Abstract and Keywords
Without the ocean — or rather, the two oceans, the North and South Atlantic — we cannot account for many of the basic facts of Atlantic history. Only ships and seafaring made possible the construction of the Atlantic world. Two stages in the making of the Atlantic world need to be distinguished; the age of exploration, when the geography of the two oceans was yet to be determined, and the age of exploitation which followed. Besides knowledge of celestial navigation and the wind systems, there was one further key element of the Atlantic navigation system which was developed in the fifteenth century: the three-masted ship rig. Just as the wind and current systems favoured the Spaniards in the Caribbean, they favoured the Portuguese in the South Atlantic Ocean. The study of Atlantic navigation raises as many questions as it answers. It seems to account for the early success of Portugal and Spain, but also seems to make almost impossible the rise to prominence in international trade of such remote and unfavoured ports as London and Amsterdam.
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