About the Age of Exploration

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Ferdinand Magellan
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
and the Clash of Cultures
Government and colonies and related words:
power, control, empire, colonist, land grant, claim, title, right, territory, overseas, border,
population, establish, government, governance, governor, tax, monarch, king, legislature,
negotiate, negotiation, challenge, settler, protect, self-governing, independence, religious
toleration, representative government
At a Glance
The most important ideas for you are:
◗ The European exploration began as a way to wrest control of Asian
trade from Muslim merchants and gain its profits, and secondarily, as a
way to spread Christianity.
◗ Students should be able to locate the important centers of Europeandominated trade in Asia, the originating location of the sugar plantation
culture, and the regions of European colonization in the Americas.
◗ Students should be able to trace the routes and recognize the discoveries and achievements of the first explorers sailing from Portugal, Spain,
the Netherlands, England, and France.
◗ European countries transported their rivalries overseas and fought one
another for trading rights, territory, and the wealth and power they
◗ The plantation system and slavery grew from origins on the islands off
the west African coast.
◗ The triangular trade linked Africa, the Caribbean and mainland North
America, and Europe in a prosperous network that included the slave
◗ The segment of the triangular trade between Africa and the Americas
was known as the Middle Passage and became synonymous with the
slave trade.
What Teachers Need to Know
A. Background
The use of time lines is recommended to help students place the people and
events they will learn about in this section in the context of their previous studies, especially that of the early exploration and settlement of North America from
Grade 3. It is suggested that you examine the Grade 3 guidelines for American
history and geography in the Core Knowledge Sequence in order to use those topics, which should be familiar to students, as a foundation upon which to build
knowledge of the new topics.
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European Motivations for Exploration
Beginning in the 1400s, Europeans set forth in a great wave of exploration and
trade. They were spurred by the riches brought back from the eastern
Mediterranean during the Crusades and the money in their purses from the rise of
a money economy. Members of the European middle and upper classes wanted the
luxuries that could be found in the East—fine cloth such as silk, jewels, and most
of all, spices to improve or disguise the taste of their foods.
Several factors served as motivation for Europeans to engage in exploration
for the purpose of developing international trading networks. First, eastern middlemen, mainly Muslims, controlled the overland trade routes from Asia to
Europe. Land routes like the Silk Road across the central Asian steppes, which
originated in China, ended in the Muslim Middle East. Europeans wanted the
power and resulting wealth that would come from controlling trade. Finding allwater routes to Asia and its riches would allow European merchants to cut out
Middle Eastern middlemen and reap all the profits of eastern trade.
Some Europeans were also eager to spread Christianity to nonbelievers.
Christian teachings had spread from Roman Palestine into parts of North Africa
and north and west into Europe. However, the majority of Africa, the Middle East,
and the rest of Asia had never heard of Jesus Christ and his message of Christian
charity and redemption.
Teaching Idea
Ask students if, from their past study
of world history, they can think of any
peoples who set out to explore other
places in pursuit of trade. (Answers
might include Islamic traders across
North Africa and into West and East
Africa; the Chinese under Zheng He
during the Ming dynasty; Vikings who
were both raiders and traders.)
Ask students what similarities and
differences these groups had.
(Possible answers might be that the
Islamic and European traders
attempted to convert the peoples they
came in contact with to their religion;
the Chinese and Vikings were interested only in trading.)
Why did European sailors venture out on the seas at this time and not earlier? The reason is that several nautical inventions—the magnetic compass, the
astrolabe, the sextant, and caravels—all came to the Europeans’ attention around
the same time.
Students should remember from their study of world history and geography
in Grade 4 that the Chinese invented the magnetic compass and began using it to
find direction in the 1100s. Knowledge of the compass did not reach Europe until
the 1200s. The compass enabled sailors to find direction at sea where there were
no landmarks. The needle of the compass would point towards magnetic north.
The astrolabe and sextant allowed sailors to calculate latitude at sea by sighting
stars and measuring angles.
Caravels were longer and shallower ships than had been previously built. The
caravels sailed by the Spanish and Portuguese were the result of greatly improved
ship designs. Their steering rudder and triangular sails resulted in faster, more
maneuverable ships that could sail into, not just with, the wind.
Geography of the Spice Trade
Much of the trade between east and west focused on spices, especially pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The geographic center of the nutmeg and
cloves trade was the Moluccas (also known as the Maluku Islands), a series of volcanic islands in what is today eastern Indonesia. Though mountainous, the
islands have rich soil. The Portuguese visited the Moluccas first in 1511, and the
Dutch took control of them in the early 1600s. To Europeans, they were known
as the Spice Islands.
Three other areas were important in the east-west trading networks:
Indochina, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines.
Teaching Idea
Have students smell the spices pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
To reinforce the importance of spices
in early trading, have students find
recipes that use the spices listed
above. At home, students could smell
and/or try food with and without
any added spice, and compare the
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
and the Clash of Cultures
Teaching Idea
Create an overhead from Instructional
Master 19, South Asia, to orient students to the area of the spice trade.
Have students locate each of the important areas in relation to one another:
the Moluccas, Indochina, the Malay
Peninsula, and the Philippines. Then,
have students use an atlas or encyclopedia to find out what nation each area
is part of today.
South Asia
Study the map. Use it to answer the questions below.
The Malay Peninsula is the southernmost peninsula in Asia. West Malaysia
and southwest Thailand share the area. The island of Singapore lies to its south.
To the west are the Andaman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean) and the Strait of
Malacca. To the east lie the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. The
Portuguese took control of part of the peninsula in 1511 but lost it to the Dutch
in the mid-1600s. The British seized sections of the peninsula beginning in 1826.
The Philippines is an archipelago, a series of many islands. The country is
made up of some 7,000 islands and lies in the Pacific Ocean off the Asian continent. Because the Philippines are located on the equatorial side of the Tropic of
Cancer, its climate is tropical. The islands are mainly volcanic and mountainous.
