APEH Notes 1

European Exploration & Commercial Revolution

Overview: The Portuguese were the first to push out into the Atlantic, but it was Spain, following close behind, that built a New World empire that provided the economic basis for a period of Spanish supremacy in European affairs. In the short run, Spanish gold and silver form the New world made the Spanish Netherlands the financial and manufacturing center of Europe, and Spain became Europe's greatest military power. In the long run, however, overseas expansion ruined the Spanish economy, created massive European inflation, and brought the end of Spain's empire in Europe.

Schmiechen, James. A History of Western Society, 6th ed. Study Guide vol. II. Boston: Houghton, 1999. (pp. 245-246)


Lesson 8: The Age of Discovery

Objective: To develop an understanding of why Europeans were responsible for the Age of Discovery. 

European Exploration & the Commercial Revolution Notes

(Kagan pp. 340-350). Introduction:  Western Europe Leads the Way Overseas.  Medieval Europeans had an inadequate knowledge of world geography, knowing only about Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. Starting in the 15th century, the nations of western Europe – notably Portugal, Spain, France, England and Holland – sent out expeditions that discovered and explored portions of the globe previously unknown to Europeans, notably eastern Asia, called the Far East, and the Americas.  The factors that encouraged these voyages were the following:

1)  Trade With the East.  The Crusades introduced Europeans to the fine products of the East, such as spices, silks, glassware, rugs and precious gems.  As a result, trade developed between Europe and the East, which trade became the monopoly of the Italian city-states, especially Venice, Genoa, and Pisa.  These city-states were favorably located on the Mediterranean within easy sailing distance to Constantinople and other eastern Mediterranean ports.  Here, Italian merchant ships filled up with products which had been gathered throughout Asia by overland caravans of Arab merchants.

            The profitable business of importing Eastern products into Europe attracted the attention of Portugal and Spain, two newly developed national states.  Since they border on the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal and Spain financed expeditions to discover an all-water route that would take their merchant ships directly to the Far East.  Such a route would smash the monopoly of the Italian city-states.  In addition, an all-water route would lower the cost of goods by eliminating the exorbitant charges imposed by Arab middlemen.

2) Turkish Conquests in the Near East.  The established trade route for securing Eastern products was via Constantinople and the Mediterranean.  In the 14th and 15th centuries, this trade route was upset by Turkish conquests in the Near East, climaxed by their capture of Constantinople in 1453.  The Turks hindered trade by levying heavy tolls and sometimes attacking European merchant ships.  Therefore, western Europe sought an all-water route that would bypass Turkish possessions.

3) European Curiosity About the East.  European interest in the Far East was heightened by reports of bold travelers who had ventured into the unknown Orient.  The best-known traveler was Marco Polo, a citizen of Venice, who in the 13th century had visited Cathay (China) and lived at the court of its ruler, Kublai Khan.  Upon Polo’s return to Venice, he wrote an account of his adventures and of the great riches he had seen.  This aroused the imagination of countless Europeans, especially the rulers and bourgeoisie of the national states arising in western Europe.

4) Wealth and Power of the New National States.  The rulers of the new national states in western Europe provided the leadership and had the wealth to undertake expensive voyages of discovery and exploration.  The resulting trade and commerce would bring prosperity to the rising middle class, whose members were strong supporters of the central government.

5) Scientific Advances.  Scientific advances reduced the hazards of ocean travel and thus encouraged voyages of discovery and exploration.  Among these advances were (a) new geographic knowledge that the earth is round, not flat, (b) improved maps, (c) the mariner’s compass for determining direction, and (d) the astrolabe for determining latitude.

 6. Forerunners of Columbus

The discovery of the continents of North America and South America was due to many causes. For many years mariners had been learning better methods of sailing their ships. Seamen had learned to use the compass on the ocean and out of sight of land. Better maps were being made which sailors were learning to read with greater skill. The ships themselves were larger and sturdier. Sailors were becoming bolder and more eager for adventure. Some believed that by learning more about the earth and the people who lived in distant places they could help the spread of Christianity. Many of the mariners who lived in the time of Christopher Columbus believed that great wealth would come to the seaman who could discover a new water route to India and China.

I. The Search for New Trade Routes

A. Trade and Trade Routes

     1. A most important result of the Crusades was the great increase of trade between East and West. About the time Columbus was born, people in Europe were eager to buy goods from India and China. European merchants were anxious to obtain the silks and the spices, the precious jewels and the perfumes that came from the East. However, it was difficult for the merchants to get the silks and spices for their European customers. In the first place the goods had to be carried a great distance. then again the only fairly convenient trade routes to the East ran through territory that was largely under Turkish control.

     2. The Turks sometimes made trading dangerous for European traders. Turkish pirates sometimes captured the trading ships of the merchants and after stealing the cargo, set the crew adrift or sold the crew into slavery. The Turks could do as they pleased in the eastern Mediterranean, for their power there was supreme. For many reasons it was desirable for the European traders to find a new trade route. As a land route was practically out of the question, a water route had to be found.

