World History
































The Modern World

The Modern World

The great European voyages of discovery ushered in a new age of history, the Modern Age that continues to the present day. This was the first truly global age when ships from Europe sailed the world’s oceans bringing together the Old World and the New World. The consequences were enormous: populations in the Americas were destroyed and replaced by newcomers from distant lands, international trade swelled, and people the world over started growing new plants and eating new foods.

Why did these ships come from Western Europe and not from some other advanced civilization? The Muslim world was dealing with internal concerns following the disruptions of the Mongol conquests. China was also looking inward after halting the ocean voyages of Zheng He. Kings in Western Europe, on the other hand, encouraged exploration to find new trading opportunities to increase their wealth and to help them compete against rival kings. When the Muslim Ottomans took control in the Middle East and disturbed overland trade routes, both Spain and Portugal sent explorers to look for new ocean routes to the spice - growing lands of Asia. While Spain stumbled across America instead, Portugal succeeded in opening a southern trade route to Asia by sailing around Africa into the Indian Ocean.

With their long reach into the oceans, European nations went from being a quarrelsome collection of medieval states to the world’s most dynamic civilization, still quarrelsome but armed with advanced ships and weapons. From this point forward, Western civilization and world history were bound together.

Old World = the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa

New World = the continents of North and South America, as distinguished from the “Old World” of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

China = a large country in east Asia. Its capital city is Beijing.

Spain = the largest country on the on the Iberian Peninsula; its capital city is Madrid.

Portugal = the country located next to Spain on the Iberian Peninsula. Its capital is Madrid. During the Age of Exploration (1500s), Portuguese explorers were among the first to explore the coast of Africa.

medieval = of the Middle Ages; the word “medieval” comes from the Latin word “medium,” meaning “middle”.