocean--all made Cathay a land of intense interest to the
rising curiosity of thirteenth-century Europe. [Footnote: Pigeonneau,
"Histoire du Commerce de la France," II, 12, etc.] Similarly the great
island of Cipangu, or Japan, lying a thousand miles farther to the
eastward, though never actually visited by Marco Polo, and described by
him with a vague and extravagant touch, was of equally keen interest to
his readers, as were the "twelve thousand seven hundred islands" at
which he calculates the great archipelagoes which lie in the Indian
Ocean and the Pacific.

It was his accounts of "the province of Mangi," the cities of Zaiton
and Quinsay, "the Great Khan," "the island of Cipangu," and of their
vast wealth and active trade that took special hold on the mind of
Columbus. His copy of Marco Polo may still be seen, its margins filled
with annotations on such passages, made by the great navigator;
[Footnote: Vignaud, "Toscanelli and Columbus," 95.] and it was to these
that his mind reverted when he had discovered in the West Indies, as he
believed, the outlying parts of the Khan's dominions. [Footnote:
"Columbus's Journal," October 21, 23, 24, 26, 30, November 1, etc.] To
the westward also ancient knowledge was reacquired and made clearer.
The "Fortunate Isles" were rediscovered and identified as the Canaries
by the Italian Lancelot Malocello in 1270 [Footnote: Beazley, Hakluyt
Soc, "Publications," 1899, lxi, lxxviii.], then forgotten and
rediscovered in 1341 [Footnote: Ibid, lxxx; Peschel, "Zeitalter der
Entdecktungen," 37.] by some Portuguese ships, manned by Genoese,
Florentines, Castilians, and Portuguese. In 1291 Tedisio Doria and
Ugolino Vivaldi, Genoese citizens, equipped two galleys and sailed out
through the Straits of Gibraltar and then to the southward, with the
object of reaching the ports of India, but were never heard of again
[Footnote: Peschel, "Zeitalter der Entdeckungen," 36.]. Both the
Madeira Islands and the Azores became known as early as 1330, though
perhaps only in a shadowy way, and were visited from time to time later
in the fourteenth century, before they were regularly occupied in the
fifteenth [Footnote: Nordenskiold, "Periplus," 111-115; Major, "Prince
Henry the Navigator," chaps, v., viii., xiv.].

Through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, therefore, thanks for
the most part to Italian travellers, substantial gains were made in
exactitude and clearness of knowledge of the Old World. Though the
bounds of geographical knowledge were not carried much farther, and
less than one-fourth of the surface of the globe was as yet known to
Europeans, within these bounds knowledge became far more clear.

Ignorance and superstition were still abundant; a mythical kingdom of
Prester John was believed by one geographer to exist in Africa, by
another to be situated in India, and by still another to be in China;
the Atlantic was still dreaded by some as the dark, unknown limit of
the world; ignorant men may still have believed that the sea boiled at
the equator, and that men with dogs' heads and other monsters had each
its own part of the earth; but Italians of any education, especially
those acquainted with the writings of their countrymen, must have been
quite free from such mediaeval notions. By the year 1400 scientific
information, critical habits of thought, and an interest in all forms
of knowledge had reached in Italy a high degree of development and were
fast spreading through Europe.

The theory that the earth was round was familiar to the Greeks and
Romans, and was supported in the Middle Ages by the great authority of
Aristotle. [Footnote: Aristotle, De Ccelo, II., 14.] The only
difficulties lying in the way of an acceptance of this view through the
mediaeval period were, in the first place, the mental effort required
to conceive the earth as round when its visual appearance is flat; and,
secondly, the opposition of churchmen, who interpreted certain texts in
the Bible in such a way as to forbid the conception of the earth as a
sphere. Yet neither of these influences was strong enough to prevail
over the opinions of the majority of learned men. To them the earth was
round, as it was to Aristotle, Ptolemy, and other ancients. [Footnote:
Ruge, Zeitalter der Entdeckungen.] The ball which the Eastern emperors
carried as an emblem of the world-wide extent of their rule, and which
was borrowed from them by various mediaeval potentates, had probably
not lost its meaning. Dante, in the Divina Commedia, not only plans his
Inferno on the supposition of a spherical earth, but takes for granted
the same conception, on the part of his readers. [Footnote: Inferno,
canto 34, lines 100-108.]

