By the mid-16th century, the Great Geographical Discoveries had become an important economic and political factor for the Old World. Spanish galleons with American gold and silver onboard had started to reach European shores alongside Portuguese caravels carrying precious spices from the Indian Ocean. England couldn't stay on the sidelines of history, as its merchants and industrialists, having made fortunes in textiles, started to look to India and China as potential sources of new revenue and investment.
There was however a problem, since the trade routes leading to these destinations were controlled by England's competitors, stressing the urgency of finding new routes that came to be known as the Northwest and the Northeast passages.
The idea of organizing an expedition to India and China along Arctic coasts of Scandinavia, Russia (then known as the Tsardom of Muscovy) and enigmatic Tartary, took shape in 1551