Enlightenment: Trade and Discovery

Jasperware medallion of Captai

Length: 3.700 inches

M&ME 1887,3-7.I.71

Christopher Columbus is said to have 'discovered' America in 1492, but we know now that Vikings began visiting the northeast coast from the tenth century. In any case, America was hardly a 'discovery' to the peoples who already lived there.

During the Enlightenment, explorers and natural historians such as Captain James Cook and surveyed lands that were new to the West, identifying trading opportunities and making scientific observations. Trading companies like the Honourable East India Company with its vast bureaucracy and own army, expanded their activities widely during the long eighteenth century.

Some collected 'curiosities' as souvenirs or for sale back home. Increasingly, however, these objects were used to provide knowledge about the variety of different ways of life of people around the world and especially the relationships between them. This led to a growing realisation of the shared humanity of the people of the world.

This is one of a series of tours exploring the themes of the British Museum Enlightenment gallery

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

On display: Enlightenment: Trade-Discovery