European Influence in the Americas (1490 - 1750)by Rit Nosotro
Describe and compare European influence on economy and religion on North and South America between about 1490 - 1750 AD.
North and South America’s economy and religion were each influenced differently by European explorers, especially from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.
Pre-European America was drastically different from what it became after Europeans arrived. Some of South America’s civilizations were among the most advanced in the history of the ancient world. Contrastingly, the natives of North America developed into smaller tribes and families rather than empires. The effect of the European arrival on the native populations was disastrous. Predominantly Catholic, Spain and Portugal ruthlessly forced their colonies to follow suit. Similarly, British Anglicans in North America also made some effort to convert the natives, but were perfectly content simply to have servants rather than converts. The hunter-gather frame of mind of the North American natives was destroyed as their European counterparts soon turned into their rulers. European explorers in South America soon took on the name of “conquistador”, meaning conqueror in Spanish. And conquer is exactly what they did. The old way of farming was not completely lost, just turned to specifically farming what the European public desired.
Today, North and South America, two of the larger continents, house some of the world’s most prosperous countries… and some of the least. The United States has had a profound impact on the world’s economy, politics, and wars; while several South American countries have declined almost to third world poverty. This is due in part to the many revolutions and counter revolutions that have ravaged this area since the beginning of time. Most people are aware that these countries were founded by the exploring powers of Europe in the second millennia, but how did these powers affect the natives’ economy and religion?
Pre-European America was drastically different from what it became after Europeans arrived. Some of South America’s civilizations were among the most advanced in the history of the ancient world. The Mayans developed a huge paved highway system that rivaled the quality of the Roman roads, a twenty-based number system, a postal service system, several-tiered systems of farming, aqueducts, and even their own literature. Another powerful civilization was the Aztecs, whose military conquests garnered them a huge empire in the fourteenth century. Contrastingly, the natives of North America developed into smaller tribes and families rather than empires. This is mainly because unlike the native South Americans, who were mainly farmers and thus stayed where there was good soil, North Americans were mainly hunter-gatherers, constantly moving around to find new food and water. South America went through cycles, in that every few hundred years new super empires would rise and conquer the previous one. However, even with occasional wars between each other, the lives of North American natives stayed relatively the same. However, all this would soon change with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Explorers from Spain and Portugal made their first voyage to unknown water, driven mainly by curiosity and economic aims, but also for religious purposes. Explorers left Europe in the late 1400´s, exploring throughout Africa and the Americas. Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator, believed that he could get to India faster by traveling west, and, financed by Ferdinand and Isabella, the ruling monarchs of Spain. He set sail in 1492 with three ships. He landed in the Bahamas of the Caribbean and thought they had arrived in India.
The effect of the European arrival on the native populations was disastrous. Courteous at first, the explorers soon began to take advantage of the natives, stealing money and food and doing anything else they wanted. But perhaps the biggest effects were the smallpox and measles diseases that came with the Europeans. Combined, these two deadly diseases wiped out millions of Americans. In this regard, both North and South American natives suffered the same.
Spain and Portugal dominated the exploration of South and Central America with men such as Francisco Pizarro and Hernan Cortes, while Britain and France lead the exploration of North America. Predominantly Catholic, Spain and Portugal ruthlessly forced their colonies to follow suit. They even destroyed hundreds of ancient manuscripts in order that it would be easier for the natives to convert. Some explorers even believed that their express purpose was to lead them to Christianity, even if it was at sword point. Similarly, British Anglicans in North America also made some effort to convert the natives, but were perfectly content simply to have servants rather than converts. As a result of these policies, both South and North American native religions were practically eradicated while Catholicism and Protestantism now dominate.
Of course, the European influence on the economy of the Americas also drastically changed the lives of those already there. The hunter-gather frame of mind of the North American natives was destroyed as their European counterparts soon turned into their rulers who exploited them in every way possible, taking money and land. European explorers in South America soon took on the name of “conquistador”, meaning conqueror in Spanish. And conquer is exactly what they did. The old way of farming was not completely lost, just turned to specifically farming what the European public desired.
The period of time from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries was a time of great change for the Americas. Their entire old way of life was replaced with a Europeanized one. Obviously, some of these changes were detrimental, in some cases horrendous, but others have blossomed and created successful free countries.
“you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” – Exodus 20:5
There are several different ways to interpret the conquering and subjugation of the Americas. For certain, the European treatment of the natives was brutal and deserving of justice. However, as mentioned above in Exodus 20, those who hate the Lord and forsake him incur His wrath. The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice and other horrors, and nearly all the other native groups of the Americas had some kind of spirit worship. And after conquering America, all of the European countries experienced incredible decline, even if it took several centuries to come. Perhaps God, as He used the Assyrians thousands of years ago, used the European powers to cleanse America and then in turn cleansed them.
1: Which of the following were NOT an ancient South American civilization?
2: Original economy of North American natives included:
C. Stock Brokering
3: Which country/religion matchup is incorrect?
A. England, Buddhist
B. England, Anglican
C. Portugal, Catholic
D. Spain, Catholic
Answers: 1, C. 2, D. 3, A.
- “Native Americans of Middle and South America,” MSN Encarta, http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_701509044_17/Native_Americans_of_Middle_and_South_America.html#s115 (June 12, 2008).
- “Latin America,” MSN Encarta, http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761573447/Latin_America.html#s2 (June 12, 2008).
- “History of North America,” Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_north_america (June 12, 2008).
- “Latin America,” Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_America (June 12, 2008).
- “Christopher Columbus,” Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_columbus (June 12, 2008).
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