A question from Yahoo! Answers:
What major factors encouraged european exploration in the 1400 and 1500s?
Only one: mercantilism. This was an economic doctrine (originating, as far as we know, in the 14th-century Germany) which taught that wealth is ownership of precious metals. So countries whose governments subscribed to the mercantilist doctrine (and that’s pretty much every major European nation) set in motion two groups of policies designed to trap the greatest possible amount of precious metals within their borders: (1) protectionism (discouraging imports with taxes while encouraging exports with subsidies), and (2) colonialism (conquering foreign countries that are rich in precious metals).