Through the 15th century, Portugal explored the African coast in search of the Indies and the fabulous wealth of the trading networks with the East – such as those of Mansa Musa from Timbuktu. Until the great expeditions of Columbus and Da Gama led to the opening of contact with the Americas and Asia.
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England’s contribution was, well, relatively modest, as the Matthew set out from Bristol in 1497, and returned from Newfoundland. For a while, John Cabot was a sensation, and spent his £10 reward from Henry VII with abandon as he prepared for his second, larger expedition. Which is a good thing -since sadly he never return, and no news came back of the fate that had befallen him. Henry VIII had little time for such things, and it would be more than a generation before English efforts seriously started anew.
The maps available to the first explorers, such as the Catalan Atlas of 1375 were not well designed to be practical aids. Most pilots depended on experience in the form of their rutters to guide them, and this experience was jealously guarded.