The huge expansion in trade and the acquisition of vast empires that characterize this period of European history would set the pattern for at least the next two centuries. Fritze begins with a portrait of medieval Europe, its economy, its geography, and the developments in naval architecture that made the great voyages possible. Next, he narrates the travels of Henry the Navigator, Columbus, da Gama, and Cabot. He contrasts the establishment of the Portuguese spice empires in Asia with the simultaneous rise of the Mogul Empire, and he details as well the opening up of both South and North America.
The culmination of these exploration efforts was the successful circumnavigation of the earth by Magellan and the opening of viable Pacific trade routes. A concluding chapter details the impact of European expansion, its effect on the European worldview and economy, and challenges to the Spanish and Portuguese from the Dutch, English, and French. Fully illustrated, this study captures the excitement of the era, while at the same time providing the latest scholarship in an accessible form.