The conception of the sphericity of the earth was really a matter of
mental training. In the fifteenth century those who had gained this
knowledge were fewer than in modern times, but the class who did so
believe were no less sure of it. Astronomers, philosophers, men of
general learning, and even navigators and pilots were quite familiar
with the idea and quite in the habit of thinking of the earth as a
sphere. In all probability Columbus represented the beliefs of his
class, as well as his own, when he said, "I have always read that the
world, comprising the land and the water, is spherical, as is testified
by the investigations of Ptolemy and others, who have proved it by the
eclipses of the moon and other observations made from east to west, as
well as by the elevation of the pole from north to south." [Footnote:
Hakluyt Soc., Publications, Hist. of Columbus--Third Voyage, II., 129.]
Opposition to voyages westward was based rather on the probability of
the enormous size of the earth and on the supposed difficulty of
sailing up the slope of the sphere than it was upon any serious doubt
of its sphericity.

The habitable world was quite a different conception. It consisted of
Europe, Asia, and Africa, these three continents forming a continuous
stretch of land lying on the surface of the spherical earth, the rest
of its surface being presumably covered with water. There was more or
less speculation about the existence of other habitable lands on the
earth than those which were known, but the interest in this possibility
was languid at best, and it was denied by learned churchmen on biblical

The map-makers of that period continued, like those of the earlier
Middle Ages, to base their work on mere half-mythical traditions,
unrelieved and uncorrected by the results of actual discoveries. Their
maps are still much like picture-books, filled with biblical and
literary lore, indicating but a slight attempt to incorporate exact
measurements and outlines. A development more revolutionary than the
mere gradual increase of knowledge was necessary to break the bonds of
academic tradition. [Footnote: Santarem, Essai sur L'Histoire de la
Cosmographie, I., 75, 167, 178.]

Just at the beginning of the fourteenth century, however, a new line
was struck out in map-making by the construction and steady development
of sailing charts, or "portolani." These humble attempts at
geographical representation were intended as practical aids to
navigation for Mediterranean mariners, and were based on practical
observation. During the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries they
reached a wonderful degree of accuracy. The coasts, bays, islands, and
promontories of the Mediterranean were plotted out in them and drawn
with striking correctness. Some four hundred such sketch-maps remain to
us, drawn by Italians from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries,
besides nearly a hundred made in other countries. [Footnote: Beazley,
in Hakluyt Soc., Publications, 1899, cxx.] They did not undertake to
give the internal features of the countries whose coast-lines they
depicted, and as their main purpose was to aid Mediterranean trade,
they did not extend so far beyond its shore as the erudition of the age
would have made possible.

The best of the world maps of the fifteenth century were based on these
Italian portolani rather than on mediaeval maps, and at the same time
added such enlarged information as became common in the Italy of the
fifteenth century. [Footnote: Ibid., cxxi., etc.]

Thus, at the very beginning of the fifteenth century European explorers
had the benefit of the traditional ancient geography, of the new
exactness of knowledge drawn from the observations of recent
travellers, of the accurate but limited portolani of the Italian
navigators, and finally of the more pretentious, if vague and often
misleading, world maps of learned geographers. If a sailor wished to
navigate the Mediterranean and its adjacent waters, if he planned to
sail up the coast of Europe to the British Isles and on into the
Baltic, or to pass down the Atlantic coast of Africa to Cape Nun, he
might rely on the maps and charts which the Italian geographers could
furnish him. Or if he launched his galleys on the Red Sea he might use
their guidance down the east coast of Africa to the equator. He would
also find tolerably accurate descriptions of all the southern coasts of
Asia. In the interior a traveller by land could know beforehand the
main features of the countries he might traverse. Beyond these limits,
either by sea or by land, geographical knowledge must be sought by
discovery or followed along the lines of dim report. If European
sailors should follow the coast of Africa below the twenty-seventh
parallel of north latitude, or of Europe above the sixtieth, or if they
should direct their course into the western ocean beyond the Azores,
they would be sailing into the unknown, and whatever they should find
would be fresh acquisition.