About 1,000 islands are inhabited, but most of the population lives on just 11 of
them. The islands are part of the “Ring of Fire,” which is a series of volcanoes that
ring the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes are common in this area. The first European
to visit the area was Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 on his voyage around the world.
He was wounded and killed in a fight there. Based on his voyage, the Spanish later
claimed the islands as a colony. They held the islands until Spain’s defeat in the
Spanish-American War in 1898.
Indochina is the name given to the peninsula in Southeast Asia that lies
between China and India. Today, the nations of Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand,
Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam occupy the peninsula. The French gained control
of the eastern part of the peninsula in the 1800s, and in 1887 united Vietnam,
Cambodia, and Laos into French Indochina. The French lost control of the area
to the Japanese in World War II but later regained control of some areas. The
countries of French Indochina all gained their independence in the 1950s.
400 miles
400 kilometers
1. What island group is northwest of the Moluccas?
Copyright ©Core Knowledge Foundation
the Philippines
2. Where is the Malay Peninsula in relation to Indochina?
It is south of Indochina.
Purpose: To read and interpret a map of South Asia
Master 19
Grade 5: History & Geography
B. European Exploration, Trade, and
Use Instructional Master 19.
Prince Henry the Navigator
The first explorations by Europeans trying to find a sea route to Asia were
along the Atlantic, or west, coast of Africa. In the early 1400s, Prince Henry of
Portugal, known as Henry the Navigator, sent ships south along the African coast
looking for a way around the continent. During his lifetime, his captains explored
the coastline as far as modern Sierra Leone, about halfway southward along the
continent. Although the prince did not travel with his captains, his patronage of
these voyages had an enormous impact on Europe’s role in world exploration.
Bartolomeu Dias
Bartolomeu Dias set off from Portugal in 1487 with three ships to find the
southern tip of Africa and determine whether an all-water route to India was possible. Dias sailed further south than any previous Portuguese explorer, keeping
sight of land to his east. A storm drove him out to sea. When Dias sailed back for
the coast he noticed that he was sailing north instead of south and land was now
to his west. That meant he had already passed the tip of Africa, and that it should
be possible to sail around Africa to India. The crew was unwilling to sail farther,
so Dias reversed his course, sailing for home. This time he spotted the Cape of
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Good Hope at the juncture of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Based on his experiences there, Dias called the cape “Cape of Storms,” but later the name was
changed to “Cape of Good Hope” because the Portuguese rulers were afraid
“Cape of Storms” would scare off additional explorers and traders. Dias later
sailed with both da Gama and Cabral, but he was in a subordinate role.
Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese explorer who followed in the footsteps of
Dias and became the first European to sail around the southern tip of Africa and
all the way to India.
Da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal in July 1497, with four ships. By
November he and his men had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and by December
they had sailed beyond the point where Dias had turned around. Da Gama hired
a pilot on the East African coast at Malindi. This pilot guided the ship to Calicut
in India. The expedition arrived in May 1498. Da Gama tried to trade in Calicut
but failed to establish a trade relationship or a peace treaty with the local authorities. He and his men took several Hindus on board to bring back to Portugal so
that the Portuguese could learn about their customs. Then they set off on the
return trip. On March 20, 1499, they rounded the Cape and returned to Portugal
in September 1499. In Portugal he was given a hero’s welcome and named
“Admiral of the Indian Sea.”
Teaching Idea
As you teach the various explorers,
have students fill in a graphic
organizer chart to keep track of
the explorers and the facts about
them. The categories on the chart
may include
• Name
• Nickname
• Host country
• Where he went
• What he is known for
• Other interesting facts
After studying all the explorers,
students may write a paragraph summarizing key facts about the explorers. As an extension of this activity,
have students find out about presentday female explorers, such as in
space or archeological expeditions.
Three years later, da Gama led 20 ships on a second voyage to Calicut, India,
where he established the base of the Portuguese empire in Africa and Asia. He also
explored the coast of East Africa. 38
The Portuguese and the East African Swahili
During his explorations, Da Gama stopped several times along the eastern
coast of Africa, known as the Swahili coast. This coastal area was inhabited by a
mixture of African, Arab, and Muslim peoples, who communicated using the
Swahili language. Swahili evolved from the African Bantu languages and borrowed Arabic and Persian words.
Beginning around the 600s, Muslim Arabs used the seasonal monsoon winds
to travel between Arabia and East Africa. By the 800s, Muslim Arabs began settling in these East African cities and marrying native women. It was these Swahili
cities like Malindi that da Gama visited at the end of the 15th century. By that
time, Muslim religious beliefs, architectural styles, and other cultural influences
were evident.
Teaching Idea
Read Jambo Means Hello and Moja
Means One with the class to share
elements of the Swahili language
(see More Resources). At the end of
this section, students can create their
own alphabet or number books that
summarize key points learned about
At first, these cities were layover sites for ships going to and from Portugal.
Sailing north along the African coast, the ships would stop at one of these cities
to take on food and to give sailors a rest before the long trip across the Indian
Ocean. The cities served the same purpose for homeward-bound ships.
After a time, the Portuguese government decided to try to take over these
city-states. Portugal would then be able to control the trade network that reached
between the Indian Ocean and the interior of Africa. The African interior offered
such trade goods as iron tools, rhinoceros horn, palm oil, gold from southeastern
Africa, and slaves, and in turn it served as a market for such imported goods as
Chinese porcelain, Burmese pottery, and Indian cloth.
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At first, the Portuguese government instructed its sea captains to try negotiating with the rulers of the city-states. If they were unable to reach a settlement,
then the ship captains could attack. First, the city of Kilwa (in what is today
Tanzania) fell. Soon, the Portuguese had managed to bring the other major east
coast trading cities under their control. Over time, as the Portuguese concentrated their trading efforts at Mozambique Island, in the south, closer to the gold they
sought, the other cities declined greatly in wealth and importance.
Pedro Cabral Claims Brazil
Teaching Idea
Use a map of the South Atlantic to
show how Cabral ended up in Brazil.
