What has been known as The Age of Exploration, was first started by the Portuguese. They began a huge race to build a commercial empire by exploring the coast of West Africa. They established trade in that of gold and slaves. Other trade items encouraged the exploration of more places. In the North Atlantic, an enormous trade in fish encouraged the European nations to search for farther fishing grounds. Meanwhile, merchants were trading around the south tip of Africa to the East to get spices needed to preserve thier meats. The merchants could avoid expensive taxes from the rullers of every country between Eygpt and Europe by traveling in this fashion. Religion also played an important role. The Spanish were pushing hard to convert many of the Natives in America to thier Catholic religion, while many settlers in the Northern region of America were moving there for religious freedom. The best example of this was the Pilgrims of Plymoth Colony who were being persecuted for thier beliefs. The most pivotal point of the Age of Exploration was the discovery of the New World by a one Christopher Colombus who sailed across the Atlantic searching for a new route to Asia but accidently landed in the Caribbean. .
In short time, Spanish Conquistadors had overwhelmed both the powerful Aztec and Incan Empires that had controled today's Mexico and Peru. They claimed all the land for Spain and the settlement were very soon established. Individual settlers for Spain received large areas of land and the right to control all of the labor of those who lived on the land. In these settlements, the Spanish raised cattle and sheep, but however, the most important product of New Spain was silver. All the native people mined silver in the mountians, and often at the expense of thier own lives. The silver that came to Spain financed it's trade with other counrtries, and it fueled a huge inflation of goods that lasted until 1600.