     3. Possible Trade Routes. There were two possible untried trade routes to the East. Some thought India could be reached by sailing south along the coast of Africa. This is called the southern route. Others thought that India could be reached by sailing west. The mythology of the time speculated that the southern route was dangerous and that the southern seas about Africa reached the boiling point! The seas to the west was thought to be even more dangerous. No one dreamed that America was to the west though it had been visited by Europeans, the Northmen.

     4. Vikings in America. Before the year 1000 (early Middle Ages) the Norsemen crossed the Atlantic. This is no surprise considering the fact that they also settled the region around Kiev in Ukraine, laying the foundation for Russia. Their first trip across the Atlantic brought them to Iceland, where in the year 867, they planted a colony. Greenland (part of North America) was settled by them a few years later and the Greenland colony lasted for 500 years. Finally about the year 1000, the Norsemen visited North America. Leif Ericson was a Norseman living in Greenland with the other Norse colonists. While on a visit to Norway he and his men were baptized Christians and they then returned to Greenland with missionaries. Later, Ericson and his companions left Greenland and sailed west until they reached the coast of Labrador.  Then he sailed south to a country he called Vinland because many grape vines grew there. This seems indicative of the warmer climate of that time. Ericson probably landed somewhere on the coast of New England. We have the "Vinland Map" which comes to us by way of a Papal emissary to the Tartars in 1300. It clearly shows Vinland and mentions Lief Ericson. Ironically, no one in Greenland seemed too interested in Vinland though Ericson's brother returned to Vinland but remained there only for a short time. The Viking tales speak of difficulties with natives already living in Vinland and problems arising from their distance from more stable settlements. There are other stories of pre-Columbian European voyages to the Americas including Brendan the Navigator (6th century) among others.

The Portuguese Are First to Reach the East.  Henry the Navigator Prince of Portugal-left- (1394-1460), aroused his nation’s interest in finding an all-water route to the East by sailing around Africa.  Under Henry’s inspiration, Portuguese sea captains kept pushing southward along the Atlantic coast of Africa.  In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz reached the southernmost point of Africa, which was named the Cape of Good Hope.  In 1498, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape and reached India.  His return, with a cargo of spices worth 60 times the cost of the voyage, excited western Europe.The new route was fairly safe. It bypassed Islamic control of trade with the East. The Portuguese decisively broke the Islamic monopoly over trade with India in the Battle of Diu, 1509. Rich trade with the East would now be controlled by western European countries. The trading center of Europe during the Middle Ages had been located along the Mediterranean. By the new discoveries, the trading center of Europe was removed from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. This is an important fact which had great influence upon later history.

Spain Finances an Expedition Led by Columbus.  Meanwhile, in 1492, Christopher Columbus, an Italian, set out on a voyage of discovery under the flag of Spain.  Columbus convinced that the Earth is round, hoped to reach the East by sailing due west across the Atlantic Ocean.  He failed because his way was blocked by two huge continents unknown to the nations of Europe.  Without realizing it, Columbus had discovered a new world, subsequently named the Americas, after the explorer and publicist, Amerigo Vespucci.Results of extraordinary importance followed upon the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus.

     1. Christopher Columbus. We do not know for certain where or when Columbus was born. Most historians lean toward Genoa, Italy in or about 1453-the year Constantinople fell. Columbus was drawn to the life of a sailor but since the fall of Constantinople the prospects of succeeding as a sailor in Genoa were not very good because the city had lost the prosperous trade it once had with Constantinople. Columbus relocated to Portugal. Columbus had the idea, based on the map of Toscanelli, that China and Japan lay to the west of Europe across the Atlantic. Toscanelli did not know that a whole continent, America, lay between Spain and Asia. Columbus sought ships and money from the King of Portugal. Though the king promised to help Columbus in the future it was not the definitive promise that Columbus sought. Columbus then sought help from the king of Spain. The Spanish were still fighting their crusade against the Moors who had a stronghold at Granada in southern Spain. When Granada fell to the Spanish in 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella felt free to give their support to Columbus' plan.

     After a difficult start Columbus and his men reached the New World on October 12, 1492 - nearly a century after the Norsemen had abandoned their colony in Greenland. The new land was called San Salvador (Holy Savior) and claimed for Spain in the names of Ferdinand and Isabella. Columbus, believing he was in India, called the natives "Indians". Whereas he was expecting to find golden palaces he instead found small villages consisting of huts. Columbus resolved to build a colony in Hispaniola and returned to Spain. Seventeen ships took part in Columbus' second voyage which arrived in the New World in November of 1493. Columbus discovered that his colony had been exterminated. A new colony was founded called "Isabella" after the Queen. 1,500 men were part of this colony and Columbus returned to Spain. On his third voyage (1498-1500) Columbus touched the coast of South America and the mouth of the Orinoco River. Meanwhile reports reached Spain that Columbus had been cruel to the natives and a ship was sent to investigate. Columbus was arrested,put in chains, and sent aboard ship to be returned to Spain. Columbus never recovered from this treatment. The King and Queen showed sympathy to Columbus and sent him on a fourth voyage (1502). On this voyage he discovered the coast of Central America and the Isthmus of Darien. On this voyage Columbus caught a virus and returned to Spain in poor health. He discovered that many in Spain considered him a failure because he had not reached India.

