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Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (c. 1485-1547) is best known for conquering the Aztecs and claiming Mexico on behalf of Spain. Cortés (full name Don Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca) first served as a soldier in an expedition of ...read more
In 1534, France’s King Francis I authorized the navigator Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) to lead a voyage to the New World in order to seek gold and other riches, as well as a new route to Asia. Cartier’s three expeditions along the St. Lawrence River would later enable France to ...read more
The explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, he stumbled upon the Americas. Though he did not really ...read more
Henry Hudson made his first voyage west from England in 1607, when he was hired to find a shorter route to Asia from Europe through the Arctic Ocean. After twice being turned back by ice, Hudson embarked on a third voyage–this time on behalf of the Dutch East India Company–in ...read more
John Cabot (or Giovanni Caboto, as he was known in Italian) was an Italian explorer and navigator who may have developed the idea of sailing westward to reach the riches of Asia while working for a Venetian merchant. Though the exact details of his life and expeditions are the ...read more
Born into Spanish nobility, Juan Ponce de León (1460-1521) may have accompanied Christopher Columbus on his 1493 voyage to the New World. A decade later, he was serving as governor of the eastern province of Hispaniola when he decided to explore a nearby island, which became ...read more
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian-born merchant and explorer who took part in early voyages to the New World on behalf of Spain around the late 15th century. By that time, the Vikings had established settlements in present-day North America as early as 1,000 A.D. and Christopher ...read more
Francisco Pizarro was an explorer, soldier and conquistador best known for conquering the Incas and executing their leader, Atahuapla. He was born around 1474 in Trujillo, Spain. As a soldier, he served on the 1513 expedition of Vasco Núñez de Balboa, during which he discovered ...read more