The Age of Exploration set of a race hither to unseen in the world. New continents were discovered. Strange spices and animals sold for a lot of money in the world markets. But most of all, new land was most coveted. Europe is one of the smallest continents in the world. Not only that, but dozens of countries vied for the limited amount of territory, each seeking to increase their own power. But the discovery of the New World, due to technological advances in sea travel and exploration, provided a new avenue to grow their countries.
The race was to claim as much land around the world as possible. Leading the race were countries like England, Spain, Portugal, and France. They laid claim to the New World as fast as they could, colonies springing up within a century of the discovery. While this may seem like a long time, considering the travel requirements and the need for scouting and exploration for suitable locations, this time frame makes sense.
Unfortunately, the countries’ desire for power and land made them greedy. The natives of places like the American Continents and Australia paid the price for what the Europeans desired. Millions of Native Americans and Aborigines died due to violence wrought by the colonizers or through disease they brought from Europe. The Europeans faced difficulty as well. New diseases, hostile natives, and the lack of reliable farming and medical technology often laid new colonies low, their citizens dead. But despite these challenges, the Europeans pressed onward, competing with themselves and their rival countries. They succeeded in colonizing the world, making it a much smaller place then before.
Countries now spanned multiple continents. England, the most powerful country in the world at the time, dubbed itself ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’. And this moniker was true. The British empire spanned the globe. The had colonies in the Americas, India, Africa, Australia, and numerous small islands dotting the globe. Other countries were similar, though not quite as widespread.
Eventually, however, greed and avarice brought about ruin for these European countries. Their colonies, so far removed from their mother country’s seat of power, began to desire independence. The United States was the first to successfully rebel, and was the inspiration for many of the ones that followed. Thirteen colonies joined together, wrote the Declaration of Independence, drafted a Constitution, and beat the most powerful nation in the world against all odds. The United States, through trials and tribulations, forged itself into the most powerful country on the planet. Many other colonies also demanded their freedom, sundering the global dominance of Europe and forming dozens of new countries.
Today, very few countries can claim that they span the globe. But there are some who technically are a part of at least two continents. Russia is the first that comes to mind. Its massive land mass comprises significant parts of Europe and Asia. More than two-thirds of Russia is on Asia, but about 75% of its population lives in the European part.
Turkey also spans Europe and Asia, though barely. About 3% of its landmass lies in Asia across the Bosporus Strait. Egypt lies mostly in Africa, but the Sinai Peninsula physically speaking is a part of Asia. Socotra Island, which lies just off the Horn of Africa, is a part of the West Asian republic of Yemen. Spain lies entirely on Europe except for its cities Ceuta and Melilla. Portugal’s Madeira Island is also a part of Africa. Indonesia consists of over 13,700 islands, some of which lie in Oceania, a geographic continent rather than a physical one, and Asia. The eastern islands (including Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya) are counted as part of Oceania rather than Asia. By official count, there are eight countries that straddle two continents. The United States also spans two continents, but again barely. The state of Hawaii is technically on the Oceania continent. At a final count, there are eight countries today that span more than one continent.