Quite a lot happened in Europe between 1002AD, when the Vikings hurriedly packed their longships and retreated back to the colder climes of Greenland, and 1492AD, when the Spanish caravels, with Columbus so confident at the helm, accidentally stumbled across the forgotten continent.
The period, collectively known as the Renaissance, saw a general revival of interest in intellectual thought.
Science was studied, with fresh experiments conducted and new conclusions drawn, laws were introduced to control the growing populations and to create more stable societies, medicines were used to cure illness and prolong life, astonomers peered farther into the unknown universe, while geographers mapped and plotted the earth.
All of these advances were aided by the invention of the movable type and a working printing press, which for the first time made books and maps easy to produce and allowed knowledge to be readily available to all.
While Spain united to drive out the Moors and the other major European countries generally moved closer to becoming nation states, so the merchants also started to trade with far-off places and in particular with the other main hubbub of civilization, namely the East (principally China, India and Persia).
This trade brought all sorts of attractive items into daily use and it wasn't long before Europe started to thrive on this vital commerce, though events were suddenly brought to a premature halt by the rise of the Muslems in the Middle East who moved to blockade the profitable trade routes.
When Constantinople, the established base of the Christian Byzantium Empire, finally fell to the forces of the Ottaman Turks in 1453, the trade virtually dried up.
The merchants were doomed and a continent that had become more or less dependent on this trade suddenly felt the need to find an alternative route to regain access to this lucrative market.
At that time Portugal was the leading maritime nation in Europe, holding vital access to the Atlantic Ocean, the unknown frontier and as a few believed the real key to access the eastern markets.
As they started to explore into this ocean they first found tiny chains of islands - Madeira, the Canary Islands, the Azores and the Cape Verde Islands - but they then turned their ships southwards to chart the continent of Africa.
The Atlantic was still too big, too unknown, and they decided to play it safe and stick to the coastline.
Their plan was to try and get around the tip of Africa and then to access Asia across the Indian Ocean.
This was a safe route, making sense on the maps of the time, as to their knowledge the American continent quite simply did not exist.
How things were going to change!