Chapter 1 New World Encounters summary

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CHAPTER 1 New World Encounters SUMMARY
The "discovery" of America by Columbus initiated a series of cultural contacts between Indians, Europeans, and Africans in the Western Hemisphere. Each of these peoples brought preconceptions molded by their long histories into their contacts with other peoples, and each people was molded by contact with others.
America first became inhabited some twenty thousand years ago when small bands of nomadic Siberian hunters chased large mammals across the land bridge between Asia and America. During this long migration, the people who became known as the American Indians escaped some of the most common diseases of humankind, such as smallpox and measles, but their children and grandchildren lost the immunities that would have protected them against such diseases.
A. The Environmental Challenge: Food, Climate, and Culture
During the thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans, the continents of North and South America experienced tremendous geologic and climate changes. As the weather warmed, the great mammals died off, and the Indians who hunted them turned increasingly to growing crops, bringing about an Agricultural Revolution.
B. Mysterious Disappearances
Agriculture allowed Indians to concentrate in large numbers in urban complexes, such as Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Cahokia in Illinois. By the time Europeans reached these areas, the great urban centers had disappeared, either because of climate changes or overcrowding.
C. Aztec Dominance
In central America, the Aztecs settled in the fertile valley of Mexico and conquered a large and powerful empire, which they ruled through fear and force.
B. Eastern Woodland Cultures
Elsewhere, along the Atlantic coast of North America for example, Native Americans lived in smaller bands and supplemented agriculture with hunting and gathering. In some cases, women owned the farming fields, and men the hunting grounds.
The arrival of Europeans profoundly affected Native Americans, who could be said to have entered a new world.
A. Cultural Negotiation
Native Americans were not passive in their dealings with the Europeans. They eagerly traded for products that made life easier, but they did not accept the notion that Europeans were in any way culturally superior, and most efforts by the Europeans to convert or "civilize" the Indians failed.
A. Threats to Survival: Trade and Disease
Wherever Indians and Europeans came into contact, the Indian population declined at a rapid rate due to diseases like smallpox, measles, and typhus. The rate of depopulation along the Atlantic coast, from death or migration westward, may have been as high as 95 percent. An entire way of life disappeared.
Contrary to ill-informed opinion, sub-Saharan West Africa was never an isolated part of the world where only simple societies developed. As elsewhere, West Africa had seen the rise and fall of empires, such as Ghana or Dahomey. West Africa had also been heavily influenced by the coming of Islam. The arrival of Europeans was just the latest of many foreign influences that helped shape African culture.
The Portuguese came first, pioneering the sea lanes from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa in the fifteenth century. They found profit in gold and slaves, supplied willingly by native rulers who sold their prisoners of war. The Atlantic slave trade began taking about 1,000 persons each year from Africa, but the volume steadily increased. In the eighteenth century, an estimated five and one-half million were taken away. Altogether, Africa lost almost eleven million of her children to the Atlantic slave trade. Before 1831, more Africans than Europeans came to the Americas.
The Vikings discovered America before Columbus, but European colonization of the New World began only after 1492 because only then were the preconditions for successful overseas settlement attained. These conditions were the rise of nation-states and the spread of the new technologies and old knowledge.
A. Building New Nation-States
During the fifteenth century, powerful monarchs in western Europe began to forge nations from what had been loosely associated provinces and regions. The "new monarchs" of Spain, France and England tapped new sources of revenue from the growing middle class and deployed powerful military forces, both necessary actions in order to establish outposts across the Atlantic.
A. Technical Knowledge
Just as necessary to colonization was the advance in technology, especially in the art of naval construction. The lateen sail allowed ships to sail into the wind, better techniques were devised for calculating position at sea, ancient scientific works were reexamined and the printing press disseminated the new knowledge rapidly.
Spain was the first European nation to meet all of the preconditions for successful colonization. After hundreds of years of fighting Moorish rule, she had become a unified nation-state under Ferdinand and Isabella. In 1492, the year made famous by Columbus' discovery of America, Spain expelled her Jews and Muslims in a crusade to obliterate all non-Christian elements in Spanish life. Spain had also experienced the difficulties of colonization in her conquest of the Canary Islands before turning her attention to America.
A. Myths and Realities
Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo), born in Genoa in 1451, typified the questing dreamers of the fifteenth century. He believed it was possible to reach the Orient, the goal of all adventurers, by sailing westward from Europe. Undeterred by those who told him the voyage would be so long that the crews would perish from lack of food and water, Columbus finally persuaded Queen Isabella to finance his exploration. Although Columbus found in America a vast treasure-house of gold and silver, he had expected to find the great cities of China, and even after four separate expeditions to America, he refused to believe he had not reached the Orient. He died in poverty and disgrace after having lived to see his discovery claimed by another, Amerigo Vespucci, for whom America is named. As a further cruel irony, the all-water route to the East Indies that Columbus hoped to find was actually discovered by Vasco da Gama, who sailed from Portugal around the southern tip of Africa. The net result of his efforts had been frustration and ignominy for Columbus; however, he paved the way to world power for Spain, which claimed all of the New World except for Brazil, conceded to Portugal by treaty in 1494.
B. The Conquistadores: Faith and Greed

