An Age of Exploration, 1400–1600
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, European knowledge of the rest of the world was transformed. Explorers seized on technological and cultural developments that had been progressing since the Middle Ages, and travelled to parts of the globe they had never seen before. Led by expeditions funded by the monarchs of Spain and Portugal, travellers set sail to find direct paths to Asia and Africa in the hope of profiting from their lucrative trade networks. In 1492, Christopher Columbus journeyed west and landed in the Americas, which was soon after referred to as the ‘New World’. The discovery triggered numerous expeditions across the Atlantic as Europeans built new systems for international trade and attempted to establish colonial empires, with varying degrees of success.
The explorers returned to Europe—bringing with them new food, plants, artefacts, and people who had been captured as slaves—with profound global impact. The resulting wealth of Portugal and Spain transformed the economic shape of Europe, and new systems of slave trading would last into the nineteenth century. The discovery and observation of previously unknown civilisations sparked curiosity in the wider world, leading Europeans to study, publish, and imitate their exotic cultures.
'An Age of Exploration’ was on display at Winchester College Treasury between June and October 2021 (see the Treasury website for opening times). Admission to the Treasury is free, and booking is not required. The exhibition was curated by a group of pupils from the College.
The labels of this online exhibition are extended versions of those in the physical exhibition and were also written by the pupils: Kieran Brown, Oliver Cadogan, Francisco Casanova, Alexander Clement-Davies, Guy McEwing, Ollie Reynolds, Zach Roberts, Conor Sexton, Will Simmons, and Sasha Varpahovsky.
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