Pedro Alvares Cabral set out from Portugal for India in March 1500. His mission was to follow the route of da Gama and help consolidate Portuguese power
along the route to India, while also introducing Christianity to the peoples he
encountered. However, Cabral overshot his course and ended up sailing so far
west that he sailed to the east coast of South America. Cabral believed he had
landed on an island, which he called “Island of the True Cross.” He held a religious service and claimed the land for Portugal. It later became known as Brazil
after its forests of dyewoods, also known as brazilwoods.
Cabral eventually reached India and signed a trading agreement between
India and Portugal. However, his voyage was plagued with bad weather and bad
luck, and only four of his original 13 ships returned to Lisbon in June 1501.
Christopher Columbus and the Tainos
Students in Core Knowledge schools should have studied Christopher
Columbus in earlier grades, but it makes sense to review his voyage again in this
grade and place it in the larger context of the Age of Exploration.
Columbus was born in the Italian city of Genoa, but eventually became an
explorer for Ferdinand and Isabella, rulers of territories that joined together to
form the modern nation of Spain. As a young man, Columbus studied mapmaking and became a sailor. He sailed with the Portuguese along the western
coast of Africa in the 1480s. About this time the Portuguese began looking for a
route around Africa to India and the Spice Islands. But Columbus had another
idea. He believed that Earth was smaller than in fact it is, and he concluded that
it should be possible to reach the Indies by sailing west.
In 1484 Columbus presented his idea to the Portuguese king. The king chose
not to support the mission. After several years of lobbying, Columbus succeeded
in convincing Ferdinand and Isabella to support his expedition.
Columbus sailed with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
They left in August of 1492. After a stop in the Canary Islands, the ships began
sailing west. The crew soon grew nervous at how far they had sailed into
unknown territory. In early October, land was finally sighted.
Columbus landed on an island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.
Columbus promptly renamed the island San Salvador (Saint Salvador) and
claimed it for Spain. The first native Americans whom Christopher Columbus
met in the New World were the Taino, speakers of the Arawak languages. The
Taino were nomadic hunters and gatherers who inhabited several islands in the
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Columbus described his impressions of the people and the land in his journal:
. . . [T]his people has no religion nor are they idolaters, but very mild
and without knowing what evil is, nor how to kill others, nor how to
take them, and without arms, and so timorous that from one of our men
ten of them fly, although they do sport with them, and ready to believe
and knowing that there is a God in heaven, and sure that we have come
from heaven; and very ready at any prayer which we tell them to repeat,
and they make the sign of the cross.
So your Highness should determine to make them Christians, for I
believe that if they begin, in a short time they will have accomplished
converting to our holy faith a multitude of towns. Without doubt there
are in these lands the greatest quantities of gold, for not without cause
do these Indians whom I am bringing say that there are places in these
isles where they dig out gold and wear it on their necks, in their ears and
on their arms and legs, and the bracelets are very thick.
In December of that year, on an island that Columbus renamed Hispaniola,
the Taino helped his crew build a fort, La Navidad, from the lumber of the
wrecked Santa Maria. Expecting to return with more ships, supplies, and
colonists, Columbus left some of his crewmen on Hispaniola (present-day Haiti
and the Dominican Republic) and sailed back to Spain. When he returned to La
Navidad a year later, Columbus found that the Taino had killed the sailors in
retaliation for the sailors’ demands for food, gold, and labor.
These killings, combined with attacks on the Spanish by small groups
of Taino and other native peoples on other Caribbean islands, provoked
Columbus to use force. As the newly appointed governor of all lands he discovered, Columbus built a second fort on Hispaniola and assigned to it the soldiers
who had come on the expedition with him. The soldiers, with their metal armor,
guns, and horses, easily subdued the Taino. Columbus then demanded gold from
the Taino and ordered that 550 Taino be sent to Spain as slaves. 39
Teaching Idea
Share excerpts from Columbus’s logbooks with students.
Teaching Idea
Discuss with students what the Taino
might have thought about the Spanish
and what the Spanish might have
thought about the Taino on that
momentous morning of October 12,
1492. Ask, “How might they have
described one another? What might
they have thought about the others’
helping or hurting them? Would they
even have thought about help or
Note that the word Taino means
“gentle ones.” One of the early notes
that Columbus made in his journal
points out that the Taino had no iron
After two more voyages Columbus was relieved of his post as governor of the
new lands because of mismanagement and sent back to Spain. However, the brutal precedent he set in regard to the treatment of native peoples was followed by
his successors, who enslaved them by the thousands.
Bartolomé de las Casas Speaks Out
In fewer than ten years, the Spanish had established the encomienda system
on the islands in the Caribbean. Under encomienda, Spanish colonists were
granted a certain amount of land and the labor of the people who lived on it. The
system was later transported to Spanish settlements on the mainland. Supposedly,
the colonists would pay the native people for their labor and convert them to
Christianity. In reality, the natives were either forced to accept Christianity or
were given little or no religious instruction, were cruelly treated, and in effect
reduced to slaves.
One of those who spoke out against the encomienda system was Bartolomé
de las Casas. Las Casas had been a conquistador and owner of an encomienda
himself, but he eventually became a Roman Catholic priest. As a missionary in
Cuba and South and Central America, and later bishop in Mexico, las Casas
sought to protect his native charges by preaching against the encomienda and
shaming the consciences of the landowners. 37
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In his Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1542), the angry priest
denounced the Spanish for mistreating the native peoples:
Their reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls
is that Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to
swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high
estate disproportionate to their merits. It should be kept in mind that
their insatiable greed and ambition, the greatest ever seen in the world,
is the cause of their villainies. And also, those lands are so rich and felicitous, the native peoples so meek and patient, so easy to subject, that our
Spaniards have no more consideration for them than beasts. And I say
this from my own knowledge of the acts I witnessed. But I should not say
“than beasts” for, thanks be to God, they have treated beasts with some
respect; I should say instead like excrement on the public squares. And
thus they have deprived the Indians of their lives and souls, for the millions I mentioned have died without the Faith and without the benefit of
sacraments. This is a well-known and proven fact which even the tyrant
Governors, themselves killers, know and admit. And never have the
Indians in all the Indies committed any act against the Spanish
Christians, until those Christians have first and many times committed
countless cruel aggressions against them or against neighboring nations.
