,~~ARITIME A NEW MARITIME NETWORK The establishment of new sea routes, including the Atlantic and Pacific, and the acceleration of maritime trade we...
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The establishment of new sea routes, including the Atlantic and Pacific, and the acceleration of maritime trade were hallmarks of the early modern period in world history. They resulted in new kinds of contacts between the Americas and other par~s of the world. They created new trade t~lationships not only for the Americas but for Africa, Western Europe and parts of Asia as well. The authors of the new maritime system, as it took shape in the later 15th and 1 6th centuries, were primarily Europeans, although assistance from pilots and merchants from other societies played a role as well. A key question, obviously, involves the motivations that drew a few leading Europeans into this kind of innovation--for motivations not only help explain the causes of the new maritime system but suggest what some of the consequences would be as well in terms of the goals Europeans would pursue as they encountered different lands. Materials in this chapter, from several writers and explorers in the 15th, 16th and early 17th centuries, suggest the mixture of knowledge/ignorance, materialism, and religion that helped spur the growing range of voyages. The challenge, in analyzing the documents, is threefold: first, to put together the combinations of motives and beliefs that the materials suggest, for they hardly point in one direction. And second, to ask about other factors--technology, for instance--that need to be built into any full explanation of why the Europeans moved out as they di~l. And third, to speculate about what kinds of policies Europeans would pursue ’bnce they established the new maritime system, compared, for example, to the dominant interests of other societies at the time. Selection I involves a mythical story about the mysterious Christian leader Prester John, the subject of a widely believed forged letter in France in the 15th century. The hopes to find Prester John, and his wealth and religious leadership at a time of growing Selection i fi-om PresterJohn: 77ze Letter and the Legend, pp. 6-78, passim. Trans. Vsevolod Slessarev. Copyright © 1959 University of Minnesota. Renewed 1987 Helga Slessarev. Repri~lted courtesy of the University of Minnesota Press. Selection II f~om Petrus Ailliacus: Imago Mundi, trans. E. E Keever (Wilmington. N.C., i948). Selection III fi’om The Diario of Christopher Colum6us’s First Voyage to America 1492-1493, by Christopher Columbus, edited by Ollvev Dunn andJ. E. Kelley, Jr. pp. I09-129, passim. Copyright © 1989 University of Oldahoma Press, Norman, OK. Reprinted by permission, Selection IV fi’om 7YleFo~r Voyages of Cokurabus, trans, and ed. Cecil Jane, 2 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1929, !982; reprinted New York: Dover Publications, 1988), vol, 2, pp. 28-36, passim. Reprinted by permission. Selection V from Josfi de Acosta, TheNatural and g4oralHistory of the I2zdia~" [!590], ts’ans. Edward Grimston (London, 1604). Book IV, Chs. 6-4, English modernized.



Sect)on One / The Early Modern period, Centuries of Dramatic Change: 1400s-)700s


Spain and Portugual: Explorations and Colonies. In the earn years of exploration, Spanish and Portuguese voyagers surveyed much of the coast of South America and some choice ports in Africa and Asia,

pressure from the Islamic world, motivated not only beliefs but actual policies; the Portuguese sent an expedition to Ethiopia (where there was indeed a Christian king but not Prester John), in 1493, to this end. Selection 2 is from a ! 5th century geography boo~ by Petrus Ailliacus published in about 14! 4, summing up current understanding of classica! geographical knowledge, from Aristotle, Ptolemy and the Bible, and discussing the relationship between Europe and India. Two selections from Columbus follow, featuring both his sense of geography and hi~ religious orientation. In 1492, in the logbook of his first trip, he indicated where he thought he was in Asia, with obvious references to information gleaned from travel books like Marco Polo’s about the Mongol Khans, China, and Japan; then, more generally, in 1498, on a followup voyage, Columbus sketched some of his larger geographical ideas. Finally, a later comment, on what the Europeans had been finding in the new world, comes from Jos~ de Acosta’s Natural and Moral History of the Indies, 1590.