     2 The great feats of Columbus were a constant topic of conversation among the seafaring men of his time. His enemies in Spain never tired of telling of Columbus's great failure. They nicknamed him "the Admiral of mosquito land." Others, however, knew that Columbus had done a great thing. For example, John Cabot, a sailor from Venice, made a voyage for King Henry VIII of England in 1497. Cabot discovered some part of North America. Meanwhile Spain's seamen continued to sail to the West.

     Spain and Portugal desired that trouble be avoided between them through the establishment of a boundary line marking of the territory to which each country had claim in the New World. Pope Alexander VI in 1493 declared that an imaginary line be drawn running from north to south, dividing the world into two parts. It was called the "line of demarcation." Newly discovered lands east of this line were to belong to Portugal, those west of it to Spain. The Spanish or the Portuguese, as the case might be, would have the right to colonize the newly acquired lands. In 1494, the line would be amended by the Treaty of Tordesillas, giving Portugal claim to Brazil which had been first explored by Cabral on behalf of the Portuguese king. A Florentine business man, Americus Vespucius, working in Portugal made several voyages to the New World. He kept an account of his travels where he indicated that he believed these lands were not part of Asia but were, instead, a separate continent. Martin Waldesmuler, a German geographer, used Vespucius' accounts in his map of the western hemisphere which he named America.

     3. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portugese mariner, sought to imitate the exploits of Diaz and Da Gama. The king of Portugal did not support his plan to sail west so Magellan sought the aid of Spain. Magellan eventually made his way around the southern tip of South America (he called it the Channel of All Saints but we call it the Straight of Magellan). Magellan called the new waters he encountered the Pacific Ocean because of its peaceful waters. Vasco Nunez de Balboa had already encountered the eastern side of the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 calling it the "South Sea" - Balboa claimed all the lands that touched this ocean in the name of Spain.

      Though the Pacific Ocean was calm the sailors aboard Magellan's ship became ill. They were reduced to starvation-eating their shoes and leather from the ship's rigging. Magellan continued to sail to the Philippine Islands where he became involved in a tribal war in which he was killed. The remaining sailors took the best ship of the original fleet and returned to Spain. They returned on September 6, 1521-three years after their departure. When the voyage began Magellan had a fleet of five vessels and 280 men. At the end, there remained twenty starving men on a leaky ship. Magellan's voyage, however, greatly added to the knowledge of geography and cleared up several problems. Magellan's voyage taught all the size of the earth, that America was not an island but a large continent. Juan Cabrillo would teach us more about the west coast of America. Cabrillo was another Portuguese man working in the service of Spain. He stopped on the western coast of Mexico and sailed north with two vessels. He sailed as far as Oregon and thoroughly explored the coast of California. 

B. Spain's Conquistadors

     1. The energetic Spaniards followed discovery by exploration. Before a quarter of a century after Columbus's first voyage, Spaniards were exploring the mainland. The exploits of Balboa, De Leon, Coronoado, as well as the conquests of Cortes and Pizarro, added to Spain's power in the New World. In 1513 (the same year Balboa discovered the Pacific) Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico, discovered Florida. He called the land Florida because it was Easter time. Ponce de Leon was disappointed because he had not discover the fountain of youth which he sought. 

      2. The Conquest of Mexico. One day a party of Spaniards from Cuba landed on the coast of Mexico. There they noticed some natives who seemed more advanced than those the Spaniards had known. The gold ornaments that they wore showed that they had some skill in metal work. The exploring party learned that there were different nations among the Indian inhabitants. The various tribes belonged to an association or confederacy. The ruler of the confederacy was called Montezuma. He was a member of the most important group of Indians in Mexico called the Aztecs. The chief city of the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, was built on an island in a lake in the interior of Mexico.

      3. Hernando Cortes. Hernando Cortes was the man given charge of the expedition to Mexico. Cortes had sixteen horses for his soldiers and a number of brass cannons. The horses were the first to be brought to the New World. The Spaniards thought so much of the horses that their names were recorded. The object of the expedition now was to reach the City of Mexico or Tenochtitlan. The march to the capital was difficult. The country was rough and the sun was hot. The natives were unfriendly and even hostile. However, the success of the small number of Spaniards against large numbers of natives made the Aztec decide not to oppose the Spaniards by force. Montezuma seems to have been frightened when he learned of the ability of the Spanish as fighters. The Aztec were also alarmed by prophecies of the return of a "pale-faced" god who would return to rule the kingdom. Montezuma tried to dissuade Cortes from reaching Tenochtitlan by giving him gifts and sharing stories of great danger with him. Cortes pushed on and was met at the city with a delegation headed by Montezuma. Montezuma gave Cortes a tour of the city and the temples. The Spanish garrison made the Aztecs furiously angry when they showed disrespect to the Mexican gods. The Aztecs then attacked the Spaniards. Cortes's force was almost cut to pieces when they made their escape from the city. About a year later the Spaniards returned and captured the city which they held permanently. Later a new city of Mexico was build on the site.

