Who in Europe at this time makes the best, most accurate maps?

You are a European explorer living in the fifteenth century. Think about what that means for empires that are in decline as well as the emergence of ambitious rising powers that aspire to profit from the Silk Road. This situation presents you with an opportunity to amass a fortune, assuming you know enough about the geographic, economic, social, religious and political realities of your times that you can translate this dream into reality. How you go about that task depends on you, your bravery, and your cunning.

For the elites of fifteenth-century Western Europe, the task is a daunting one: they must reopen the Silk Road at all costs. But who is going to sell a feasible plan to potential investors? The Crusades, though far from over, have tapered off, having sustained heavy recent losses. The papacy is preoccupied with scandal and schism. Circumnavigating the horn of Africa to reach the Indian Ocean is possible, but it is costly, and the journey is a long and arduous one. Simply put, there must be a shorter, faster way to get to Asia.

Your job is to write a proposal to a powerful individual or a group of wealthy investors willing to advance vast sums of money to fund your expedition. While your first thoughts may turn to approaching a nobleman or noblewoman, keep in mind that the rise of Venice and other commercial city-states throughout Europe have witnessed the rise of great banking houses and with them, fabulously rich merchant bankers. Whom will you seek as your sponsor? How will you convince your sponsor that your plan will reap profits?

When formulating your proposal, make sure you consider the following questions

  • What will your efforts bring them as rewards?
  • Once you secure financing, what shipwrights and shipyards do you plan to visit?
  • Who in Europe at this time makes the best, most accurate maps?
  • How you recruit your crew?
  • What “prize” will you offer them (e.g., spiritual reward, gold, and/or glory)?
  • When do you plan to set sail?
  • Will part of your journey be over land?
  • Have you secured permission to enter certain realms?

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