The two instruments which were the most requisite for distant voyaging,
the compass and the astrolabe (the predecessor of the quadrant), were
already, in 1400, known and used by Mediterranean navigators. The
property of turning towards the north, possessed by a magnetized
needle, was certainly known as early as the close of the twelfth
century; and even its use by sailors to find their directions when the
sun and stars were obscured. More than one mediaeval writer describes
the process by which a needle is rubbed on a piece of magnetic iron,
then laid on a straw or attached to a piece of cork, and floated on
water till its point turns towards the north star. [Footnote: Alexander
Neckham, De Utensilibus; De Natura Rerum, book II., chap, xcviii.;
Guyot de Provins, La Bible, Jacques de Vitry, Historia Orientalis;
Brunette Latini, Epistolas, who mentions Roger Bacon as showing him a
magnet at Oxford in 1258. Quoted in Beazley, Hakluyt Soc, Publications,
1899, cxliv., etc.] But its properties savored of magic; the earlier
sailors, who hugged the shore, scarcely needed it, and it came into
general use as slowly and imperceptibly as most of the other great
inventions of the world.

The introduction of the compass into general use is, by tradition,
ascribed to the Italian city of Amain, and it is easy to believe that
the enterprising sailors of this commercial republic brought it into
established recognition. By the early years of the fifteenth century
the compass was provided with the card, marked with the directions,
placed in the compass-box, and made a well-known part of the equipment
of the navigator. [Footnote: Azurara, Discovery of Guinea, chap ix.]
The mariner could now tell his directions wherever he might be, and the
spider-web net-work of "compass-roses" on many of the early maps shows
how anxious the map-maker was to provide lines along which the
navigator might lay his course according to his compass. The makers of
the better class of portolani evidently had the use of the compass in
drawing their charts. [Footnote: Santarem, Essai sur L'Histoire de la
Cosmographie, I., 280-305.] The changed position of the heavenly bodies
as the early traveller passed northward or southward struck him with
especial force. Marco Polo, describing the island of Sumatra, says,
"But let me tell you one marvellous thing, and that is the fact that
this island lies so far to the south that the north star, little or
much, is never to be seen." [Footnote: Marco Polo (Yule's ed.), book
III., chap. ix.] He also notes on his journey northward through India,
when he sees it again, "two cubits above the water." When Cadamosto,
the Venetian, saw the pole-star at "the third of a lance's length above
the edge of the waves," he recorded it as one of the most striking
phenomena of his journey towards the equator.

Two instruments were known by which the elevation above the horizon of
the pole-star, or any other heavenly body could be measured. The older
of these was the "cross-staff," or St. James's staff, a simple rod
marked into degrees, at the end of which the eye was placed and along
which a measured cross-piece was pushed, till one of its ends hid a
point oh the horizon and the other the sun or star whose height was
being measured. The astrolabe was a somewhat more elaborate instrument,
consisting of a brass circle marked with degrees, against which two
movable bars were fastened, each provided at the ends with a sight or
projecting piece pierced by a hole. This was hung by a ring from a peg
in the mast or from the hand, so that gravity would make one of its
bars horizontal. Then the other bar was sighted to point towards some
heavenly body. Chaucer, in 1400, gave to his "litel Lowis my sone" an
astrolabe calculated "after the latitude of Oxenford," and wrote a
charming treatise to explain to him in English its use, "for Latin ne
canstow yit but smal, my lyte sone." In this treatise he described to
him, among other things, "diverse tables of longitudes and latitudes of
sterres." [Footnote: Chaucer, A Treatise on the Astrolabe, Prologue;
Skeat, The Student's Chaucer, 396.] By means of either of these
instruments latitude could be measured or calculated. Longitude was a
more difficult problem; it involved the calculation of the difference
of time as well as measurements of elevation of the heavenly bodies.
The calculations necessary to discover actual locations from an
observation were too long and complicated to be made on each occasion;
and "ephemerides," or calculated tables of elevations of planets and of
differences of time, were required. Just when the earliest of such
tables were constructed and when chronometers came into use is obscure,
but they were in existence in at least a rudimentary form early in the
fifteenth century. [Footnote: Humboldt, Examen Critique, I., 274.]