To expand Spain's territories in the New World, the Crown commissioned independent adventurers (conquistadores) to subdue new lands. For God, glory, and gold they came. Within two decades they decimated the major Caribbean islands, where most of the Indians died from exploitation and disease. The Spaniards then moved onto the mainland and continued the work of conquest. Hernan Cortes destroyed the Aztec Empire in 1521 and the conquest of South America followed in the next two decades.
C. From Plunder to Settlement
The Spanish crown kept her unruly subjects in America loyal by rewarding the conquistadores with large land grants that contained entire villages of Indians (the encomienda system). As pacification of the natives progressed, the Spanish Crown limited the autonomy of the conquistadores by adding layer upon layer of bureaucrats, whose livelihoods derived directly from the Crown and whose loyalty was therefore to the officials who ruled America from Spain. The Catholic Church also became an integral part of the administrative system and brought order to the empire by protecting Indian rights and by performing mass conversions. By 1650, about half a million Spaniards immigrated to the New World. Since most were unmarried males, they mated with Indian or African women and produced a mixed-blood population that was much less racist than the English colonists who settled North America.
Spain's empire proved to be a mixed blessing. The great influx of gold and silver made Spain rich and powerful, but set off a massive inflation and encouraged the Spanish Crown to launch a series of costly wars in Europe.
France lacked the most important precondition for successful colonization, the interest of the Crown. French kings sent several expeditions to America, most notably that of Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec in 1608, and even established an empire in America that stretched along the St. Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, and down the Mississippi, but the French Crown made little effort to foster settlement.
England had as valid a claim to America as Spain, but did not push colonization until the late sixteenth century, when it, too, achieved the necessary preconditions for transatlantic settlement.
A. Birth of English Protestantism
England began to achieve political unity under the Tudor monarchs who suppressed the powerful barons. Henry VIII strengthened the Crown even further by leading the English Reformation, an immensely popular event
for the average men and women who hated the corrupt clergy. Henry's reason for breaking with the Pope was to obtain a divorce, but he began a liberating movement that outlived him. During the reign of Queen Mary, Protestants were severely persecuted, but the Reformation could not be undone.
B. Militant Protestantism
The Protestant Reformation had begun in 1517 in Germany when Martin Luther preached that humans were saved by faith alone, as a gift from God, and not through the sacraments and rituals of the Church. Other Reformers followed, most notably John Calvin, who stressed the doctrine of predestination, the belief that humans could do nothing to change their fate in the afterlife. The Reformers shattered the unity of the Christian world and religious wars broke out all over Europe.
C. Woman in Power
Elizabeth II, the second daughter of Henry VIII, inherited the crown in 1558 and ruled England successfully for nearly fifty years. She avoided a religious civil war by reconciling her subjects to an established church that was Protestant in doctrine, but still Catholic in many of its ceremonies. When the Pope excommunicated her in 1570, she became more firmly attached to the Protestant cause.

