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A Free Reading Passage on the Caravel for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 6

2

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The caravel is a referenced topic in the Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



a caravel
185020481/Shutterstock


In the chronicles of maritime history, few ships have made as enduring an impact as the caravel. Despite its modest size, this adaptable vessel wielded immense influence in heralding the Age of Exploration, fundamentally reshaping the trajectory of human civilization.


Originating in the coastal regions of Portugal during the 15th century, the caravel was a nimble and seaworthy vessel ideally suited for long-distance voyages. Its design was a remarkable feat of innovation, incorporating features such as a shallow draft, triangular lateen sails, and a combination of square and triangular rigs. These advancements granted the caravel exceptional maneuverability and the ability to sail effectively against the wind, a crucial advantage for exploration in uncharted waters.

One of the most famous proponents of the caravel was the Portuguese explorer Prince Henry the Navigator. Under his patronage, expeditions were launched to chart new maritime routes and establish lucrative trade networks with distant lands. The caravel proved instrumental in these endeavors, enabling explorers to venture farther than ever before and navigate the treacherous waters of the open sea with confidence.


Perhaps the most renowned voyage undertaken with the caravel was that of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Equipped with three small caravels – the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña – Columbus set sail across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a westward route to Asia. While he ultimately stumbled upon the shores of the Americas instead, his journey marked a historic milestone in human exploration and was made possible by the capabilities of the caravel.


Beyond its role in exploration, the caravel played a significant part in shaping the course of global trade and cultural exchange. Its speed and maneuverability made it an ideal vessel for traversing trade routes between Europe, Africa, and the Americas, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and people across continents.


However, the legacy of the caravel is not without controversy. While it enabled unprecedented voyages of discovery, it also facilitated the spread of European colonization and exploitation of indigenous peoples. The same ships that carried explorers to new worlds also served as instruments of conquest and subjugation. The caravel played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade, transporting millions of enslaved Africans to the Americas under horrific conditions. This dark chapter in history underscores the moral complexities surrounding the caravel’s legacy. While it symbolizes human ingenuity and the spirit of exploration, it also reminds us of the profound injustices perpetuated in the pursuit of conquest and profit.



PRINTABLE READING PASSAGE ON THE CARAVEL

Would you prefer to share a printable passage with your students? Click the image below to grab it!



Caravel FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about the caravel?







Columbian Exchange, Spanish Exploration, and Conquest



Period 1



AP U.S. History



The Caravel



Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

May 6

2

0

0

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