STUDY GUESTIONS 1. What major regions of the world were most affected, and which least, by the new patterns of" maritime activity? ¯ contact networks? 2. What impact would the new trade routes have on prewous

Chapte~ I / A New Maritime Network

FRANCE Prester John, by the Grace of God most powerful king over all Christian kings, greetings to the Emperor of Rome and the King of France, our friends. We wish you to learn about us, our position, the government of our land, and our people and beasts. And since you sa that our Greeks " Y , or men of Grecian race, do not pray to God the way you do in your country, we let you know that we worship and believe in Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons in one Deity and one true God only. We attest and inform you by our lette~; sealed with our sea!, of the condition and character of our land and men. And if you desire something that we can do for you, ask us, for we shall do it gladly. In case ’you wish to come hither to our country, we shall make you on account of your good reputation our successors and we shall grant you vast lands, manors, and mansions. Let it be known to you tt~at we have the highest crown on earth as well as gold, silver, precious stones and strong fortresses, cities, towns, castles, and boroughs. We have under our sway forty-two kings who all are mighty and good Christians .... Our land is divided into four parts, for there are so many Indias. In Greater India lies the body of the Apostle Saint Thomas fbr whom our Lord has wrought more miracles than for the [other] saints who are in heaven. And this India is toward the East, for it is near the deserted Babylon and also near the tower called Babel .... Know also that in our country there grows wild pepper amidst trees and serpents. When it becomes ripe, we send our people to gather it. They put the woods on fire and everything burns, but when the fire has died out, they make great heaps of pepper and serpents and they put the pepper together and carry it later to a barn, wash it in two or three waters, and let it dry in the sun. In this way it becomes black, hard, and biting .... Let it be known to you that we have swift horses which can carry a knight in full armor for three or four days without taking food. And whenever we go to war; we let fourteen kings, clad in garments of gold and silver, carry in front of us fourteen ensigns adorned with sundry precious stones. Other kings who come behind carry richly decorated banners of silk. I~mw that in front of us there march forty thousand clerics and an equal number of knights, then come two hu~aglre~ thousand men on foot, not counting the wagons with_ provisions or the elephants and camels which carry arrns and ammunition .... Know that I had been blessed betbre I was born, for God has sent an angel to my father who told him to build a palace full of God’s grace and a chamber of paradise for the child to come, who was to be the greatest king on earth and to live for a long time. And whoever stays in the palace will never suff~r hunger, thirst, or death. When my father had woke up from his slumber, he was overly joyful and he began to build the palace which you will see. First of all, its walls are of crystal the ceiling above is of precious stones and it is adorned w th stars similar to those oftbe sky, and its floor is also of crystal. There are no windows or doors in this palace and inside it has twenty-four columns of gold and various precious stones. We stay there during the big holidays of the year and in the midst of it St. Thomas [an apostle of Christ who allegedly traveled to