The condition of Europe early in the fifteenth century as compared with
its condition early in the thirteenth shows a great advance in those
lines which made extensive exploration possible, and this advance was
chiefly due to Italians. Increased knowledge, improved equipment,
instruments of astronomical observation, navigating charts, and a face
of educated navigators, made a part of the European background of
American history as truly as did the incentive to exploration afforded
by the search for new routes to the East. Of course much progress
remained to be accomplished in the making of maps and globes, in the
improvement of instruments, and in the calculation of tables during the
period of discovery. The awakened scientific interest which had already
shown itself as part of the Renaissance found scope in the practical
requirements of distant voyages. While men were discovering new
continents and seas, they were at the same time solving many problems
of geographical science and perfecting the equipment by which further
advance was made practicable.



The great period of explorations, of which the discovery of America was
a part, lay between the years 1485 and 1520, between the discovery of
the Cape of Good Hope by Diaz and the circumnavigation of the globe by
the ships of Magellan. Long before this period of fruition, however,
there was a significant movement of discovery, and an important
acquisition of knowledge, experience, and boldness in exploration. This
early dawn, preparatory to the later day, consisted in a series of
discoveries on the west coast of Africa, due to the energy of the
Portuguese and to the enlightenment of their great Prince Henry.

Portugal was especially fitted to be the pioneer in modern maritime
exploration. Without geographical or racial separation from the rest of
the Iberian peninsula, the national distinctness of Portugal was
largely a matter of sentiment gathering around the sovereign. The
nationality of Portugal had been created in the first place by the
policy of its rulers, and preserved by them until the growth of
separate material interests, a national language and literature, and
traditions of glorious achievements confirmed the separateness of the
Portuguese nationality from that of Spain.

The desire to hold aloof from other Spanish countries turned the
attention of the king of Portugal to more distant alliances, and the
open western seaboard naturally suggested that these should be with
maritime states. In 1294 a treaty of commerce was signed with England.
A century later, 1386, a much closer alliance with that country was
formed and a new treaty signed at Windsor. [Footnote: Rymer, Foedera,
II., 667, VII., 515-523.] This was followed in the next year by a
marriage between the king of Portugal and Philippa, daughter of the
English John of Gaunt and first cousin of King Richard. This "Treaty of
Windsor" was renewed again and again by succeeding English and
Portuguese sovereigns and remained the foundation of their relationship
until it was superseded long afterwards by still closer treaty
arrangements. With Flanders, Portugal had frequent peaceful
intercourse, both in trade and in diplomacy. A Venetian fleet also
called from time to time at the harbor of Lisbon on the way to and from
England and Flanders, and thus brought Portugal into contact with the
great Italian republic, and may have aroused an interest in far Eastern
trade products of which loaded the galleys.