     4. Francisco Pizarro crossed the Andes Mountains to encounter the land of wealth reputed to be on the other side. Pizarro's party arrived in Peru, the country of the Inca. Pizarro sent Ferdinand De Soto, with a small company ahead to look over the ground of the Inca. After a long while he returned with an envoy from the ruler, Atahualpa. After some fighting and many adventures, Cuzco, one of the richest cities in the world, was captured by the Spanish. Pizarro reaped no reward, however, because he was killed by his own men. De Soto remained in Peru and eventually was made governor of Cuba by the king. The king also give De Soto the commission to explore the southern part of what is now the USA. More than six hundred men, a number of horses, and even a herd of pigs were part of the expedition. The party landed at Tampa Bay. The march through Florida was extremely difficult because the explorers were constantly under attack from the natives. The party reached the Mississippi in 1541 where De Soto was stricken by the fever that took his life shortly thereafter. De Soto's men concealed De Soto's death from the Indians because the natives feared De Soto. The Spaniards  wrapped his body in a weighted blanket & lowered the body into the Mississippi and returned to Cuba. Nevertheless, the Spanish built the permanent city of St. Augustine in Florida in 1565 and had small settlements spreading to St. Elena (Port Royal) in present-day South Carolina. The Spanish called Virginia Ajacan established a temporary mission called St. Mary's in New Kent county in 1570. The natives massacred all the missionaries except one young Spanish boy who survived by living with a rival tribe until a Spanish relief party arrived in 1572.

  5. Another Spaniard named Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition into the American Southwest. Here he encountered many natives who lived in pueblos. The natives shared a legend with Coronado about the "Seven Cities of Cibola" which were reputed to house great stores of wealth. Coronado led about 300 Spaniards & 800 Mexican Indians in search of these fabled cities. They saw great plains where the buffalo were plentiful and the Grand Canyon. Spain's explorers and soldiers had gained possession of a vast territory from the Rio Grande River in North America, the islands of the Caribbean Sea,  to the tip of South America. The entire continent of South America, except Brazil, became the site of dozens of small Spanish settlements and several important cities. This occurred before the English had succeeded in planting their first permanent settlement at Jamestown (1607).

6. In the discovery of the New World, faith had played a vital role. Often the missionary went ahead of the explorer and conquistador. Spain encountered the New World just as she concluded a successful crusade against the Moors. Friars (vowed religious men who work as missionaries instead of residing in monasteries) including the Franciscans, Carmelites, and Dominicans as well as Jesuits worked in the missions in Spanish, Portuguese, and French America. Impressive colonial era mission churches can be found all over Spanish America from St. Augustine in Florida to the famous twenty-one missions of California. French and Spanish Missions in North America 1550-1850

7. Spain's Legacy in the New World. The native population of Spanish America was made up of Native Americans. Spain set up a feudal encomienda system whereby natives worked plantations for a fixed period of time. A fixed class structure developed in New Spain. The top stratus was formed by Spaniards born in Spain, called peninsulares or gachupines, most of whom came from titled families and held the highest ranking posts in both the government and the clergy. Next came the criollos, those born in Mexico of Spanish parents. While few of the criollos who came to occupy official positions were able to rise above a secondary level, many others managed to prosper by becoming landowners and merchants . A growing number were able to enjoy lives of leisure thanks to the toil of Indians who turned their farms, ranches, mines and commercial ventures into productive enterprises. In contrast to the English colonization of North America, Spaniards were open to marriages  between Indian women and settlers. An immediate consequence was the birth of many inter-racial children. These so-called mestizos made up a rapidly growing socioeconomic class.  Mestizos --today make up the vast majority of Mexico's population.

The native Indians were delegated to the next rung down New Spain's social ladder. Considered wards of the Crown and the Church the law required that legal authorities, the clergy and the encomenderos protect their welfare. A good example can be found in Bartolome de las Casas, who rose to become Bishop of Chiapas, was nicknamed "Father of the Indians" for his staunch defense of the Indians' legal rights. Fray Toribio de Benavente, fondly dubbed Motolinía (meaning "poor one"), was a self-sacrificing man dedicated to protecting the natives. He penned a scholarly treatise entitled Historia de los Indios . Essential knowledge of Aztec life is largely attributed to Fray Bernardino de Sahagún for his richly detailed Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España . The oldest college in the New World, the College of the Holy Cross, was founded in 1535. Two universities were opened in 1551 - one in Mexico City, and that of St. Mark in Lima, Peru. Education was provided both to boys and girls though usually separately. Spain's record in the New World was remarkable not only for education and missionary activity, but also for other things. The first printing presses in America and the first hospitals were Spanish. The Spaniards introduced plants, trees, vegetables, horses, dogs, and cattle to the New World. They had done all this before the other great colonizing powers of Europe had introduced them into their colonies.