D. Religion, War and Nationalism

Spain, the most powerful European nation at the time, was determined to crush Protestantism in Europe. In retaliation, English "seadogs" attacked the Spanish in the Caribbean. By 1588, the king of Spain decided to invade England and launched the famous Armada. England's providential victory over the great fleet convinced the English people that they had a special commission from God to preserve the Protestant religion.
Each nation took along its own peculiar traditions and perceptions for the task of colonizing America. For the English, Ireland was used as a laboratory in which the techniques of conquest were tested.
A. English Conquest of Ireland
The English went into Ireland convinced that theirs was a superior way of life. The Irish, of course, disagreed and refused to change their own ways.
B. English Brutality
When the English seized Irish land by force, the Irish resisted. The English resorted to massacres of women and children. In Ireland, men like Sir

Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville learned the techniques of colonization that they would later apply in America.


Although England had the capacity for transatlantic colonization by the late sixteenth century, its first efforts were failures.

Sir Walter Raleigh began England's colonization of America in 1584 when he sent a fleet to colonize Roanoke in North Carolina. The effort failed, despite Ralegh's continued attempts to reinforce it, and by 1600 there were no English settlements in the Western Hemisphere.


Despite Raleigh's failure, Richard Hakluyt kept English interest in America alive by tirelessly advertising the benefits of colonization. He did not mention, however, that those English people who went to America would encounter other peoples with deterrent dreams about what America should be.

After mastering this chapter, your students should be able to:

1. Explain how ice age hunters may have crossed the Bering Straits and began settling North America.
2. Discuss the sophistication of the cultures of the Maya, Aztec, Toltec, and Algonquian; show the impact of European diseases on the Native Americans.
3. Explain why the Norse discovery of America was ineffective.
4. List the changing social conditions and new scientific discoveries that resulted in European voyages of discovery.
5. Describe the economic, political, social, and religious factors of the Spanish colonial system, as well as the impact of this system.
6. Discuss the motives, elements, problems, and impact of the French colonial empire in North America.
7. Show the similarity between the British treatment of the Irish in the latter part of the sixteenth century and treatment of the slaves and Native Americans during the Colonial Era.
8. Discuss the early English attempts at planting colonies, including the work of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh.


  • Write three short vignettes, based on evidence from Chapter One, that describe the role in colonization by women, religious ideals, "Old World" wealth, loyalty or technology.

• Have students write an essay that compares and contrasts the Aztec cultural dominance in the "New World" to the Spanish cultural dominance in the "Old World."

  • Divide students into teams of three to four. Have each team draw a regional native tribe. Then have each team create a fine art demonstration that shows the way of life prior to European introduction; during to European introduction; after European introduction.

  • Assign each student a President. They must create a multimedia presentation that informs about the personal, pre-Presidential, Presidential and post-Presidential careers of each. They must also include key World and US events, the Vice President, Spousal information and key or influential appointees and any scandals. This project is an ongoing project, as they should be presented during the time frame of the administration.

  • President and Vice Presidents, Political Party Affiliation and term of Office Test.

  • For test review, have students create a crossword puzzle or word find using Chapter One key terms.

1. Describe the settlement of the Western Hemisphere from the perspective of a Native American. What were the positives and negatives of European expansion from their point of view?
2. What were the main causes, elements, and impact of the different approaches to colonies followed by the English and Spanish?
3. What is the relationship between capitalism and Calvinism?
4. What led to European exploration and expansion in the sixteenth century?
5. In what manner was the discovery of the New World a kind of ecological revolution?

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