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The Renaissance.—During the latter years of the fifteenth century western Europe slowly emerged from the mists of the Middle Ages. Out of the confused strife of the feudal nobility certain families had risen to power—the Tudor in England, the Valois in France, and the united houses of Aragon and Castile in Spain. In these separate kingdoms the lesser nobles were put down. Government was centralized, and intestine strife gave place to larger national wars. Men breathed more freely. Learning became more general, and a spirit of inquiry was abroad. It was the era of the Renaissance—the "new birth" of the arts and sciences.

Discovery of America—The North Neglected.—In no
department was this new-born zeal followed by more startling

results than in the department
of maritime discovery. The
nations lying around the Med-
iterranean led the van. The
discovery of America by Chris-
topher Columbus (A.D. 1492)
was the result of an attempt
to reach the "Far Cathay" of
Marco Polo by sailing west.
This golden Orient lay—so the
rumor ran—in southern seas,
and the tide of exploration
which followed Columbus tend-
ed, therefore, to the south
rather than to more northern
latitudes. For more than

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS.   thirty years after Columbus

first landed on one of the out-

lying islands of the New World, what lay to the north was largely mere conjecture.

John Cabot.—At first, it is true, some attention was turned to the north. Henry VII. of England was unwilling that Spain should reap all the glory and profit of western discovery ; and so, in 1497, he commissioned a Venetian navigator, John Cabot, then a trading citizen of Bristol, to sail north-westerly, in the hope that in that direction perchance a way to Asia might be found. But,


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