Section One / The Early Modern Period, Centuries of Dramatic Change: 1400sMT00s

India] preaches to the people. And inside our palace there is [water] and the best wine on earth, and whoever drinks of it has no desire fbr worldly things, and nobody knows where the [water] goes or whence it comes. There is still another great marvel in our palace, for no food is served in it except on a tray, grill, or trencher that hangs from a column, so that when we sit at the table and wish to eat, the food is placed before Us by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Know that all the scribes on earth could not report or describe the riches of our palace and our chapel. Everything we have written to you is as true as there is God, and for nothing in the world would we lie, since God an& St. Thomas would confound us and deprive us of our title. II. AILLIACUS, IMAGO MUNDI The investigation into the quantity of the habitable earth demands that we should consider "habitability" from two angles. One has respect m the heaven; that is, how much of it can be inhabited on account of the Sun, and how much cannot. On this sufficient was said previously in a general way. From another angle it must be considered with respect to the water, i.e., how far the water is in the way. To this we now turn, and on it there are various opinions among the wise men. Ptolemy in his book The Arrar~gement of the Sphere (Dispositione Spere) would have almost a sixth part of tl~e earth habitable because of the water. So also his Algamestus, in Book II, says that there is no known habitation except on one fourth of the earth, i.e., where we live; and that it extends lengthwise from east to west, the equator being in the middle. Its breadth is from the equator to the pole; and it is a fourth of the colurus [sphere]. Aristotle, however, in the close of his book on The Heaven and the Earth would have it that more than a fourth is inhabited. Averroes confirms this. Aristotle says that a small sea lies between the confines of Spain on the western side and the beginnings of India on the eastern side. He is not speaking of Hither Spain (certeriori) which in these times is commonly known as Spain, but of Farther Spain (ulteriori) which is now called Africa. On this topic certain authors have spoken, such as Pliny, Orosius, and Isidore. Moreover Seneca in the fifth book of the Naturaliurr~ holds that the sea is navigable in a f~w days if th~ wind is favorable. Pliny in the Naturalibus Book II informs us that it has been ~avigated fi-orn the Arabian Sea to the Pillars of Hercules in rather a short time. From these and many other reckonings, on which I shall expand when I speak of the ocean, some apparently conclude that the sea is not so great that it can cover three quarters of tbe earth. Add to this the judgment of Esdras in his 1V Book [Bible] where he says that six parts of the earth are inhabited and the seventh is covered with water. The ~mthority of this book the Saints have held in reverence and by it have established sacred truths .... There ought to be an abundance of water toward the poles of the earth because those regions are cold on account of their distance h-ore the sun; and.the cold accumulates moisture. Therefore the water runs down from one pole toward the other into the body of the sea and spreads out between the confines o.f Spain and the beginning of India, of no great width, in such a way that the beginning of India can be beyond the middle of the equinoctial circle and approach beneath the earth quite close to the coast of Spain. Likewise Pa’istotle and his commentator

Chapter I / A New Maritime Network

came to the same conclusion because there are so many elephants in those regions. Says Pliny: "Around Mr. Atlas elephants abound." So also in India and even in ulterior Spain there are great herds of elephants. But, reasons 3a’istotle, the elephants in both those places ought m show similar characteristics; if widely separated they " would not have the same characteristics. Therefore he concludes those countries are close neighbors and that a small sea intervenes; and moreover that the sea covers three-quarters of the earth; that the beginnings of the east and the west are near by, since a small sea separates them. IIIA. COLUMBUS’S LOGBOOK, 1492 Sunday 21 October ¯.. And afterwards I will leave for another very large island that I believe must be Cipango [Japan] according to the indications that these Indians that I have give me, and which they call Colba. In it they say there are many and very large ships and many traders. And from this island [I will go to] another which they call Boh~o, which also they say is very big. And the others which are in between I will also see on the way; and, depending on whether I find a quantity of gold or spices, I will decide what i am to do. But I have already decided to go to the mainland and to the city of Quinsay [in Asia] and to give Your Highnesses’ letters to the Grand Khan [Mongol ruler of China] and to ask for, and to come with, a reply. Wednesday 24 October Tonight at midnight I weighed anchors from the island of Isabela [Fortunate/ Crooked Islands], from the Cabo del Isleo, which is in the northern part, where I was staying, to go to the island of Cuba, which I heard fi’om these people was very large and of great commerce and that there were there gold and spices and great ships and merchants; and they showed me that [sailing] to the west-southwest I would go to it. And I believe so, because I believe that it is so according to the signs that all the Indians of these islands and those that I have with me rnake (because I do not understand them through speech) [and] that it is the island of Cipango of which marvelous things are told. And in the spheres that I saw ~nd in world maps it is in this region. Friday26 October He went from ~he southern part of the said islands five or six leagues, it was all shoal. He anchored there. The Indians that he brought said that from the islands to Cuba was a journey of a day and a half in their dugouts, which are small vessels made of a single timber which do not carry sails¯ These are canoes. He leR from there for Cuba, because from the signs that the Indians gave him of its size and of its gold and pearls he thought it must be it, that is, Cipango. Sunday 28 October While he was going toward land with the ships, two dugouts or canoes came out. And when they saw that the sailors were getting into the launch and were rowing to go look at the depth of the river in order to know where they should anchor; the canoes fled. The Indians said that in that island there were gold mines and pearls,



