Renaissance Exploration, Invention and Trade

The Beginning of Formal Trade

Although navigation was still an imprecise science, sailors were able to go farther than they had before. This was important because as the economy of the Renaissance continued to improve, there were ever-increasing demands for imported goods and new places to export local products.

Traders found that sailing was safer and more efficient than land trading due to thieves and poor roads. Renaissance sailors traveled east to supply Europeans with the many Asian spices and silks they demanded. Demand during the Renaissance for Peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon was very high and most trading voyages were paid for by investors.

INVENTIONS:  The Astrolabe, compass and improved cartography all played significant roles in expanding sea trade. The discovery of the New World and the rise of the slave trade would be a foundation for commerce during the Renaissance and beyond.

Renaissance & Elizabethan Inventions and Inventors Timeline

  • 1450: Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press with movable type in Germany
  • 1510: Leonardo da Vinci designs a horizontal water wheel
  • 1510: Peter Henlein invents the pocket watch
  • 1513: Urs Graf invents etching
  • 1537: Tartaglia’s gunner’s quadrant for aiming cannon, 1st firing tables
  • 1540: Toriano invents a mandolin-playing automaton
  • 1543: John Dee creates a wooden beetle that can fly for an undergraduate production – one of the first robots
  • 1550: John Dee, ‘the guiding spirit’ of the English school of mathematicians wrote a notable preface to the first edition in English of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry
  • 1565: Conrad Gesner of Switzerland invents the pencil
  • 1568: Bottled beer is invented in London
  • 1569: Gerard Mercator invents Mercator map projection
  • 1582: Pope Gregory XIII invents the modern, Gregorian calendar
  • 1583: Leonard and Thomas Digges invent the telescope
  • 1589: William Lee invents the knitting machine
  • 1590: Dutchmen, Hans & Zacharias Janssen invent the compound microscope
  • 1591: Sir John Harington invents the flush toilet in England
  • 1593: Francis Bacon invented the frozen chicken
  • 1593: Galileo invents a water thermometer
  • 1600: William Gilbert publishes treatise “On the Magnet”. William Gilbert is referred to as the father of the science of electricity and magnetism
  • The first telescope was invented by Hans Lippershey (c1570-c1619). The telescope was introduced to astronomy in 1609 by Galileo Galilei

Charter of the East India Company:

Like the Dutch, the English wanted a key role in the spice trade. Following a year of fund raising and political negotiation, the ‘Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies’ was given ‘royal approval’ by a charter from Queen Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600.

218 subscribers to the new enterprise raised £68,373 – and the company was granted a monopoly on all English trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. All of Asia was theirs and the East India Company would become one of the most dominant trading forces in the world, powering the wealth of England.


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