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Kayleigh Robic

Mrs. Burke

Honors World History


Age of Exploration and Colonization

The Age of Exploration began in the early fifteenth century. It was a time of new worlds,

peoples, goods, ideas, and cultures. Society was affected in many ways by colonization and the

expansion of European countries. The Age of Exploration mixed the cultures of the Europeans,

Africans, and those from the Americas, and changed society’s view of slaves and people from

Africa for generations.

Europeans exploring the New World influenced the cultures present today by spreading

their religion and their culture. After making the connection that the land Christopher Columbus

had reached was not the Spice Islands, many explorers embarked on voyages to spread their

religion. In the Caribbean and South and Central America, the Spanish listed spreading

Catholicism and enlightening the natives as reasons for colonizing these areas. Further north, the

Puritans were one of many religious groups that settled in North America, seeking to find

religious freedom. By living out their daily lives and interacting with the native populations,

many of which were the reason behind these settlers’ survival, the Puritans and other groups

spread their religion and customs to the youth of both peoples. Back down south, the Spanish

colonies became a mix of Native American, African, and European culture. The vibrant and

unique traditions that are clearly identifiable as Central and South American all are based off this

time of blending and unification.

The Transatlantic-Slave Trade changed the world’s view on Africans and other minorities

and continues to influence the minds of present generations. Prior to the slave trade, Europeans

did not associate slavery with an ethnicity or race, other than slaves not being Europeans

themselves. Slaves were primarily taken as prisoners of war in conflicts between Europeans and

people from other lands. This mindset changed, however, with the Age of Exploration. During

the beginning of this new era, natives from newfound lands were taken as slaves or as a form of

indentured servant. Slavery became a lucrative industry and the demand for laborers increased

significantly. As natives’ numbers began dwindling, however, Europeans looked to other places

to meet the demand for slaves. They went to Africa and gained a lot of profits from trading

European goods for African slaves. To meet the high demand for labor, Europeans had to take a

lot of Africans. This number was extremely high, and to make it morally correct for these

merchants to be buying, selling, and inhumanely treating these people, they changed the way

other Europeans thought about Africans. Africans were now thought of as in-human, animalistic,

property, and unintelligent. These new stereotypes were passed down from generation to

generation and continue to plague our country today.

These events connect to the present because the prejudices put in place during this time

still effect lives today. The legacy of racism from the Transatlantic Slave Trade is still affecting

lives today. The prejudices forged in the Age of Exploration still run rampant in today’s modern

world. These stereotypes and biases were formed to make slavery moral. Slavery is against the

Christian religion. The Europeans, most of whom were Christian, wanted to make a profit from

slavery, but did not want to go against their faith. Their solution, was to dehumanize Africans

and Native Americans. By doing so, they brought these people down to the level of animals, and

getting labor and profit from animals is not against Christianity. In the modern world it is now
widely known and accepted that both these beliefs and slavery are wrong and immoral. The

colonizing and exploring of this time also link to a lifestyle of mixed cultures that is present

today. The cultures that are seen today were greatly affected by both the natives that lived here

before the Age of Exploration, and the Europeans and Africans that they brought here. The mix

of Native Americans, Africans, and European influences created a unique blend of traditions,

lifestyle, and history.

Past events can have a big effect on the present and future, and recognizing the

significance of these events is important to help prevent us from repeating the same mistakes.

Learning from the failures of the past can change the way society views certain things.

Recognizing the mistakes made by past Europeans during the Age of Exploration and the

Atlantic Slave Trade can help undo the stereotypes set up by modern society. Likewise,

appreciating the mix of origins and influences that make up the cultures that is seen in today’s

world, can help one value their history and background more. The Age of Exploration influenced

society by altering humanity’s opinion on race and ethnicity and blending the lifestyles and

histories of multiple countries and cultures.

Works Cited

“Europe Before Transatlantic Slavery.” USI Home Page, Understanding Slavery Initiative,