The Explorers of the New World. Soon after America was discovered, exploration began. Many European countries were anxious to explore and claim part of the new lands as their own. The Spanish assumed the leadership in these undertakings, for the Portuguese were by the treaty of Tordesillas excluded from all the New World except the eastern part of South America (Brazil).
King Henry VII of England did not recognize the agreement between Spain and Portugal, and in 1496 granted a patent to John Cabot, a Venetian, authorizing him to search for new lands, and to rule any land which he might discover. His two voyages were of great importance because they laid the basis for England’s claim to North America. The French in the early part of the sixteenth century became serious competitors with the other exploring nations.
Along with exploration went attempts at settlement and control of the country. During the sixteenth century few permanent settlements were made. It was mainly a century of exploration. The motives for exploring the New World were many and varied. Different individuals may have had different reasons for their expeditions, but one outstanding desire on the part of many was to acquire a colonial empire and thereby add to the prestige of their own nation.
American exploration and colonization were a part of the expansion of Europe, and the New World exploration played an important part in the international rivalry of the sixteenth century.
Closely related to the motive of expansion was the desire for a monopoly of the American trade, which would contribute to the building of a strong nation. Other motives also brought explorers across the Atlantic: some were trying to find a water route to India; others were in search of gold and precious stones; while still others were moved by the love of adventure and romance, or by the desire to Christianize the natives.