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The Taino lived in small villages ruled by chiefs. Christopher Columbus built a fort at Santo Domingo, which became the capital of the Spanish rule in the Caribbean. Encomiendas, or land grants, were given to the Spanish settlers. These land grants gave them complete control over the local people. Additionally, the arrival of Spanish caused great decline of the Taino populations. Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec empire between 1519 and 1521 with 450 men.
Many people who resented the Mexica ended up helping Cortes. Francisco Pizarro was another Spanish conqueror who toppled the Inca empire (he was helped by the internal problems and the smallpox epidemic). The administration of the centers in Mexico and Peru was through viceroys. The Portuguese king of Brazil gave power to the nobles, with a governor to oversee them. Brazil consisted of the sugar plantations by the mid-sixteenth century. In colonial American society, indigenous culture persisted in the rural areas with a European-style society in cities. However, there was more exploitation of the New World than there was settlement. Many Iberian migrants settled in the Americas between 1500 and 1800.
Many colonies were founded on the east coast and many settlers explored the west coast. French and English people sought fur, fish, and trading routes in the early 17th century, but the settlements ended up suffering isolation and food shortages. The colonial government was quite different from that of the Iberian colonies because the North American colonies were controlled by private investors with barely any royal support. Settlers often seized the natives’ land and justified it with treaties. The Native American population dropped 90 percent from 1500 to 1800. Mestizo societies began to rise in Spanish and Portuguese settlements due to the social and racial hierarchy of children born to parents of different races. Cultural borrowing, including plants, crops, and deerskin clothes, also took place. The conquistadores melted many gold artifacts into ingots. Zacatecas in Mexico and Potosi in Peru were two major sites of silver mining, one-fifth of which went to the royal Spanish treasury. The abusive encomienda system was replaced by the repartimiento system, which became replaced by free laborers in the 1600s.
The Portuguese empire in Brazil was based entirely on sugar production (the sugar mill was called the engenho). Many Africans were imported into Brazil to work on the sugar plantations. The fur traders in North America became very profitable as the Native Americans trapped for and traded with the Europeans. Natives began to compete for resources, and cash crops such as tobacco and cotton soon began to be cultivated. This lead to the start of indentured labor in North America. Spanish missionaries introduced Catholicism to many of the native peoples and established mission schools and churches. French and English missionaries also established several missions but they were not as successful as the Spanish. Dutch mariners began exploring Australia in the seventeenth century but there were no spices and no farmland.
Australia didn’t seem that interesting until Cook began exploring eastern Australia in the late 1700s. The Spanish voyagers visited the Pacific Islands and faced resistance from the Chamorro peoples but they were killed by smallpox. Soon afterwards, whalers became the ones who voyaged to the Pacific islands.
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