Amerigo Vespucci- (1454-1512), was an Italian-born explorer after whom America was named. He claimed to have explored what is now the American mainland in 1497 and believed he had reached a "New World."

To many Europeans, the New World offered opportunities for wealth, power, and adventure. European rulers and merchants wanted to gain control of the hemisphere's resources in order to add to their wealth. Rulers also sought to gain New World territory, and thus increase their power. Christian clergymen were eager to spread their religion to the Indians. Explorers and others viewed the New World as a place to seek adventure, as well as gain personal fame and fortune.

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