For in the beginning the Indians regarded the Spaniards as angels from
Heaven. Only after the Spaniards had used violence against them, killing,
robbing, torturing, did the Indians ever rise up against them.
Treaty of Tordesillas
Portugal and Spain took the lead in the exploration of the Americas, and
since the two nations were rivals, there was a possibility that they would come
into conflict over colonies. To avoid this, in 1493, the pope had established a line
of demarcation roughly down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, dividing the nonEuropean world between Spain and Portugal. Spain was to have the Americas to
colonize and Portugal would control Africa and Asia. The following year, the two
nations negotiated the Treaty of Tordesillas, which shifted the line of demarcation
west. This movement in the imaginary line secured Portugal’s claim to Brazil.
Essentially, the Spanish and the Portuguese divided up a large portion of the
world between them. No consideration was given to the other nations of the
world or to the wishes of the native peoples themselves.
Vasco Núñez de Balboa Reaches the Pacific
Vasco Núñez de Balboa was a conquistador who explored Central America.
He sailed to the New World from Spain in the early 1500s and spent some time
as a planter on the island of Hispaniola. However, he fell into debt and had to
sneak off the island, stowing away on a ship along with his dog.
In 1510, in what is today Panama, he founded Santa María de la Antigua del
Darién, the first successful settlement on the American mainland. While in
Darién, he heard stories about a great sea and a fabulously wealthy kingdom to
the south. (This last was probably the Inca empire). Balboa began exploring,
hacking his way through jungles and plodding through swamps, occasionally
doing battle with native peoples, whom he terrorized with his trained attack dogs.
During his explorations in 1513, he became the first European to see the Pacific
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Ocean from the Western Hemisphere. He claimed the ocean and its entire coastline for Spain.
Magellan and the Circumnavigation of the Globe
The Portuguese sea captain Ferdinand Magellan, sailing under the Spanish
flag, gave the Pacific Ocean its European name. Magellan’s expedition became the
first to circumnavigate the globe.
Magellan was Portuguese and originally sailed for his native land. He followed the Portuguese trade routes around Africa to the Indies. However, he eventually fell out of favor with the Portuguese king and began to sail for Spain. He
convinced the Spanish king that he could reach the Indies by sailing west and
then through or around South America.
Teaching Idea
Use Magellan’s voyage as a way to
revisit and reinforce what students
learned about the International Date
Line and time zones during their study
of geography.
In September 1519, five ships under his command sailed southwest from
Spain. They reached the South American coast in December and sailed south,
looking for a passage through South America to the Pacific Ocean. They spent the
winter in a settlement along the coast. Magellan had to put down a mutiny by
some of his ship captains. He executed one leader and left another to survive on
an island. One of his ships was lost in a wreck at sea. When the winter ended in
August (remember that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere), he
sailed on, still searching for a passage.
Routes of European Explorers
Study the map. Use it to answer the questions below.
INDIA Calcutta
Spice Islands
Cape of
Good Hope
4,000 miles
Strait of Magellan
Henry’s Ships
Vasco da Gama
4,000 kilometers
Columbus’s first voyage
With three ships out of his original five, Magellan sailed into the Pacific
Ocean. He thought it would not take long to reach Asia, but he had no idea of the
vastness of the ocean before him. It took six months to reach the Philippines. He
and his men barely survived. The ship ran out of water and food. Sailors suffered
from scurvy and were reduced to eating rats and pieces of leather. Some men
starved to death.
1. Which explorers sailed to or around the Cape of Good Hope?
Dias, Magellan, Cabral, Vasco da Gama
2. Which explorers reached South America?
Cabral, Magellan
Copyright ©Core Knowledge Foundation
In October 1520, they at last found a passage—the passage that is now
known as the Strait of Magellan. The roughly 350 miles through the passage were
extremely difficult, and one of his ships abandoned him and sailed back to Spain.
But Magellan pressed on. It is said that he cried for joy when he finally reached
the ocean. On entering the Pacific Ocean, Magellan gave it that name because he
found it very calm compared to the icy waters he had just crossed.
Purpose: To read and interpret a map featuring the routes of six European explorers
Master 20
Grade 5: History & Geography
Use Instructional Master 20.
Once Magellan’s party reached the Philippines, they began to convert some of
the local leaders to Christianity. On the island of Mactan, Magellan was killed in
a battle by Chief Lapulapu, the leader of a tribe that resisted the European explorers. Antonio Pigafetta, one of the men on board described the encounter:
When morning came forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our
thighs, and walked through water for more than two crossbow flights
before we could reach the shore. . . . When we reached land, those men
[the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than
one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged
down upon us with exceeding loud cries. . . . Recognizing the captain, so
many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice.
. . . An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain’s face, but the
latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian’s
body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but
halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear.
When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
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them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles
a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo
spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light,
our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned
back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon,
beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the
boats, which were already pulling off.
After this encounter, there were no longer enough men to sail three ships, so
one ship was abandoned. The two remaining ships arrived in the Spice Islands in
1521. After loading up with spices, they sailed for home. One ship was captured
by the rival Portuguese, so only one ship returned to Spain. This ship had sailed
west to Africa, south along the coast, west around the Cape of Good Hope, and
northward along the western coast of Africa, reaching Spain in 1522. Despite the
loss of four ships and all but 18 men, the spices that the one remaining ship had
taken on in the Spice Islands made the voyage a profit for its backers.
Arriving home, the survivors of the journey noticed something interesting.
They had kept a careful record of the days they had journeyed, but when they
checked the date with locals, they found that their reckoning of what day it was
differed by one day from the reckoning of those who had stayed at home. The
travelers thought it was Wednesday, but the Europeans who stayed at home said
it was Thursday. What had happened was the ship had sailed one rotation around
Earth, so that their assessment of time was off by 24 hours. This discovery eventually led to the creation of the International Date Line.
