With the fifteenth century a sudden impetus was given to travel by the recently greatly developed trade with the Indies. The introduction of the compass had greatly stimulated sea travel, and the closing of the overland routes to the East, due to political conditions of the time, forced Europe to seek for new routes by sea. From Portugal first, under the influence of Prince Henry the Navigator, there sailed a long series of travelers and explorers who sought a way around Africa to the Indies. Little by little they edged their way south along the western coast, until, six years before Columbus〖H. C., xliii, 21ff.〗 started on his great voyage, Diaz discovered and rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and eleven years later was followed by Vasco de Gama who, passing around the Cape, continued on to India. Three years later, Cabral, bound for the same goal but steering too far to the west, reached the Brazilian coast and established the claim of Portugal to a great section of the southern New World.

While Portugal thus can claim for her travelers the discovery of most of southern Africa, to Spain falls the greater honor of the unveiling of the New World. The discoveries of the great Genoese were the signal for a host of other explorers to follow, such as Vespucci,〖H. C., xliii, 28ff.〗 who, sailing first for Spain, discovered Venezuela, and later for Portugal, explored the South American coast as far as the La Plata. The goal of all these travelers was the Indies and the discovery of a trade route thither, but it was not until the second decade of the sixteenth century that Magellan, another Portuguese, although sailing in the service of the Spanish king, at last succeeded in the quest. Far to the south he found a passage through the wall that had stood between Europe and the tempting markets of the East, and, first to cross the great Pacific, reached the Philippines in 1521, only to be killed there in a skirmish with the natives. Although he himself did not live to complete the remainder of the voyage, one of his ships with a part of the original crew returned to Spain by way of the Cape of Good Hope, these men being thus the first to travel around the world.

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