Nonetheless, the Spaniards depended heavily upon native labor. Hundreds of thousands of Indians were literally worked to death. Others succumbed to new diseases introduced in the Columbian Exchange: smallpox, measles, plague, tuberculosis, and even the common cold. At the time of the Conquest, about nine million indigenous people inhabited Mexico's central plateau. By 1600 they numbered a scant two and a half million. The population of New Spain, however, had increased more generally so that within a hundred years of America's discovery, the Spanish population numbered about 200, 000.

The devastation of the Indian population created a significant labor shortage. This situation was remedied by importing thousands of slaves from Africa. (Curiously, slavery of the Indians had been prohibited in the mid-16th century by Nueva España's second Viceroy, Luis de Velasco.) Although they came at a premium, due to high transportation costs, the Spaniards willingly paid for slaves who seemed to withstand both hard labor and harsh working conditions better than the Indians. With the remuneration received for their steadfast labor, many Blacks were eventually able to purchase their freedom. Diverse racial subgroups originated in subsequent generations, including mulattos (Spanish-African), castizos (Spanish-Mestizo), zambos (Indian-African).

New World Beginnings

Beginnings -Spanish Exploration-

C. Spain's French & Dutch Rivals

 1. King Francis I of France and Charles V of Spain were involved in a series of wars over territories in Italy & Burgandy. Francis I sent John Verrazano on a voyage of discovery in 1524. Verrazano entered New York Bay (a NYC bridge is named after him today). Jacques Cartier followed on an expedition to "China". Meanwhile Spain was engaged in her wars with her Dutch rebels.

2. After the Dutch won their independence from Spain in 1581 they developed their commercial enterprise in the carrying trade. Henry Hudson sailed to the New World where he discovered the river named after him. The  Dutch established a trading post they called New Amsterdam on the site of the present-day New York City. The Dutch later established more settlements in what would later become New York and New Jersey.

3. During the period England was ruled by Queen Elizabeth I (Good Queen Bess). Elizabeth encouraged the activities of sea-fearing adventurers who harassed Spanish shipping. One of them, Sir John Hawkins made his fortune in the African slave trade with the assistance of Francis Drake. Slaves were acquired in Africa and sold to Spanish colonists in violation of Spanish law. Drake then turned to piracy in the Gulf of Mexico where he captured about 100 vessels. Drake later sailed a fleet of five ships through the Straits of Magellan and along the coast of South America, robbing seacoast towns and trading ships along the way. He continued along the coast of North America all the way to present day San Francisco. Drake's journey gave England a claim to the American northwest. Realizing that the Spanish would be waiting for him on his return journey Drake set sail to the west and reached England three years later, he was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. Of his original five ships he returned with only one but that ship was laden with gold. Queen Elizabeth was delighted and conferred knighthood on Drake. The Spanish, however, were furious with the piracy of Drake and other Englishmen like him.

Preface: Spain after the defeat of the Armada no longer had the best navy in the world. After 1588 the mariners of England, France, and Holland felt that they could sail their ships to the New World without fear. Even before the defeat of the Armada, the English had been interested in the New World. It was not until the year 1607, however, that England was able to plant a permanent settlement in America. The story of England in North America begins shortly after the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. The voyage of John Cabot (left) in 1497 gave England a claim to North America. England did not send colonists to the New World after Cabot's voyage, as Spain did after the voyage of Columbus. Nevertheless, the history of England in North America properly begins with the voyage of John Cabot.

I.  England in the New World

  A. John Cabot had been born in Venice but he spent much of his time in England. He was living in Bristol, England, when the news of Columbus's voyage began to spread abroad. Cabot sought permission from Henry VII, the English king, to undertake a voyage westward. The permission was given. Cabot set sail with a crew of 18 men in a ship called the Matthew, steering his ship to the west. The Matthew reached land on the coast of Labrador (1497). John Cabot took possession of the land for the King of England. After exploring for a short while the ship returned to England. He was the first of the explorers (after the Norsemen) to reach the North American continent's mainland (Columbus touched South America in his later voyages).  Upon John Cabot's discovery England based her claim to possession of much of North America. Early English Colonization:

      B. The voyage of Sebastian Cabot. John Cabot was encouraged to undertake a second voyage after his successful initial journey. His son, Sebastian, it seems, accompanied him. The fleet crossed the Atlantic to Labrador and after cruising down the coast returned home. For some time after this England paid little attention to the New World. But during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, some Englishmen began to believe that England must take more interest in America.

      C. English Plans for Colonization. Even before the defeat of the Armada, Englishmen had planned colonies in the New World. The saw colonization as a means of limiting Spain's power. As early as 1579 Sir  Humphrey Gilbert had made an attempt to settle Newfoundland. The English had already become somewhat familiar with that section of America. During the early years of Elizabeth's reign the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were the favorite haunts of the more daring among the English (and undoubtedly a few Irish) fishermen. An Englishman, Martin Frobisher, had made three attempts to find gold in Labrador. Although Gilbert's first attempts at colonization had failed, he was willing to try again.