England and France
Search for the Northwest Passage
Although Spain and Portugal led the way in exploration, England and France
were not far behind. The English and the French were hopeful that they could
find a “Northwest Passage,” a water route that would lead them through North
America to the Pacific Ocean. Then they could sail to the Spice Islands and grow
An early English explorer was John Cabot. Although he was from Venice,
Cabot was in the service of the English monarch when he sailed west in 1497.
Cabot reached the coast of North America at Newfoundland and possibly sailed
as far south as the Chesapeake Bay. Cabot’s expedition was the first European
expedition to see the North American continent since the Vikings. But Cabot
himself did not know this. Like Columbus, he believed he had reached Asia.
When Cabot returned to England, he did not have any spices and silks to
show for his journey, but was able to describe scooping codfish out of the water
in baskets. Cabot’s second expedition in 1498 disappeared, and while he had not
located the Northwest Passage, England based its later claim to North American
territory on his explorations. When Cabot had first sighted Newfoundland, he
had gone ashore and claimed the land for England.
Frenchman Samuel de Champlain searched for a Northwest Passage several
times. He explored the St. Lawrence River, northern New York (where he discovered the lake that bears his name), and the Great Lakes Huron and Ontario. From
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1603 to 1606, he explored Nova Scotia. In 1608, he founded the settlement of
Quebec, which is the oldest city in Canada. His explorations were the basis for
French claims to the colony of New France, of which Champlain was governor
between 1633 and his death in 1635.
Henry Hudson tried two different routes to Asia. Sailing for the Dutch East
India Company in 1609, he first explored along the lower coast of North America
around what is now New York and came across the mouth of the river that now
bears his name. Thinking this might be the long-sought Northwest Passage, he
sailed north on it to what is now Albany. Finding no passage, he returned downstream. His voyage of exploration became the basis for the Netherlands’ claim to
the area.
In 1610, Hudson, then sailing for his native England, tried a more northerly
route. Sailing north and then west around Newfoundland, he found a strait and
sailed through it into a huge bay. Both the strait and the bay are now named for
him. Once in Hudson Bay, he planned to spend the winter there before going on.
When his ship Discovery froze in the bay and food ran low, his crew mutinied and
put Hudson, his son, and seven others in an open boat with no oars. When spring
came, the bay thawed and the crew sailed the Discovery back to England, but
Hudson, his son, and his loyal crew were never heard from again.
English Colonies in North America
Beginning in the late 1500s, the English attempted to found permanent settlements in North America. However, the first lasting settlement, Jamestown, on
the James River in Virginia, was not established until 1607. The next permanent
settlement was Plymouth in 1620, in what is today Massachusetts. From these
beginnings, the English—partly through independent settlements and partly
through acquisition by force of other kingdoms’ colonies—had established 13
colonies by the early 1700s. Territories claimed by the English reached south to
Florida from what is now the United States–Canadian border and west from the
Atlantic Coast to beyond the Appalachians.
Teaching Idea
Here are additional explorers who
might be of particular interest
depending on your location.
• Giovanni da Verrazano—
Although Italian, he was sailing
under the flag of France in 1524
when he discovered New York
Harbor and Narragansett Bay. The
Verrazano Narrows and the
Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New
York Harbor are named for him.
• Jacques Cartier—
Searching for the Northwest
Passage for his native France,
Cartier explored the Gulf of St.
Lawrence in 1534 and the St.
Lawrence River in 1535 as far as
what would become the cities of
Quebec and Montreal. He claimed
the area for France.
Whereas New France and New Spain were both sparsely settled, by 1760 the
English colonies had a population of some 2 million, about half of whom were
English or of English descent. There were also around 300,000 enslaved Africans
in the colonies. Boston—with a population of 20,000—was the largest city in the
North American colonies, and second in the British Empire only to London.
English colonies were one of three types: joint-stock, proprietary, or royal.
A colony established by a joint-stock company was set up to provide its shareholders with revenue. A joint-stock company was like a modern corporation;
members bought shares in it in order to finance an activity, in this case the
establishment of a colony.
A proprietary colony was one established by and for the financial benefit of
one, two, or a handful of proprietors. The proprietors established the rules for
governance, selected the governor, and received the taxes.
In a royal colony, the monarch appointed the governor and often the governor’s council of advisors, which was different from the colonial legislature.
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
and the Clash of Cultures
Establishment of the Thirteen English Colonies in
North America
Teaching Idea
King James did not think much of the
chief export from Jamestown. Students
may enjoy hearing his famous attack
on smoking from his pamphlet, “A
Counterblaste to Tobacco.” The text is
available online.
The first permanent English colony was established in North America in
1607 at Jamestown. A joint-stock company named the Virginia Company received
a charter from King James I and named the colony Virginia in honor of Queen
Elizabeth, the “Virgin Queen.” The first settlers were not farmers, but adventurers, interested mostly in searching out goods that would bring substantial prices
in trade with England. However, tobacco agriculture was soon introduced to the
colony and by 1619, tobacco had become the chief crop. By 1669, Virginia was
exporting 15 million pounds of tobacco a year.
Massachusetts Bay
In 1620, a group of Puritans sailed from Holland intending to set up a colony
near Jamestown. The Puritans were religious dissenters who believed that the
Church of England did not go far enough to remove Roman Catholic practices.
As they crossed the Atlantic, they were caught in a storm and ultimately landed
at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. They named their settlement Plymouth
Colony in honor of the English town from which they had set sail. In 1629, a
group of English Puritans and merchants formed a partnership called the
Massachusetts Bay Company. Its purpose was to establish a colony north of
Plymouth that would be both a business venture and an experiment in living
according to the Bible and Christian principles. The settlement grew to over
10,000 people by the end of the 1630s.