Section One / The Early Modern Period, Centuries of Dramatic Change: 1400s-1700s

and the Admiral saw a likely place for pearls and clams, which are a sign of them. And the Admiral understood that large ships fi’om the Grand Khan carne there and that from there to tierrafirvze [the mainland] was a journey of ten days. The Admiral named that river and harbor San Salvador. Tuesday 30 October He went out of the Rio de Mares to the northwest and, after he had gone 15 leagues, saw a cape full of pahns and named it Cabo de Palmas. The Indians in the caravel Pi~zta said that behind tbat cape there was a river and that from the river to Cuba was a fore:day journey. A~id the captain of the Pi~zta said .that he understood that this Cuba was a city and that that land was a very big landmass that went far m the north, and that the king of that land was at war with the Grand Kban, whom they call carol, and his land or city, Faba, and many other names. The Admiral decided to go to tbat river and to send a present to the king of the land and to send him the letter of the sovereigns. And for this purpose he had a sai!or who had gone on the same kind of mission in Guinea, and certain Indians from Guanahani wished m go with him so that afterward they would be returned m their own land. In the opinion of the Admiral he was distant from the equinoctial line 42 degrees toward the northern side (if the text fi’orn which I took this is not corrupt). And he says that he must strive to go to the Grand Khan, whom be thought was somewhere around there, or to the city of Cathay [China], which belongs to the Grand Khan, for he says that it is very large, according to what he was told before he left Spain. All this land he says, is low and beautifhl, and the sea deep.

IIIB. 1498 I have always read that the world, land and watei; was spberical, and authoritative accounts and the experiments which Ptolemy [ancient Greek geographer] and all the others have recorded concerning this inatter, so describe it and hold it m be, by the eclipses of the moon and by other demonstrations made from east to west, as well as fi’orn the elevation of the pole star ftom north to south. Now, as ]~ have already said, I have seen so great irregularity that, as a result, I have been led m hold this concerning the world, and I find that it is not round as they describe it, but that it is the shape of a pear which is everywhere very round except where the stalkis; for there it is very prominent, or that it is like a very round ball, and on one part of it is placed something like a woman’s nipple, and that this part, where this protuberance is found, is the highest arid nearest to the sky, and it is beneath the equinoctial line and in this Ocean sea at the end of the East. I call that "the end of the East," where end all the land and islands .... Holy Scripture testifies that Our Lord made the earthly paradise and in it placed the tree of life, and from it issues a fountain fi’om which flow four of the chief rivers of this world, the Ganges in India, the Tigris and Euphrates in. which cut through a mountain range and form Mesopotamia and flow into Persia, and the Nile which rises in Ethiopia and enters the sea at Alexandria. I do not find and I have never found any writing of the Romans or of" the Greeks which gives definitely the position in the world of the earthly paradise, nor have I seen it in any world map, placed with authority based upon proof. Some

