Europe’s reaction after the discovery of the New World

The discovery of the Americas was a pretty big deal as you know Christopher Columbus made his journey there in 1492 and he returned early the next year, but upon his return what was the general reaction to his discovery.

What was the reaction of the Europeans about the existence of the New World?

Well as many of you will be aware Columbus wasn’t the first European to see or set foot in the Americas that title goes to Leif Eriksen, who almost 500 years earlier had sailed to North America, news of which had reached Iceland and the rest of the Scandinavian world shortly afterward his journey is preserved in sagas, but beyond that, there is no known reaction to this discovery.

What is known is that by the 1300s most people had completely forgotten about it and many wondered if those lands were even real, in 1493 Columbus returned to Europe, and his letters concerning the discovery were published soon afterward and they quickly spread throughout Europe and became extremely popular reading.

There was a lot of excitement especially among merchants and rulers since a direct route to Asia had been confirmed because at this point people didn’t know that Columbus had discovered a new continent they thought he’d simply reached the Indies and thus made the Spanish monarchy’s dreams come true like most Spanish dreams this one was brought to an end by the Portuguese who sent Vasco da Gama to sail south and find a route around Africa he succeeded and when he returned in 1499 the distance he traveled and the stories he told meant that Columbus probably didn’t discover Asia.

these new suspicions weren’t confirmed until Amerigo Vespucci returned from his voyage in 1503 and upon his return, he referred to the lands that he visited as the new world his findings were published and within 40 years this new world had been named after him.

So how did Europeans react to this new world?

Well to start this wasn’t some earth-shattering discovery for most Europeans new lands had previously been discovered in the Azores and the Canary Islands and the existence of the Americas barely affected them at all since most Europeans had much more pressing issues, and so disappointingly the reaction of the average European was largely muted.

The same goes for the church since the discovery of the new world didn’t contradict any theology nor present any immediate issues as for the rulers of Europe; they did have varied responses so the Spanish were quick to accept that this was indeed a brand new continent with brand new peoples, there was some disappointment that this wasn’t Asia since the primary motivation was trade, but instead, the empire would be Spain’s consolation prize and after this, there were many efforts to find a navigable waterway through the continent to facilitate any a potential trade with Asia.

As for Portugal they also soon came around to this being a new continent and whilst they had received a chunk of it from the pope in 1494 their primary focus was on that sweet Indian ocean trade Whereas for the French the discovery of the Americas presented minor opportunities for trade proselytizing and conquest, but its rulers were overwhelmingly focused on finding a route to Asia.

the English were much, much slower to accept that the Americas were indeed a brand new landmass the fact was until the late 16th century the English didn’t really care for the new world and was much more concerned about internal issues of religion and whether or not to fight France that day and so in the end for the majority of Europeans, the discovery of the Americas was very important but did not have a major impact on their lives.