      Sir Humphrey Gilbert was a prominent member of Parliament. His step-brother, Sir Walter Raleigh was also well known. Because of his position, Gilbert was able to get the funds to make a second attempt to colonize a portion of America. Gilbert again set sail for the New World, landing at St. John's, Newfoundland. Very much to his surprise, he found there fishermen of different European nationalities, including large numbers of Spaniards, busily engaged in fishing. Gilbert's settlement ended in almost complete disaster. Its failure was due to illness and lack of proper preparation among the settlers to live in America. Gilbert resolved to return to England with a quantity of rock he believed contained silver. The boat that carried the worthless rock reached England. The vessel carrying Gilbert went down. All hands were lost.

      D. A Voyage to Virginia. Gilbert's failure did not discourage the English. Sir Walter Raleigh became interested in a building a colony in America. Raleigh sent two vessels to America. The ships cruised along the coast of present day North Carolina until they reached Roanoke Island. Here they cast anchor. No attempt was made to found a colony. The voyagers merely contented themselves with exploration. When the voyagers returned to England they described the Roanoke Island area in glowing terms. The native Indians were described as being friendly and the land fruitful. Queen Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh were impressed and the queen named the country "Virginia", after herself, since she was the maiden queen.

      A fleet of seven ships under Sir Richard Grenville carried 108 colonists to Virginia. The party arrived at Roanoke Island after first capturing some Spanish galleons on their way to Spain with treasure. Having arrived in the New World, the colonists did not know quite what to do. They had expected to find gold but found none. Within a short time the colonists were at war with the native Indians. When in June, 1586, Sir Francis Drake appeared, the colonists begged to be taken back to England. Drake agreed to take them home.

      Many in England believed colonizing to be an unprofitable enterprise. Sir Walter Raleigh thought otherwise. He still hoped to make a fortune from his venture. In 1587, the English made another attempt to colonize. The venture was under the leadership of Captain John White. The 90 men, 17 women, and eleven children settlers camped on Roanoke Island (below). Realizing that better equipment was immediately needed to make the venture a success, White returned to England to get the supplies. White arrived in England at the moment when the English were bent on beating back the Spanish Armada and his return to Virginia was delayed by three years. Before leaving the colony White told his men that if they should have to move the camp for some reason they should carve the name of the new location into a tree. When he finally returned to the site of the colony he found nothing but a few kitchen utensils. No colonists were to be seen. Searching for some sign, he at length came upon a post with "Croatoan" cut deep into the trunk. White took courage when on closer inspection he saw no cross over the word. The cross would be a distress signal. Croatan is the name of an island. The island is not far from Roanoke. Captain White could not get a boat to reach the island. He never knew what had happened to the colony. The colony is called the "lost colony".  Theories range from the possibility that the colonists gave up waiting for White and attempted a failed return to England on another ship, that the colonists were massacred by Indians or that the colonists assimilated with the native Indians. The last theory carries some weight because witnesses from the period reported on sightings of Welsh speaking Indians in North Carolina many years later.

E. Jamestown, 1607 (right).  In 1607 a band of Englishmen landed in Virginia. They selected a place on the banks of a river which they named the James in honor of the king, James I, King of England. A little town called Jamestown was reared. The town consisted of a few log huts. Rude fortifications were built to protect it. Jamestown was the first successful colony in the New World. In 1620 it was followed by the Pilgrims' settlement at Plymouth, the beginning of the New England colonies.

Early British Colonization

Chesapeake Colonization

New England Colonization

F.  Treatment of the New World Colonies, Spain, France and England, the three European nations with major colonial empires in the New World, treated the colonies differently, as follows:

1. Spain.  Spanish settlers in the New World, numbering about 200,000 by the year 1600, were ruled by royal governors sent from Spain.  There was no religious diversity because the colonies were open only to those of the Catholic faith.  Missionaries were very active and converted many Natives to Christianity.  Inter-marriage between natives and colonists was widespread.  Generally, the natives were treated in a harsh manner.

            Land in the colonies was owned by Spanish feudal lords, peninsulares, and was worked by the common people.  The Spanish colonies became important sources of gold, silver, precious gems, coffee and cane sugar.  However, colonial tradesmen could exchange their valuable products only with the mother country, Spain.  This was in accordance with the prevailing idea that colonies existed to enrich the mother country, a theory known as mercantilism.

2. France.  The white settlers of New France, as the French colonies in North America were called, remained few in number; they totaled only about 80, 000 people by 1750.  This was because the French colonies (1) were ruled strictly by the mother country, preventing the growth of self-government, (2) the colonies were restricted to Catholic settlers, preventing French Protestants from migrating to them, (3) were interested primarily in the fur trade, discouraging settlers interested in farming, and (4) were restricted to trading only with the mother country, in accordance with mercantilist theory.

3. England.  England followed a more liberal policy in her treatment of her North American colonies.  In immigration, she kept the doors open to all groups, including dissatisfied persons such as (1) opponents of the Stuart kings, (2) Pilgrims, Quakers, and Catholics who were denied religious freedom in England, and (3) poor workers and debtors.  She also permitted immigration by non-English settlers from Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Germany and France.  As a result, the English colonies by 1750 had a large population, numbering 1, 250, 000 people.