Chapter I / A New Maritime Network

placed it there where are the sources of the Nile in Ethiopia, but others traversed al! these lands and found no similarity to it in the climate or in elevation towards the sky, to make it comprehensible that it was there, nor that the rising waters of the deluge had reached that place, &c [etc.]. Some Gentiles wished to show by arguments ’that itwas in the Fortunate islands, which are the Canaries .... &c. St. Isidore and all the learned theologians agree that the earthly paradise is in the East, &c. I have already said that which I hold concerning this hemisphere and its shape, and I believe that if I were to pass beneath the equinoctial line, then, arriving there at the highest point, I should find an even more temperate climate and difikrence in the stars and waters. Not that I believe that to the summit of the extreme point is navigable, or water; or that it is possible to ascend there, for I believ~ that the earthly paradise is there and to it, save by the will of God, no man can come .... IV. ACOSTA Gold, silver, and metals grow naturally in land that is barren and unfruit!u!. And we see, that in lands of good temperature, the which ate fertile with grass and fruits, there are seldom tbund any mines; for that Nature is contented to give them vigor to bring forth fi’uits more necessary tbr the preservation and maintenance of the lifk of beasts and men. And contrariwise to lands that are very rough, dry, and barren (as in the highest mountains and inaccessible rocks of a rough temper) they find mines of silver, of quick-silver, and of gold; and al! those riches (which come into Spain since the West Indies were discovered) have been drawn out of such places which are rough and fnll, bare and fruitless: yet the taste of this money makes these places pleasing and agreeable, well inhabited with numbers of people .... We find not that the Indians in former times used gold, silver, or any other metal for money, and for the price of things, but only for ornament .... whereof there was great quantity in their teruples, palaces, and tombs, with a thousand kinds of vessels of gold and silver, which they had. They used no gold nor silver to traffic or buy but did change and sell one thing for another, as Homer and Pliny report of the Ancients. They had some other things of greater esteem which went current amongst them for price, and instead of coins; and unto this day this custom continues amongst the Indians, as in the Provinces of Mexico, instead of money they use cacao, which is a small fruit, and therewith b@ what they will .... Gold amongst other metals has be~ always held the most excellent, and with reason, being the most durable and incorruptible Of all others; fbr fire which consumes and diminishes the rest amends it, and brings it to perfection. Gold which has often passed through the fire, keeps his color; and is most fine and pure .... And although his substance and body be firm and solid, yet does it yield and bow wonderfully; the beaters and drawers of gold know well the force it has to be drawn out without breaking. Al! which things well considered, with other excellent properties, will give men of Judgment to understand, wherefor the Holy Scripture do compare Charity to gold. To conclude, there is little need to relate the excellencies there.of to make it more desirable. For the greatest excellency it has, is to be known, as ~t ts, amongst men, fbr the supreme power and greatness of the world. Coming therefbre to our subject; at the Indies there is great abundance of ,cell by a the Inca



Section One / The Early Modern Period, Centuries of Dramatic Change: 1400s-1700s

content themselves with great and small vessels of gold, as pots, cups, goblets, and flagons; with bowls or great vessels, but they had chairs also and litters of massive gold, and in their temples they had set up many Images of pure gold, whereof !hey find some yet at Mexico, but not such store as when the first Conquerors came into the one and the other kingdom, who found great treasure, and without doubt there was much more hidden in the earth by the Indians. It would seem ridiculous to report that they have made their horse shoes of silver for want of iron, and that they have paid three hundred crowns for a bottle of wine, and other strange things; and yet in truth this has come to pass, yes and greater matters. They draw gold in those parts after three sorts, or at the least, I have seen all thre.e used. For either they find gold in grains, in powder, or in stone. They do call gold in grains, small naorsels of gold, which they find whole, without mixture of any other metal, which hath no need of melting or refining in the fire: and they call them pippins, for that commonly they are like pippins, or seeds of melons .... There is another kind which the Indians call papas [potatoes] and sometimes they find pieces very fine and pure, like to small round roots, the which is rare in that metal, but usual in gold. They find little of this gold in pippin, in respect of the other kinds. Gold in stone is a vein of gold that grows or ingendereth within the stone or flint, as I have seen in the mines of Saruma, within the government of Sa/inas [Ecuador), very great stones pierced and intermixed with gold; others that were half gold, and half stone. The gold which grow in this manner is found in pits or mines, which have veins like silver mines, but it is very hard to draw it forth .... The’/refine powdered gold in basins, washing it in many waters until the sand falls from"it, and the gold, as most heavy, remains in the bottom. They refine it likewise with quick-silver and strong water, for.. ¯ this water has the virtue to separate gold from dross, or fi’om other ~aetals. After it is purified and molten, they make bricks or small bars to carry it to Spare for being m powde they cannot transport it fi-m~a the Indies for they can neither custom it, mark it, nor take assay until it is melted downthe great treasure of Spain comes ~’rom the Indies, because God has Today appointed the one realm to serve the other by giving up its wealth so as to be under good governance, thus mutuafl~ enjoying one another’s goods and privileges. STUDY QUESTIONS 1. What kind of geographical knowledge helps explain the European expeditions that built the new maritime syste~n? 2. How did religious belief and a hope for profit combine in motivating the new voyages? 3. Why was European interest in Asia so high? 4. Why were Europeans so fascinated with gold? 5. What other kinds of evidence would help assess the European ability, to develop an unprecedented maritime system between the late 15th and the mid16th century? 6. What do the dominant European motives suggest about the impact Eu]’opean arrival would have on the areas touched by the early modern maritime system?