Colonization of the New World summary




Colonization of the New World summary


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Colonization of the New World summary


Colonization of the New World

Period of political unification in Iberia.
1450 begins period of Iberian unification. Castile and Aaragon were united through marriage, and the last Muslim stronghold of Granada was conquered in 1492. Isabella ordered all Jews to convert or to Christianity or get out. Spain lost an estimated 200,000 Jews.

The distinctive features of Iberian societies became part of their American experience.  They were heavily urban; many peasants lived in small centers. 

The encomienda system was established in Iberia. This system gave rights to work the local population to any Spaniard who conquered Moorish lands. This would be introduced in the New World.

Spain ran its political affairs through a complex bureaucracy not unlike that of China. The king worked very closely with the church, and the pope was often asked to intervene in disputes.

1. the Treaty of Tordesillas divided land claims in the New World between Spain and Portugal.)

2. Along side economic interests were the interest of the Church, especially during the Counter-Reformation.

The king controlled many of the economic decisions and took a profit from voyages of exploration and trade.

All these Iberian characteristics would shape Spain and Portugal’s colonies in the New World.

Chronology of conquest
One year after Columbus’ voyage in 1492 the Spanish returned and started the colony of Hispaniola. Then Puerto Rico and Cuba fell under Spanish control. They established the encomienda system of labor. It failed as the majority of the indigenous population died of disease. The Caribbean would go to waste until sugar cane was introduced later on.

After the initial failure in the Caribbean, the Spaniards moved inland. Their initial goal was to extract gold and silver from the New World.

Cortes conquered the Aztecs with 600 men, capturing and killing their king, Moctezuma. It was declared New Spain and Mexico City was constructed on the site of the Aztec capital.

In Peru, Pizarro conquered the Inca which they called New Castile. The set up a capital on the Inca ruin but soon built their own closer to the coast. They named it Lima.

Reasons for Spanish success (Guns, Germs, and Steel)

  1. 1)      weapons
  2. 2)      diseases

In Peru, the mita system was established This required conquered people to send up laborers to work on state projects, mostly silver mines. Some resisted, many protested; not much resulted from this.

Guaman Poma wrote a letter to the Spanish king protesting the abuse of the native people. It had over 1,200 pages of descriptions of abuses, and about 400 hand drawings. It never made it to the king.

Aztec poet:
We have been crushed to the ground
We lie in ruins.
Where we once saw beauty and valor, there is nothing but grief and suffering.

Some Spaniards came with the dream of owning their own land or estates. These estates were called haciendas. They produced many crops for local consumption and supported an new aristocratic class of Spaniards in the New World. The often clashed with village farmers trying to make a living.

These early systems of labor faded away, not because the Spaniards were finally convinced that it was immoral, but because disease eventually wiped out 90% of the indigenous people of the New World.

When sugar was introduced in the New World a new system of labor was produced: African slavery. The first plantations emerge in Brazil.

The Spanish colonial system
The Spanish believed their right to conquer the New World was in the pope’s call to convert the natives to Christianity. The Catholic Church set up dioceses with archbishops and other church officials.

In the same way, New Spain and New Castile became integrated into the Spanish bureaucracy. A viceroy was appointed to be the king’s overseer in these colonies. They had considerable power, but to prevent them from building personal power bases their activities were reviewed by courts back in Spain. In short, they gained very little practice in self rule.

Economically they were under the rule of the king too. The king often funded ventures in the New World and those finding gold or silver had to turn 20% over to the king. They were economically tied to the monarchy.

Social system
The social systems of Spanish colonies mimicked their homeland. The spirals of cathedrals filled the skyline. Spanish and Portuguese became the language of government, business, and society. The church and its bureaucracy was woven into colonial governments. Socially, there was nearly complete subjugation of Amerindians, placed at bottom of social structure. A hierarchical class system emerged. Peninsulares (Europeans born in Spain) had the highest status, and creoles (Europeans born in the Americas) were second. In the middle were mestizos (blend of European and Amerindian) and mulattoes (blend of European and African), and at the bottom were full blood natives and Africans.

Settler colonies of North America
In the early 1600s (think of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588) the English, Dutch and French began to establish colonies in North America. These colonies differed greatley from their Iberian counterparts to the south. These, especially the British colonies, were primarily not funded by royal backing. Private investors paid for these and maintained more supervision over them. There were not royal viceroys in these colonies. Many of them, although subject to royal authority, created their own assemblies of self government through which they chose their own local leaders. Investment companies and the government worked together and many colonies were left to manage their own affairs.

Socially these colonies differed as well from those of the Spanish and Portuguese. The French and English did not find large empires, as the Spaniards did in Mexico and Peru. Native north Americans were usually nomadic and used land for hunting. The Europeans thought these uncultivated lands were going to waste, so they deforested them and began agriculture. The prospect of owning land drew thousands of white settlers. Whites often secured land from natives by use of treaties, which the natives rarely understood.

Unlike the Iberian colonies, many women migrated from France and England to the colonies in the New World. Thus there was little interaction between white men and native women. No significant hybrid race emerged. White distained the culture and people they found, and thought they were lazy for not cultivating the land. They continued to push the natives westward rather than interact and dominate the local population. A virulent racism emerged as a result, and English—unlike the Spanish and Portuguese—had little desire to convert the native populaion. The first African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.


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