            In government, England permitted a wide measure of self-government, thus enabling the colonists to establish more democratic institutions.  In economics, England passed mercantilist laws restricting colonial trade to the mother country, but until 1763 did not strictly enforce these laws.  Over 90% of the colonists earned a living from agriculture, the others being occupied in trading and fishing.  The chief products of the English colonists were grain, tobacco, indigo, cane sugar, fish and lumber.

Pojer powerpoint: Early European Exploration & Conquest.


1st Set:

  1. What were some of the results of the population increase in Europe between 1470 and 1620?
  2. How did business practices change in Europe by the end of the 16c?
  3. What new problems were created by the rapid growth of trade in the 16c?
  4. What are the basic characteristics of capitalism as an economic system?
  5. How did capitalism disrupt society in the Old World and in the New World?
  6. Did the prosperity of the age extend to all segments of society?
  7. How did European society change in the 16c and early 17c as a result of rapid economic growth?
  8. Why did the Europeans have a long attraction to the Far East?
  9. Who were the forerunners of Columbus to the New World? What is surprising about them?
  10. What motivated the Europeans to embark on overseas explorations by the 15c?
  11. Why were overseas voyages possible by the end of the 15c?
  12. Trace the origins and development of Portuguese exploration and expansion.  What relationship did it have to Italian commercial activities?  Why were the Portuguese so successful?
  13. How did Spain come to acquire an overseas empire?

2nd Set:
document packet: "European Exploration and Discovery." (same as above); chart:  "Spanish Colonial Government."

Kagan: 341-349

  1. What was the encomienda system?  How did it work?
  2. How did this new Spanish Empire created in the Americas continue the traditions of the older Reconquista?  How did they organize their vast empire?
  3. Describe the various social classes that emerged in colonial Spanish America?
  4. What role did the priest Bartolomé de Las Casas play in colonial Spanish America?
  5. What were the results for Europe, the Americas, and Africa of the "Columbian Exchange"?
  6. Compare and contrast how the Spanish and Portuguese exploited their respective overseas empires. [include motives, the economic impact on each country, and their relations with the native populations]
  7. Identify the impacts of European expansion on both the conquerors and those that they conquered.
  8. (Optional) - compare the Spanish conquest of the Americas to the earlier Moorish conquest of Spain.

3rd Set: Review

1. What were the factors that aided the Spanish conquest of the Americas?

2. What  social & economic factors supported the use of enslaved Africans in the Americas?

3. Identify some long-term effects of the Spanish conquests in the Americas.

4. Identify some important effects of the Spanish conquest in the Americas on Europe.

5.  Study the drawing of an early encounter between Cortes and the Aztecs (on the left) and interpret what the illustrating is communicating to viewers.

6. Identify the three points of the triangular trade (see above).

7. Identify the colonial power that seemed most committed to "absolute rule" in the Americas. Why?

8. Why, contrary to mercantilist policy, were Europeans willing to trade in silver for products from China?

Web Links

Secondary Sources:

bullet 1492:  An Ongoing Voyage 
bullet Admiral Zheng He's Fleet
bullet The African Slave Trade (Spartacus Site)
bullet The African Slave Trade and European Imperialism
bullet "The Age of Discovery" (American Spice Trade Association)
bullet Ancient Chinese Explorers:  Zheng He (NOVA)
bullet Cities of Gold - The Search for El Dorado (PBS series on "The West")  
bullet Colonization & Print in the Americas
bullet The Columbian Exchange
bullet Columbus & the Age of Discovery
bullet Columbus and the Spanish Reconquista - 43 slide Powerpoint presentation
bullet The Columbus Navigation Home Page
bullet The Conquistadors (PBS)
bullet Cultural Readings:  Colonization and Print in the Americas
bullet Discoverers Web
bullet European Voyages of Exploration:  The 15c and 16c
bullet Explorers Web Site (massive links)
bullet "The Great Food Migration" - Newsweek, 1991 (special issue)
bullet "The High Price of Sugar" - Newsweek, 1991 (special issue)
bullet "The History of the World Prior to 1492" - lecture outline
bullet The House of Castile-Genealogical (Spain)    The House of Aragon (Spain)
bullet Immanuel Wallerstein's World System Theory
bullet Internet Modern History Sourcebook:  "The Early Modern West"
bullet Incas and Conquistadors
bullet John Harrison and the Longitude Problem
bullet Latitude:  The Art & Science of 15c Navigation
bullet Lost at Sea - The Search for Longitude
bullet Map-->"The African Diaspora"
bullet Map-->"The Americas Before Columbus: 1450
bullet Map-->"The Atlantic Slave Trade"
bullet Map-->"Audiencias of the Viceroyalty of New Spain: 1650
bullet Map-->"Audiencias of the Viceroyalty of Peru: 1650
bullet Map-->"The Dutch Empire and Trade Routes"
bullet Map-->"Europe in 1600"
bullet Map-->"European Empires-1660"
bullet Map-->"The First Voyage of Columbus"
bullet Map-->"Ming China: 1368-1644"
bullet Map-->"Portuguese Empires in Asia: 1600s"
bullet Map-->"Spanish & Portuguese Exploration, 1400-1600"
bullet "Measles and Smallpox as an Allied Army of the Conquistadors of America"
bullet New Spain:  The Frontiers of Faith
bullet NM's Creative Impu;se: The Development of Civilization: World History -- Exploration...The Americas (mucho links)
bullet Pictorial Images of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
bullet "Plagues & Peoples:  The Columbian Exchange" - essay by Dr. Ian Carr
bullet Primary Source Documents on The Age of European Discovery - huge list
bullet Prince Henry, the Navigator
bullet "Should the Ming End the Treasure Ship Voyages?" - essay by Jean Johnson
bullet Sir Francis Drake
bullet The Slave Trade (Spartacus)
bullet Spanish Colonial Administration (web chart)
bullet Spanish Conquest
bullet Spanish Exploration & the Conquest of Native America
bullet The Spanish Habsburgs:  Genealogical Chart 
bullet The Spanish Succession:  Genealogical Chart
bullet The Story of the Conquistadors (BBC)
bullet Trade Products in Early Modern History
bullet The Transformation of Europe in the 15c and Early 16c
bullet Where Food Crops Originated:  Seeds of Change Garden

Primary Sources:

bullet 1340:  Francesco Pegolotti - Cathay and the Way Thither
bullet 1455-56:  15c Slave Trade-The Portuguese in West Africa
bullet 1486:  The Bull of Grenada issued by Innocent VII to Ferdinand and Isabella
bullet 1492:  Christopher Columbus - selections from the Journal - First
bullet 1492:  Christopher Columbus - selections from the Journal - second
bullet 1492:  Christopher Columbus - selections from the Journal - third
bullet 1492:  Christopher Columbus - selections from the Journal - fourth
bullet 1492:  Christopher Columbus - selections from the Journal - fifth
bullet 1492:  Privileges and Prerogatives Granted by Their Catholic Majesties to Christopher Columbus
bullet 1494:  Columbus' Letter to the King and Queen of Spain
bullet 1494:  The Treaty of Tordesillas  
bullet 1497:  Amerigo Vespucci - Account of His First Voyage 
bullet 1497:  John Cabot - Voyage to North America
bullet 1497-98:  Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India
bullet 16c The Requerimiento
bullet 16cTheodore De Bry's Copper Engravings
bullet early 16c Various documents on the Conquest of Mexico by the Spanish
bullet 1500:  Venetian Portolan Chart of Greece and the Aegean area
bullet 1511:  Partial Draft of Antonio Montesinos’ Sermon
bullet 1511-20:  King Ferdinand's Letter to the Tainos
bullet 1512-13:  Laws of Burgos
bullet 1519:  An Aztec Account of the Spanish Conquest of America
bullet 1519-1522:  Ferdinand Magellan's Voyage Round the World
bullet 1520:  Cortez' Second Letter to Charles V
bullet 1537:  Sublemus Dei - Pope Paul III's encyclical on slavery   
bullet 1542:  The New Laws of the Indies
bullet 1543:  Letter from India, to the Society of Jesus at Rome - St. Francis Xavier
bullet 1553:  Letter of a Seville Merchant to His Agent in Lima, Peru
bullet 1555:  Decades of the New World - Richard Eden - English merchants at the Royal Court of Benin
bullet 1560:  Bartolome de Las Casas on the Five Kings of Hispaniola
bullet 1560:  "In Defense of the Indians-The Sermon of Father Montesinos" - Bartolomé de Las Cásas in his book, History of the Indies
bullet 1561:  Lope de Aguirre - Letter to King Philip Spain
bullet 1565:  Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales - The Founding of St. Augustine
bullet 1580s:  various engravings of Theodor De Bry - click on each title midway down the page
bullet 1580:  "On Cannibals" - Michel de Montaigne
bullet 1584:  Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh
bullet 1590:  "The Natural History and Moral of the Indians" - José de Acosta (1)    (2)   
bullet 1595:  Letter from a Basque Miner in Potosí to a Merchant in Seville
bullet 1604:  Samuel de Champlain - Voyages
bullet 1606:  The First Virginia Charter
bullet 1606:  Instructions for the Virginia Colony
bullet 1608:  Samuel de Champlain - The Foundation of Quebec
bullet 1617:  England, India, and the East Indies
bullet 1617:  Hsu Kuang-Chi - Memorial to Fra Matteo Ricci
bullet 1620:  The Mayflower Compact
bullet 1621:  Charter of the Dutch West India Company
bullet 1626:  The New Atlantis - Francis Bacon
bullet 1629:  Charter of Massachusetts Bay
bullet 1630:  John Winthrop - A Model of Christian Charity
bullet 1634:  A Voyage into the Levant - Henry Blount
bullet 1639:  On the Just Price - John Cotton
bullet 1664:  England's Treasure by Foreign Trade - Thomas Munn
bullet 1690:  The Repartimiento de Beinas:  From Labor to Cash Demands
bullet 1700:  An Eyewitness Describes the Slave Trade in Guinea
bullet 1713:  "The Geographer" - painting by Johannes Vermeer