New Hampshire
Teaching Idea
As a round robin activity, ask students
to tell you one fact about each of the 13
English colonies. See how many rounds
the class can go before running out of
New Hampshire was founded in 1623 by Captain John Mason. It came under
control of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1641, but was granted a separate royal
charter in 1679. It included the area of what is today Maine.
In 1632, Maryland was established as a colony for Roman Catholics seeking
refuge from persecution in Protestant England. Maryland was established by a
land grant from King Charles I to his friend Lord Baltimore. It was named after
the queen, Henrietta Marie. The colony was settled in 1634. It was the first proprietary colony.
Rhode Island
In 1631, Roger Williams arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony and soon ran
afoul of the colony’s leaders because of his religious beliefs. Williams advocated
religious toleration and fair treatment for Native Americans. In 1635, Williams
was banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony. He established a settlement south
of Massachusetts Bay Colony in present-day Providence with land he purchased
from the Narragansetts.
In 1643, this settlement, along with others in the area, petitioned King
Charles I for a charter. It was granted in 1644, and the colony set up its own government that guaranteed self-government and religious freedom.
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Thomas Hooker and fellow dissenters from Massachusetts Bay Colony established Connecticut. In 1636, Hooker and his followers settled in what is now
Hartford. In 1639, they and members of several other towns in the area drew up
the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the first constitution in the English
colonies. The colony was granted royal charter in 1662 separate from
Massachusetts Bay.
North and South Carolina
The Carolinas were founded by a land grant to a group of eight proprietors
in 1663. The colony was named in honor of King Charles II. Rice was introduced
into the colony in the 1690s, but the land and climate of the northern part of
Carolina were not suitable for rice agriculture. Wealthy men began to buy up land
and establish plantations. Slaves from Africa played a large role in the successful
cultivation of rice. By 1740, for every European colonist in Carolina, there were
two African slaves. Carolina was divided into North and South Carolina in 1729.
New York
The first settlement in the New York area was established by the Dutch in
1609. In 1624, Peter Minuit supposedly purchased Manhattan Island from the
Manhattan people for $24 in trade goods. The Dutch named the city New
Amsterdam. The success of this trading post drew the attention of the English,
who based their claim to the land on John Cabot’s voyage in 1497. They captured
the city in 1664 and renamed the area New York in honor of the English king’s
brother, the Duke of York. New Amsterdam was renamed New York City.
New Jersey
New Jersey was named after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. The
area was part of the New Netherland colony seized by the English. It was given
as a proprietary colony to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret, two friends of
the Duke of York. The colony was managed as a proprietary colony for the benefit of the two men, but it offered religious toleration and representative government to all who immigrated there.
In 1681, William Penn received a land grant from the king to pay off a debt
owed to Penn’s father. Penn was the sole owner of the huge tract of land. Penn
was a member of the Society of Friends, a group familiarly known as the Quakers.
Like Puritans, Pilgrims, and Roman Catholics, Quakers were persecuted in
England for their religious beliefs. Penn wanted to make Pennsylvania a haven for
people of all religions. Because of Quaker belief, slavery was banned, and small
farms rather than plantations developed in the colony.
The English had occupied the area known today as Delaware since 1664,
when they seized it from the original Swedish settlers. In 1682, the Duke of York
gave the area to William Penn, who wanted an outlet to the Atlantic for
Pennsylvania. The Lower Counties, as they were called, were represented in the
Pennsylvania Assembly until 1704, when they were granted their own legislature.
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The Lower Counties did not have their own governor, however, and continued to
be ruled from Philadelphia.
Georgia was the last of the 13 colonies to be established. In 1732, James
Oglethorpe and a group of London businessmen received a charter from King
George II to set up a colony between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. It was
established as a debtors’ colony to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation.
Attempts at producing silk crops failed and caused economic problems for settlers. In time, plantation-style agriculture, including the use of enslaved Africans,
was introduced.
English Colonies in the West Indies
Although the Spanish had been the first Europeans to see and seize the
islands of the Caribbean, other countries soon followed them into the region.
They took some islands from the native American inhabitants and fought with
Spain and with one another for possession of other islands. These conflicts were
an outgrowth of the struggle for power among European nations.
The English colonized Saint Kitts, Nevis, and Tortola (part of the British
Virgin Islands) and forced Spain out of Jamaica. Today, the British Virgin Islands
are a Crown Colony of the United Kingdom and Jamaica is an independent country within the British Commonwealth. Trinidad and Tobago were British colonies,
but today they are a single independent country.
French Colonies in North America
One outcome of the interest in finding a Northwest Passage was the French
claim to the land that is now Canada and parts of northeastern and upper midwestern sections of the United States. Beginning in 1608, when the settlement of
Quebec was founded, the territory claimed by France steadily grew. By 1682,
Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, had claimed all the lands in the Mississippi River
valley for France. This colony of New France reached all the way down the center
of the continent to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1663, Quebec became its capital.
Despite its size, the European population of New France never reached more
than around 2,300 people. The real locus of the colony was in what is today eastern Canada, where the weather is harsher than in the more southerly and temperate Mississippi basin. The French government was more interested in gaining territory and prestige in Europe than in promoting settlement in its faraway colony.
France’s major concern was protecting New France’s lucrative fur trade. France
lost the colony to Great Britain in 1763 after the French and Indian War.
French Colonies in the West Indies
Today, all that is left of France’s colonies in the West Indies are the islands of
Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are now departments of France, or overseas
provinces, rather than colonies.
Haiti, part of the island of Hispaniola, came under French rule in 1697.
French colonists began importing enslaved Africans to build huge sugar and coffee plantations, which became the basis of a highly prosperous colonial economy.
A slave rebellion in 1791 drove out the French and established an independent
country in 1804. Core Knowledge students will learn about the revolution, led by
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Toussaint L’Ouverture, in Grade 6 as part of the section on Latin American
Trading Posts in India
The Portuguese, thanks to the vision of Prince Henry the Navigator, were the
first Europeans to seek trading advantages in India. During the 1500s, they dominated Indian textile trade with Europe. However, over time, the French, English,
and Dutch began to encroach on the Portuguese monopoly. The English—later
the British—East India Company built trading posts at Calcutta in the northeast,
Madras in the south, and Bombay in the west. The French had settlements at
Madras and Calcutta. From these posts, by 1700 the British East India Company
and the French East India Company had squeezed out their European rivals and
were vying for sole control of Indian trade.
