An extract on #liveauthentic
Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492 under Spanish flag. Six years later Vasco da Gama reached India under Portuguese flag, by navigating south around the Cape of Good Hope, thus proving that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are connected. In 1500, in his voyage to India following Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral reached Brazil, taken by the currents of the South Atlantic Gyre. Following these explorations, Spain and Portugal quickly conquered and colonized large territories in the New World and forced the Native American population into slavery in order to explore the vast quantities of silver and gold they found. Spain and Portugal monopolized this trade in order to keep other European nations out, but conflicting interests nevertheless lead to a series of Spanish-Portuguese wars. A peace treaty mediated by the Pope divided the conquered territories into Spanish and Portuguese sectors while keeping other colonial powers away. England, France, and the Dutch Republic enviously watched the Spanish and Portuguese wealth grow and allied themselves with pirates such as Henry Mainwaring and Alexandre Exquemelin. They could explore the convoys leaving America because prevailing winds and currents made the transport of heavy metals slow and predictable.
In the American colonies depredation, disease, and slavery quickly reduced the indigenous American population to the extent that the Atlantic slave trade had to be introduced to replace them a trade that became norm and an integral part of the colonization. Between the 15th century and 1888, when Brazil became the last part of America to end slave trade, an estimated ten million Africans were exported as slaves, most of them destined for agricultural labour. The slave trade was officially abolished in the British Empire and the United States in 1808, and slavery itself was abolished in the British Empire in 1838 and in the U.S. in 1865 after the Civil War.
From Columbus to the Industrial Revolution Trans-Atlantic trade, including colonialism and slavery, became crucial for Western Europe. For European countries with a direct access to the Atlantic (including Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain) 15001800 was a period of sustained growth during which these countries grew richer than those in Eastern Europe and Asia. Colonialism evolved as part of the Trans-Atlantic trade, but this trade also strengthened the position of merchant groups at the expense of monarchs. Growth was more rapid in non-absolutist countries, such as Britain and the Netherlands, and more limited in absolutist monarchies, such as Portugal, Spain, and France, where profit mostly or exclusively benefited the monarchy and its allies.
Trans-Atlantic trade also resulted in an increasing urbanization: in European countries facing the Atlantic urbanization grew from 8% in 1300, 10.1% in 1500, to 24.5% in 1850; in other European countries from 10% in 1300, 11.4% in 1500, to 17% in 1850. Likewise, GDP doubled in Atlantic countries but rose by only 30% in the rest of Europe. By end of the 17th century the volume of the Trans-Atlantic trade had surpassed that of the Mediterranean trade.