School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic A. Individuals and Societies Change Over Time

Indicator 1. Analyze the chronology and significance of key historical events during the age of European exploration

Objective a. Describe the origin, destination and goals of the North American explorers


Although the Vikings had briefly established a settlement in Newfoundland in the year 1001, the exploration of North America did not begin in earnest until very late in the 15th century, after Columbus returned from his first voyage. Initially, European explorers were seeking a westerly route to Asia to participate in that continent's lucrative trade, but by the first decade of the 1500s, it was clear that the lands being explored were not Asia but a previously unknown landmass. For the next two centuries, European nations sponsored the exploration of North America with the goal of laying claim to new territories that could produce wealth, thereby strengthening their nation in relation to the other European powers. In the process, Europeans hoped to spread their religions to the native peoples.

The first European after the Vikings to reach North America was the Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto. Hired by the English, who called him John Cabot, Caboto explored Newfoundland in 1497. Much later, in 1607 and 1608, John Smith would also explore North America for England. After establishing the colony of Jamestown, Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay in search of gold and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean.

Spanish conquistadors explored much of the present-day United States in search of gold and converts to Christianity. In 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon explored and claimed for Spain what is now Florida, and, in 1539, Hernando de Soto explored what is now Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas in 1540.

By the 1530s, France began its exploration of North America in the hopes of finding the Northwest Passage, a water route to Asia that they believed lay to the north. In the process of seeking the Northwest Passage for France, Italian-born Giovanni de Verrazano explored the North American coast from present-day Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, and Jacques Cartier (1534) and Samuel de Champlain (1603) claimed eastern Canada for France. France soon recognized the money to be made through the fur trade and began exploring the Great Lakes and Mississippi River valley and setting up trade relationships with the Native Americans. A group of French explorers including missionary Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet explored the upper Mississippi River in 1673, and Rene-Robert Cavelier (known as Sieur de la Salle) claimed the entire Mississippi River Valley for France and named it Louisiana to honor King Louis XIV in 1682.

The Netherlands also hoped to find a Northwest Passage to Asia. In 1609, the Dutch hired English explorer Henry Hudson, who explored what is now the Hudson River and, the following year, what is now Hudson Bay. The Dutch soon established settlements in the area explored by Hudson with its capital, New Amsterdam, on the site of modern Manhattan.

Resources for Objective 5.A.1.a: