The Portuguese invention of the caravel, which was maneuverable and capable of ocean voyages, was essential to European maritime exploration. Shown here is the caravel Vera Cruz, Tagus River, Lisbon.
European overseas exploration led to increased world trade, with contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the New World (America and Australia) producing the Columbian exchange; a vast transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the eastern and western hemispheres. This represented one of the most significant global events related to ecology, agriculture and culture in history. The Age of Discovery and subsequent European exploration enabled the global mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact, but also led to the spread of diseases that decimated previously uncontacted populations in Eurasia and North Africa.
Spanish expeditions to America
The work of the French Hispanist collects the different expeditions that were organized to explore and conquer this territory, the elements that made up this enterprise (logistics, command, composition of the troops…), their objectives and the military techniques used by both sides in the armed confrontations that took place. It is, in short, a very interesting work for anyone who wants to know the details of a part of our history that has been forgotten for decades.
Map of the conquest of America by the Spanish.
1Those who know nothing beforehand about such a subject, and nevertheless set out to find out what it refers to, would begin with a very general conceptual and lexical reflection: would it be a question of speaking of travelers on the one hand, and naturalists on the other, or of travelers who had left observations on natural realities? Or would it be more specifically a question of evoking the subclass of travelers who were at the same time naturalists or who pretended to act and/or acted as such?
2Then, a first simple question that could be answered in more or less general terms would be to know who should be designated as travelers. Then, among them, and in particular for a more recent period, let us say from the 18th century onwards (Pimentel: 47), who were the naturalists, where they were, what they were interested in and what consequences their activities may have had in the field of knowledge and also in the development of the American societies that were the objects of their observations. This impact may have consisted in helping (directly or indirectly) to raise awareness of the existence of a past, of a heritage, of a culture that deserves to be integrated into the national heritage and general knowledge. It may also have contributed to the emergence of projects and institutions dedicated to discovering and protecting this past and this heritage. And most certainly, it served for the prestige and development of the nations from which the naturalist travelers came (Kury 2001: 147 ff.).
The remaining theories of pre-Columbian contacts are highly speculative, and lack scientific consensus. There has been speculation about a possible African origin of the Olmec people, a hypothesis of racist origin based on the supposed “negroid” features of some Olmec sculptures, and later embraced by certain Afrocentrist currents.  Genetic evidence has shown that Olmec populations are not related to African populations, and the supposed anthropological evidence has been described as based on “superficial judgments and erroneous conclusions. “ There has also been speculation of pre-Columbian contacts by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Phoenician, Egyptian, Roman, Celtic, Jewish, Arab  navigators or explorers, and African travelers from the Mali empire. None of these hypotheses has a scientific consensus, and they are usually considered as pseudo-archaeology and pseudo-history.