Why did sailors go on voyages of exploration during the Tudor period?

Many voyages of exploration and discovery were made during the Tudor period (1485 to 1603). Sea voyages were expensive, time consuming and dangerous. So, why did Europeans go exploring?

There were two main reasons to explain the number of voyages of exploration in Tudor times: money and religion.

  • Trade was incredibly important in the Tudor period. Merchants were always on the look out for new countries to trade with and new products to introduce to Europe. Voyages of discovery offered the chance to find new trading opportunities and faster routes to existing trading sites. European monarchs (kings and queens) were also keen to support and fund voyages of exploration if they thought there was a chance of claiming new lands and territory.
  • The majority of Europeans in the Tudor period were Christians. The desire to bring Christianity to the people of ‘new’ lands also explains why many voyages of exploration took place.

These were not the only aims of Tudor voyages of discovery – the desire to improve the maps and charts of the world by adding more detail and ‘new’ islands and coastlines would also have been a factor, but this would not have been enough on its own. Voyages cost a small fortune and a sailor could only really undertake one with the financial backing of a wealthy merchant or a monarch.