Internal Indian politics played into their hands. Southern India was divided
into many states, and rival Indian princes sought the help of the two companies
in subduing their opponents. In time, both companies gained the approval of
their governments to provide troops to Indian rulers in exchange for commercial
A second influence on the Anglo-French rivalry in India was the AngloFrench rivalry in Europe. Like the English and French colonists in North
America, those in India became caught up in their own versions of the English
and French wars being fought in Europe—the War of the Austrian Succession
(1740–1748) and the Seven Years War (1756–1763; known in North America as
the French and Indian War). When the fighting was over in the latter conflict, the
French had lost most of their territories in India and were no longer a threat to
British power.
Teaching Idea
Draw the parallel between AngloFrench rivalry in India and AngloFrench rivalry in North America. Use
this opportunity to review the French
and Indian War that students in Core
Knowledge schools should have
learned about in Grade 4.
Holland (The Netherlands)
Dutch versus Portuguese in Africa and the East Indies
The Portuguese may have been the first to seek out the maritime route to
Asia, but inadequate finances, the unprecedented novelty of their enterprise, and
aggressive competition from other countries made it difficult for the Portuguese
to hold on to their advantage. The Dutch quickly saw the value of the empire that
the Portuguese were building in India and beyond.
A small nation of hardworking artisans and merchants in northern Europe,
the Dutch set out in the early 1600s to try to dominate trade with Asia. In 1602,
a group of merchants founded the Dutch East India Company. By midcentury,
backed by warships and force of arms, the company had ousted the Portuguese
from their trading centers on the east coast of Africa. The Dutch dominated trade
with the Spice Islands and much of the trade with Southeast Asia. They also negotiated trade agreements with China.
Within a century, the Dutch, like the Portuguese before them, had their
empire in Asia wrested from them. The French and the English—seeing the
riches to be made in Asia—set about challenging the Dutch and each other for
control of trade with Asia. (See previous section.)
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
and the Clash of Cultures
Cape Colony and South Africa
In 1652, the Dutch established a settlement called De Kaap, “The Cape,” at
the tip of the Cape of Good Hope. The settlement served as a reprovisioning stop
for its ships outbound to India and homeward-bound to the Netherlands. This
settlement later became known as Cape Town. A few Dutch settled there to grow
fruits and vegetables, raise cattle, and provide casks of fresh water to the ships. In
time, more settlers and soldiers came to protect the colony from the native
Khoikhoi people, who resented Dutch aggression against them, and who were
unhappy at the encroachment on their lands.
By the late 1700s, their descendants, the Boers (the Dutch word for farmer)
had moved far enough into southern Africa that they came in conflict with black
Africans and fought a series of wars against them. In the early 1800s, the British
gained control of the Cape Colony and fought intermittent wars throughout the
19th century against their new subjects, the Boers. In 1910, the various Boer
colonies were recognized as the Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion of Great Britain.
Teaching Idea
For a small nation, the Netherlands was
a worldwide commercial power in the
1500s through the 1700s. Have students
do research in print and online sources
to develop a report about the
Netherlands in this time period.
The report could take the form of a
written paper, an illustrated history, a
model, or a map. Students should conduct their research first and then discuss it with you before choosing their
New Netherland
The first settlement in the area of present-day New York City was a Dutch
trading post established by Henry Hudson in 1609. In 1626, Peter Minuit, acting
for the Dutch West India Company, purchased Manhattan Island from the
Manhattan people for $24 in trade goods. The Dutch named the city New
Amsterdam in honor of the principal city in the Netherlands and turned the settlement into a center for fur trading. The entire Hudson Valley was known as New
The success of the Dutch drew the attention of the English, who decided to
press their claim to the area. They based their claim on John Cabot’s 1497 voyage.
In 1664, the English captured the settlement and renamed the entire area New
York, in honor of the English king’s brother, the Duke of York. New Amsterdam
was renamed New York City.
The Duke of York gave the lower portion of New York to two friends, who
named it New Jersey after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. New Jersey
was a proprietary colony managed for the benefit of the two proprietors, but they
offered religious tolerance and representative government to all who immigrated
C. Trade and Slavery
The Sugar Trade
São Tomé, in the Gulf of Guinea, the Madeira Islands slightly northwest of
Morocco, and other islands off the west African coast that the Portuguese
explored and colonized became the first centers of sugar agriculture. Likewise,
the Spanish introduced sugar cultivation to the Canary Islands, also off the west
coast of Africa. Because sugar agriculture is labor-intensive, the Portuguese and
Spanish needed large numbers of cheap laborers. Thus the Europeans began to
trade with local Muslim merchants and other warlords for captives from the
African mainland. The workers were typically captured by political rivals and sold
as slaves.
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In the mid-1400s, some 50 years before the transatlantic slave trade began, the
Spanish and the Portuguese were buying Africans as slaves to work their sugar
plantations on the eastern Atlantic islands. Later, the plantation model was introduced in Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and in the Portuguese colony of Brazil.
Sugar Plantations on the Caribbean Islands
As one historical account states, “The story of sugar in the Caribbean goes
hand in hand with the story of slavery.” The warm, moist climate and rich soil of
the Caribbean islands were well suited to the cultivation of sugar cane. The
Spanish knew from their experience on the islands off the African coast that sugar
agriculture took vast amounts of labor, which had to be cheap in order to make
the plantations profitable. Therefore, they made great efforts to transport enslaved
Africans to work these new plantations in the Caribbean. When the English captured islands from the Spanish and colonized other islands on their own, they followed the Spanish example and that of the Portuguese in Brazil. African slaves
not only planted the sugar cane and harvested it, but also worked in the mills
where the raw cane was crushed and boiled down to make sugar and molasses.
