European Empires in the Americas (1500-1700) summary and notes




European Empires in the Americas (1500-1700) summary and notes


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European Empires in the Americas (1500-1700) summary and notes


European Empires in the Americas (1500-1700)


The Fall of Two Empires


Cortes arrives in Mexico. Montezuma was the emperor of Tenochtitlan the capitol of Mexico. Cortes learned as much about the Aztecs as he could thanks to the Mayans. One Mayan chief introduced Cortes to the Native American princess named Malintzin. She spoke the language of the Aztec, and the Mayan language. Before long she also learned Spanish. Malintzin became Cortés’s interpreter.


Like many people in the coastal areas, Malintzin hated the Aztec. She told Cortes’ about their wealth. The rest is history, Cortes and his warriors decided that the best way to control the Aztec would be to seize Montezuma. They took him captive, took control of the city. They piled gold jewelry and other items. Today the gold that Cortes took from the Aztecs would be worth more than $8 million dollars.


Cortes, before leaving the coast, founded a colony he named Veracruz. He claimed Mexico for Spain and the Roman Catholic Church. The Spanish also are responsible for the “Great Sickness” the Aztec wrote about was probably smallpox or measles. These diseases were deadly because the Aztecs had never been exposed to them before.


The Final Conquest- the Aztecs were no match for Cortes and his soldiers, with guns, horses, crossbows, and cannons. The Aztecs surrendered to Cortes on August 13, 1521.


Pizarro and the Inca- Francisco Pizarro


Like Cortes, Pizarro had heard many stories of the great wealth in South America. Like Cortes among the Aztecs, Pizarro thought the best way to control the Inca was through their emperor. He took Atahualpa captive. Pizarro told the people that he wanted a room full of gold and silver, and their ruler would be released. They completed the demand. At today’s prices the roomful of precious metals would be worth more that $65 million. Pizarro then killed the Incan Ruler.


The fall of the Empire-

Pizarro set up his capitol in Lima, Peru.


Section 2


Spain Builds a Vast Empire- Spain used the wealth gained from its conquest of the Aztecs and Inca to enlarge its army and navy. Spain was now the most powerful nation in Europe. Spain faced little interference from other European countries.


Three Kinds of Settlements- Spanish Law called for three kinds of settlements in the Americas- pueblos, missions, and presidios.

Pueblos- were towns, and centers of trades.

Missions- were religious communities that usually included a small town surrounding farmland and a church.

Presidio- Spanish fort was built near a mission to protest people from invaders.


Social classes in New Spain- the people of Spain’s American colonies formed a structured society where position was determined mostly by birth.


Peninsular- people born in Spain had the highest position in Spanish colonial society. They held the best jobs in government and large estates. They controlled the wealth and power.


Creoles- were below peninsulas’ on the social ladder. These colonists had Spanish parents but had been born in New Spain.


Mestizos- people of mixed Spanish and Native American descent. They worked on farms and ranches.


Native Americans made up the largest group of people in Spain’s empire. They were forced to work in the mines and plantations. Poor conditions.


Bartolome de las Casas- developed his life to trying to change the Spaniards abuse of the Native Americans.


Spanish settle in Florida- (1513)

Explorer Juan Ponce De Leon visited Florida, searching for riches- and according to legend- a fountain that promised eternal youth. He found neither, and in 1521 lost his life in a conflict with Native Americans.


In 1565, the Spanish built a Fort, to keep out the French, who were intending to settle in Florida. They called their settlement, St. Augustine. It’s the oldest city in the U.S. started by the Europeans.


Other Spanish Explorers-


Francisco Vasquez de Coronado- organized a large expedition to the Southwest to find the fabled Seven Cities of A bola in 1540. Coronado never founded the cities, but passed cliff dwellings of Anasazi, and settlements Zuni, Hopi, Apache, and Navajo.


Hernando De Soto- explored for the seven cities of gold, but he to found no gold for Spain. But did claim for Spain what is now present day lands of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.


Spanish in California- in 1542, Spanish claimed settlements along the Pacific Coast and explored the site of present day San Diego. This was the first of 21 missions built between San Diego and San Francisco.

Section 3


French, Dutch and Swedish Colonies-


French explorer Jacques Cartier formally claimed the land in eastern Canada for the French. Cartier had reported to a group of French fur companies that there were a great many furbearing animals in northern North America. These fur companies paid for the major attempt the French made to settle America. They hired Samuel de Champlain to lead the effort.


In 1608, Champlain established Quebec- the first settlement for the French. He also explored the Lawrence River. He also explored and mapped Lake Ontario and Lake Huron, two of the five Great Lakes. In what is now New York Champlain found another lake- which he named it after himself-Lake Champlain. Champlain became known as the Father of “New France”.


French Allies- Champlain and French settlers- tried to accept Native American ways. Because of this Attitude some Native Americans became strong allies of the French.


Other French Explorers- Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet explored the Mississippi.


Robert de La Salle- explored the Great Lakes. Founded Louisiana and reaching the mouth of the Mississippi River. La Salle claimed all the land of the Mississippi Valley for France. He named the area Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.


The French government set up a network of military forts. The Forts, combined with close ties between French settlers and many Native American groups, put France in a strong position. It could easily defend its empire against Spain and other European countries.


Arrivals of the Dutch and Sweden- in 1609 the Dutch sailors aboard a ship called the Half-Moon, reached by an English sailor Henry Hudson landed along the North American Coast. Hudson claimed the area for the Dutch.


The Dutch quickly became interested in the North American fur trade. They built trading posts for trading with Native Americans at present day New York. They also started the settlement of New Amsterdam of Manhattan Island eventually the Dutch colony called New Netherland.


In the later 1630s Sweden began sending people to North America. The Swedes settled just south of New Netherland on the Delaware in an area they called New Sweden. Though small New Sweden troubled the Dutch in New Amsterdam. The Dutch did not want to compete with other European countries for trade. Conflicts between the two groups would soon arise.


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