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When land was out of sight, navigators could only refer to the speed of the ship and the time it took to reach a particular destination to estimate how far east or west they had traveled.
Europe experienced radical economic and social changes between the 11th and 14th centuries.
The medieval world was based on feudalism, a highly regulated and hierarchical form of society in which everyone had their place and responsibilities.
The widespread use of printed documents increased the importance of reading and writing skills and allowed shoppers to compare the value of goods different tradesmen offered.
The printing of mercantile newspapers also promoted literacy.
The manorial system, in which lords owned the land worked by their vassals, or serfs, started to wane in the late Middle Ages with the development of nation-states.
Medieval cities, dominated by the guilds that brought economic stability, became the centers of commerce.
Although many former feudal lords continued to receive a percentage of the harvest, an emerging cash economy undermined feudalism in the countryside and helped support a growing population throughout Europe.
Economic changes further stimulated the growth of commerce.
Used by navigators from Spain, Portugal, and England, the caravel was a small but fast merchant ship that typically carried few weapons.
An improved version, the were these types of caravels and Magellan had one in his fleet that circumnavigated the world.