The backers of the southern English colonies on the mainland of North
America eventually realized that the climate and soil in parts of the South were
suited to the cultivation of labor-intensive crops, such as tobacco, rice, and indigo. After the mid-1600s, the English began acquiring slaves from plantations in
the Caribbean. Although relatively poor, the planters on the mainland were able
to buy a few cast-off slaves from the West Indies and gradually were able to buy
captives direct from Africa as the basis of the economy switched to large plantation farming.
Transatlantic Slave Trade
The first Africans in the English colonies on the mainland arrived at
Jamestown not long after 1607. These first Africans are believed to have been
treated like English indentured servants, people who contracted to work for a certain period of time and were then released. By the 1680s, however, the terms of
service began to change to lifelong servitude. When tobacco cultivation took off
in the late 17th century, it was difficult to find enough workers to farm the large
plantations that the English were starting in the colony, and buying captured
Africans promised a steady supply of labor.
Importing Africans as slaves for the Southern colonies became big business
for American merchants and sea captains in the 1700s. Because the climate and
terrain of New England were not suitable for large plantation-style farms, slavery
did not take a firm hold in New England. However, there were some slaves in
those colonies, and the principal merchants trading in slaves resided in Rhode
Island. Slavery was less important in the Middle colonies, where most farms were
small and tilled by families, although again there were some slaves on farms and
in cities, where they worked in houses and as skilled artisans and craftspersons.
Teaching Idea
Create an overhead of Instructional
Master 21, The West Indies, to help
students visualize the location of the
islands of the West Indies in relation
to the North and South American continents. Point out that the West Indies
are divided into four main groups: the
Bahamas; the Greater Antilles (Cuba,
Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican
Republic], Jamaica, Puerto Rico); the
Lesser Antilles (Leeward and
Windward Islands, Trinidad and
Tobago, Barbados); and the
Netherlands Antilles.
Ask students questions about
which island is the largest, which
cardinal direction any group is from
another and from the mainland, the
distance between island groups and
the mainland, and so on.
The West Indies
Study the map. Use it to answer the questions below.
Caribbean Sea
Puerto Rico
400 miles
400 kilometers
1. About how many miles is Cuba from end to end?
800 miles (1,287 km)
Copyright ©Core Knowledge Foundation
2. What group of islands is northwest of Hispaniola?
the Bahamas
Purpose: To read and interpret a map of the West Indies
Master 21
Grade 5: History & Geography
Use Instructional Master 21.
Triangular Trade
The slave trade was part of what was known as the “triangular” trade between
the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The triangular trade was so named
because the trading networks that comprised it connected three main areas:
1. Africa, 2. the colonies in the Caribbean and on the North American mainland,
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III. European Exploration, Trade,
and the Clash of Cultures
Af r
gold, spices, i
fish, flour,
livestock, lumber
np ls
gu oo
n, , t
ro th
, i clo
st I
n di
Triangular Trade Routes
rice, so, tobac
e oil, lumb furs
New York
Create an overhead of Instructional
Master 22, Triangular Trade Routes, to
orient students to the concept of reciprocal trade. Triangular trade does not
mean that the same ships went from
Africa to the Caribbean to the mainland
to Europe and back to Africa, but that
trade goods flowed along these routes.
Have students identify the goods
that were carried on each leg of the
route and hypothesize why certain
products were exported or imported
from each region. For example, the climate and soil in the Caribbean were
good for raising sugar cane, which was
transported as sugar and molasses to
places that were not suited to growing
this crop.
and 3. Europe. As you can see from the map below, goods were transported in different directions, depending on who had what, and who needed what. For example, slaves might be shipped from Africa to the Caribbean and put to work growing sugar cane and making molasses. Then the molasses they produced might be
shipped to New England, where it would be made into rum that would be
shipped to Africa for sale. Or, slaves might be shipped first to the Caribbean and
then onto the southern part of North America. There they would produce a crop
like rice, which could be shipped to England.
guns, clo
th, ir
Teaching Idea
Study the map. Use it to answer the questions below.
1,500 miles
1,500 kilometers
e oil, lumb furs
Af r
Slaves were shipped from the west coast of Africa. The area affected by the
slave trade extended from Senegal to Angola. At different times in the 400-year
history of the slave trade, the major areas of exportation shifted from region to
region along the coast.
gold, spices, i
fish, flour,
livestock, lumber
np ls
gu oo
n, , t
ro th
, i clo
st I
n di
rice, so, tobac
guns, clo
th, ir
New York
The Middle Passage
1,500 miles
1,500 kilometers
1. What items were exported from Boston?
2. What items were imported to Africa?
guns, cloth, iron, beer, rum, gunpowder, tools
3. By what route were people brought to North America to be sold as slaves?
from Africa to the West Indies to North America
Purpose: To read and interpret a map featuring the triangular trade routes
Master 22
Grade 5: History & Geography
Use Instructional Master 22.
Copyright ©Core Knowledge Foundation
whale oil, lumber, and furs
The leg of the triangular trade network between Africa and the Americas was
known as the Middle Passage. It was during the Middle Passage that Africans were
transported in chains to the American colonies. Slave raiders—Africans armed
with guns supplied by European slave traders—would kidnap enemies or just hapless men, women, and children who were in “the wrong place at the wrong time,”
and march them in chains to the coast. There, the Africans would be put into slave
factories, or holding pens, until a slave ship came to pick them up.
On board the slave ship, the Africans would be chained together and packed
below decks in tight spaces for six to ten weeks with little food and water. They
might be allowed on deck in good weather for exercise and fresh air. Sometimes,
Africans jumped to their deaths from the railings rather than endure further suffering. If the weather was bad, slaves would be kept below decks for long periods
of time. Many caught fatal diseases; others went insane from the dark, claustrophobic, unsanitary conditions. For those who survived, the Middle Passage ended
in the Caribbean or in the Southern colonies, where the Africans would be
marched off the ship in chains to be examined by prospective buyers and sold at
auction. 40
Grade 5 Handbook

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