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When was the Age of Discovery?

Spanish conquistadors meet Native Americans.Starting in the 1400s, European explorers set out across the world's oceans. They sailed to Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. We call this time, which lasted until the early 1600s, the Age of Discovery. It began when Portuguese and Spanish ships went in search of the region known in Europe as "the Indies". These were the lands of South and Southeast Asia. Here, silk and spices could be found.


A fleet of 15th-century Portuguese trading ships

Henry the Navigator

Henry the Navigator

Portugal was the first European country (since the Vikings) to explore the world's oceans. Encouraged by Prince Henry, who was known as "the Navigator", Portuguese ships made voyages to North and West Africa to look for gold. In the mid-1400s, it was no longer possible to travel to the East by land. So the Portuguese set out to find a sea route by sailing around the southern tip of Africa.
The Portuguese used a small sailing ship called the caravel to make their great sea voyages.

Round the Cape

No potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, sweetcorn, chocolate or tobacco were found in Europe until they were brought back from the Americas from the 1500s onwards.

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