For Medieval Europeans, the main trade route was the Silk Roads between Italy and China. The link between Europe and Asia was Constantinople, the Eastern capital of the Roman Empire. However, the seizure of Constantinople by the Muslim Ottoman Empire in 1453 cut off Europe’s overland access to the Far East. This inspired several European nations to find an alternative, sea-based route to Asia. The Portuguese led the way by navigating around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope to reach the legendary Spice Islands in Indonesia. The Spanish and the British, blocked from following the same route by Portuguese military bases, desperately tried to find an alternative route to the Spice Islands by sailing West across the Atlantic. This brought the Spanish to the “New World” of South America, where they encountered the Aztec, Mayan and Incan civilisations. The British, as well as establishing early settlement in North America, went around the tip of South America and sailed across the Pacific to contact one of the most mysterious countries of all: Japan. Predictably, they found that the Japanese had got their first!