The contract before referred to by which Emanuel Pesagno was made
hereditary lord high admiral, in 1317, continued to be fulfilled by the
descendants of the first great admiral through the whole fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries, and kept up a constant connection with Genoa.
[Footnote: M. G. Canale, Storia del Commercio, Viaggi, &c., degl'
Italiani, book II., chap. x., etc., quoted by Payne, New World, 96.]
Thus the associations of Portugal were with a line of seaboard states
extending from England to Italy. After 1263 the maritime interests of
the Portuguese kings became more distinct by their conquest from the
Moors of the kingdom of Algarves, giving them a southern as well as a
western sea-coast. [Footnote: Stephens, Hist. of Portugal, 81.] It was
at Sagres, on Cape St. Vincent, which juts out into the open Atlantic
Ocean on the extreme southwest of this province, that Henry, the fifth
son of John II. of Portugal, established his dwelling-place in 1419,
and created a centre of maritime interest and a base of exploring
effort which was of world-wide influence. Henry was duke of Viseu, lord
of Cavailham, viceroy of Algarves, and grand master of the Order of
Christ. He had no wife or children; his private estate was, therefore,
available for the expenses of exploring voyages; and projects of
geographical discovery became his chief occupation. Whatever other
duties or services were required of him on account of his membership in
the royal family, he always returned to Sagres and to his exploring
expeditions. He possessed also the interest and support of his father
and brother, who successively occupied the throne. After his death his
work was carried on by his nephew, King Alfonso V. The work of Henry
was, therefore, substantially the concern of the whole royal family of
Portugal for three generations. [Footnote: Major, Prince Henry the
Navigator, chaps. iv., vi., xiii., xviii.]

Prince Henry "the Navigator," as he has come to be called, gathered
around him a body of men trained as sailors; he learned the use of
charts and instruments, taught these arts to his captains, and
ultimately made the neighboring port of Lagos the most famous point in
the world for the departure and return of exploring expeditions.
[Footnote: Nordenskiold, Periplus, 121 A. For discussion of divergent
views of Prince Henry's "school of navigation," see Beazley.] During
forty years expedition after expedition was equipped almost yearly and
sent down along the west coast of Africa, in the effort to solve its
mystery and, if possible, to sail around its southern extremity.

In the process of exploration Prince Henry was governed by some of the
strongest of human impulses. The crusading spirit was hot within him,
and he hoped to continue in Africa the old struggle of the Portuguese
Christians against the Moorish infidels. Gentler missionary ideals
caused him to plan to spread Christianity into new lands, and to make
connection with Prester John, the Christian ruler of the India which
lay to the eastward of Africa. [Footnote: Hakluyt Soc., Publications,
1899, cvi.-cxii. Murara, Discovery of Guinea, chaps, vii., xvi.] His
interest in trade was equally strong; he was familiar with the internal
trade of Africa, and he lost no opportunity of developing traffic along
the sea-coast. [Footnote: Azurara, Discovery of Guinea, chap. vii]

Yet it was the instinct of the explorer that inspired Prince Henry with
the steady devotion to his life work. The fine curiosity which placed
geographical discovery above all material gain, and rewarded his
captains, not in proportion to what they had accomplished, but in
proportion to the efforts they had made to carry the boundaries of
knowledge farther, kept him and them intent on the work of exploration.
[Footnote: Bourne, "Prince Henry the Navigator," in Essays in
Historical Criticism, 173-189.] Henry possessed, at the beginning of
his explorations, little more than the traditional geographical
conceptions of the later Middle Ages. Besides some twelve or fourteen
extant fourteenth-century maps drawn by Italian draughtsmen, which were
probably all known to Henry, his brother Pedro gave him one which has
since disappeared, which had been constructed at Venice, and which "had
all the parts of the world and earth described." [Footnote: Major,
Prince Henry, 62.] He was probably also familiar with the classical
tales of the circumnavigation of Africa.

Besides this he had some important personal knowledge. During a
Portuguese invasion of the Barbary states of Africa in 1415, in which
Prince Henry served with his father and brothers, and later when he was
himself in command, he found that there were caravan routes whose
termini were at Ceuta and other Mediterranean towns. From the Sahara
and the Soudan, across the desert, came caravans to the Mediterranean
coast bringing gold, wine, and slaves, and news of trading routes far
to the southward.

