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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Exploration of the New World

- World History -
The Spanish Empire in America


Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506)
Columbus claimed land for Spain even though, if it was in the Indies, it belonged to the Great Khan of China.

Christopher Columbus discovered America for Spain in 1492. Columbus thought that he could reach the Indies quicker if he sailed west. The islands that he first reached are still called the West Indies. Although Columbus returned to America three more times, he died believing that the land he had reached was Asia.

Columbus made four voyages to the Americas. On his third voyage, he landed on the mainland of South America on the coast of Venezuela. The colony Columbus had founded on Hispanola on his second voyage rebelled. This revolt by the colonists put him in disgrace. He died without regaining his fortune or his prestige, but today his voyages are recognized as being among the most important events in history.

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus on Santa Maria in 1492.
Click the painting for an enlargement.

The "Indians" that Columbus discovered smoked "tabac" in cigar-like things through their noses. Caribbean Indians were cannibals - once they ate a priest, but it made them sick, so they never ate religious people again.

Lines of Demarcation
Lines of demarcation were drawn due to conflicting claims. Both Spain and Portugal assumed they had a right to divide up the "New World."

The Papal Line of Demarcation
In 1493 Pope Alexander VI, a Spaniard, established a line of demarcation in response to arguments over who could have what. Spain got all lands discovered and to be discovered west of Europe. He assigned Spain all newly discovered lands 100 leagues west of the Azores. East of the line belonged to Portugal - the Portuguese protested.

Treaty of Tordesillas
The Treaty of Tordesillas (tor-day-SEE-ahs). King John of Portugal threatened war and moved the line to 370 leagues (1,100 miles) west of the Azores. Portugal got Brazil.

The Spanish Empire in America

During the Early 16th-Century, Spain followed up on the discoveries of Columbus.

Ponce de Leon
Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1513. Balboa In 1513, Vasco de Balboa crossed Panama to the Pacific Ocean.

Hernan Cortes
Hernán Cortés on a medal minted in 1529

Cortés conquered the Aztecs in Mexico, 1519 - 1521. Cortés was a typical conquistador; he was courageous, charming, and ruthless. Montezuma thought that the Spaniards were gods, or messengers from Quetzalcoatl. The Aztecs out-numbered the Spaniards. Cortés made his men burn their own ships so they wouldn't try to sail away.

Quetzalcoatl Aztec Encyclopedia
Left: Quetzalcoatl, legendary ancestor of the Aztec emperors.
The Aztecs believed that the leader of the Spanish invasion in 1519 (Cortés)
was a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl.
Right: Page from an Aztec painted manuscript lists the tribute that
subject cities were required to pay to Montezuma, twice a year.
Click the Aztec encyclopedia for an enlargement.

Cortés gave the Aztecs gifts so they would be friendly. And, Cortés found that conquering the Aztecs was easy. Spain had gunpowder, steel, and horses. The Aztecs thought the Spaniards might be gods and didn't want to harm them. The Aztecs were susceptible to European diseases (smallpox) that they had no immunity to.

Cortez returns to Aztec capital
Cortés returns to the Aztec capital after forcing the surrender of an expedition sent from Cuba in 1520 to arrest him. The African slave (far left) is said to have introduced the smallpox virus to Mexico.

Aztecs were also cruel rulers, and the other Indians were happy to see them taken over. The Spanish were seen by them as liberators.

Aztec Atrocities Spanish Atrocities
An account of Spanish atrocities in Mexico by Bartoleme de Las Casas, a Spanish bishop, shows native Aztecs being tortured, burned, and having their hands cut off. Laws were enacted to protect the native population, but they had little recourse against the oppression of their new masters, Spain.
Indian atrocities Atrocities of Aztecs

Pizarro conquered the Incas. In 1531 Pizarro got permission from Charles V to conquer the South American coast. In 1532 he met Inca ruler, Atahualpa, and took him prisoner. In the ensuing fight, 100s of Incas were killed, but not any Spanish. Ranson for Atahualpa was set at a roomful of gold. When it was delivered, the Spanish strangled Atahualpa. As the Spanish fought over the gold, Pizarro was killed.

Francisco PizarroPizarro and Atahualpa, Inca Ruler
Left: Francisco Pizarro.
Right: First meeting between Pizarro and Atahualpa, the Inca ruler.
Atahualpa listens to the speech of a Dominican friar;
moments later, the Spanish soldiers seized him.

Coronado (From 1540 - 1542)
Coronado explored what became the southwest United States, going as far north as Kansas. He took lots of pigs along, some got loose and evolved into big boars.

Magellan was the first to circumnavigation of the globe. This removed any doubts about the world being round. Magellan's voyages showed that the world was much larger than originally thought.

The Name,
Where Did It Come From?

Amerigo Vespucci 1454 - 1512

Amerigo Vespucci (an Italian) was a map maker. During Christopher Columbus' voyages, Amerigo drew the maps. After Gutenberg's invention, the printing press, the vernacular was generally used - things were no longer printed in Latin.

During the Renaissance, individualism was an important ideal. So, Amerigo Vespucci signed his map work as one would sign a piece of art.

The New World was dubbed "America" due to the fact that the first maps, printed using the printing press and mass produced, attributed the name "Amerigo" to the new land. These maps were mass-produced. After printing, it was too late to change the name (to "Columbia").

Age of Exploration / Expansion of Western Europe
The Portuguese Explorers

The Spanish Empire in America

English and French Explorations

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Historical Periods of
World History Class Study

| Prehistory | Mesopotamia & Phoenicians |
| Ancient Egypt | Greece | Rome |
| Medieval History | Renaissance and Reformation |
| Exploration | National Monarchies |
| The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment |
| Colonial America and American Revolution |
| The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era



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