Christopher Columbus’s letter describing what he discovered during his voyage across the Atlantic was published in Barcelona in April 1493. Columbus’s descriptions were soon reprinted in other languages, with news of his discoveries spreading across Europe by 1500.
The Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 moved the boundary between Spanish and Portuguese lands in the New World. The line of demarcation established a year earlier by the pope’s papal bull Inter Caetera shifted 1,000 miles westward, with the result that Brazil (when it was discovered) came under Portuguese control.
A virgin soil epidemic occurs when bacteria or viruses are introduced into an area where no similar diseases have ever occurred before. Lacking even partial immunity, populations are devastated by such epidemics. Many scholars believe that the severity of Native American loss of life during the first decades of European colonization was due to the fact that these were virgin soil epidemics.
Marco Polo, with his father and uncle, spent years traversing the Silk Road. During their travels, the Polos gained both great wealth and knowledge of Central Asia and the Middle East that allowed Marco to publish his memoirs of his extensive travels, A Description of the World, in 1298. The book was of great interest to European traders and explorers.