Moreover, these routes extended to rivers and seacoasts unknown to
Europeans, which must, nevertheless, be connected with the open
Atlantic Ocean, and might well be on the southern shore of that
continent. "He got news of the passage of merchants from the coast of
Tunis to Timbuctoo and to Cantor on the Gambia, which inspired him to
seek those lands by way of the sea." [Footnote: Diego Gomez, quoted in
Beazley, Introduction to Azurara's Chronicle (Hakluyt Soc.,
Publications, 1899).] "The tawny Moors, his prisoners, told him of
certain tall palms growing at the mouth of the Senegal or western Nile,
by which he was able to guide the caravels which he sent out to find
that river." [Footnote: Ibid.]

The first decade of Henry's efforts, from 1420 to 1430, resulted in
little in the way of new discovery. The Madeira and Azores islands were
rediscovered and their full exploration and permanent colonization
begun. Every year saw one or more caravels sent from Lagos southward to
follow the coast of the main-land; but they skirted no shores that were
not desert, and turned back baffled by their own fears. Cape Boyador
long remained a barrier whose imaginary dangers of reef and shoal
served as an excuse for the still more unreal horrors of the "Sea of

The next decade saw better results. In 1434 Gil Eannes, one of the
boldest of the captains who were growing up in Prince Henry's service,
when he reached Boyador, sailed far out to sea, doubled the cape, and,
returning to the coast, landed and gathered "St. Mary's roses," and
took them home to the prince as a memento of the "farthest South."
[Footnote: Azurara, Discovery of Guinea, chap. ix.] The greatest
barrier had been passed, that of superstitious dread, and almost every
voyage now brought its result of progress farther southward. Soon the
boundaries of Islam were passed, for natives were found on the coast
who were not Mohammedans.

The third decade saw still further advance. In 1441 Nuno Tristam
discovered Cape Blanco, the "White Cape," glistening with the white
sand of the Sahara. In 1445 Dinis Diaz, of Lisbon, sailed at last
beyond the desert and reached Cape Verd, the "Green Cape," [Footnote:
Ibid., chap. xxxi.] fifteen hundred miles down the African coast, and
as far from Gibraltar south as Constantinople was east. By this time
the captains of Prince Henry had reached the fertile and populous
shores where the western Soudan borders on the Atlantic Ocean, and a
new obstacle to further exploration revealed itself in the attraction
and the profit of the slave-trade.

The first "Moors" or negroes were some ten or twelve captured and
brought home in the year 1441 by Antam Goncalvez, to satisfy the
curiosity of the prince and to obtain information useful for the
further prosecution of the voyages. Others were soon brought for other
purposes. Of the two hundred and thirty-five Moors who made up the
first full cargo of human freight, the prince gave away the fifty-six
which fell to his share as one-fifth, although it is recorded with the
somewhat grotesque piety of the fifteenth century that "he reflected
with great pleasure on the salvation of their souls that before were
lost." [Footnote: Azurara, Discovery of Guinea, chap. xxv.]

There is no reason to believe that Henry planned or wished the
development of a trade in slaves; [Footnote: The statement to the
contrary in the Cambridge Modern Hist., I., 10, is not deducible from
any contemporary evidence.] but labor was scarce on the great estates
of southern Portugal, slaves were in demand, and very different desires
from those of the prince might be gratified by capturing and bringing
to the slave-market of Lagos the unfortunate natives of the newly
discovered coasts. Hence one expedition after another, sent out for
purposes of discovery, returned, bringing tales of failure to reach
farther points on the coast, but laden with human booty to be sold.
Private adventurers sought and obtained the prince's permission to send
out caravels, and these also brought home cargoes of slaves. Only the
most vigorous pressure, exercised on the choicest spirits among the
Portuguese captains, served now to carry discoveries farther.

Nevertheless, a basis of interest in distant voyages had been found
which had not existed before; and the further exploration of the
African coast was certain, even in default of the personal
enlightenment and enthusiasm of the Navigator. The expeditions sent by
the prince and private voyages made familiar to the mariners of
Portugal two thousand miles of coast instead of six hundred as of old.
Guinea was eventually reached.

In 1455 the Venetian Cadamosto entered into Henry's service; and,

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