Document based question conquest and exploration

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Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1- 10 . (The documents have been edited for the purpose of this exercise.)
This question is designed to test your ability to work with and understand historical documents. Write an essay that:

  • Has a relevant thesis and supports that thesis with evidence from the documents.

  • Uses all the documents.

  • Analyzes the documents by grouping them in as many appropriate ways as possible. Does not simply summarize the documents individually.

  • Takes into account both the sources of the documents and the authors’ points of view.

You may refer to relevant historical information not mentioned in the documents. What kinds of additional documents would bring a better understanding of the question.

What motives spurred European journeys of exploration and conquest to the New World in the period ranging from 1450 to 1600?

The global relationship that developed after 1450, mainly but not exclusively sponsored by western Europe spelled a new period in world history. New areas of the world were for the first time brought into the global complex, particularly the Americas.







Document 1

Letter of Christopher Columbus to Luis de Sant Angel, 1493

To speak, in conclusion, only of what has been done during this hurried voyage, their Highnesses will see that I can give them as much gold as they desire, if they will give me a little assistance, spices, cotton, as much as their Highnesses may command to be shipped, and mastic as much as their Highnesses choose to send for, which until now has only been found in Greece, in the isle of Chios, and the Signoria can get its own price for it; as much lign-aloe as they command to be shipped, and as many slaves as they choose to send for, all heathens. I think I have found rhubarb and cinnamon. Many other things of value will be discovered by the men I left behind me, as I stayed nowhere when the wind allowed me to pursue my voyage, except in the City of Navidad, which I left fortified and safe. Indeed, I might have accomplished much more, had the crews served me as they ought to have done. The eternal and almighty God, our Lord, it is Who gives to all who walk in His way, victory over things apparently impossible, and in this case signally so, because although these lands had been imagined and talked of before they were seen, most men listened incredulously to what was thought to be but an idle tale. But our Redeemer has given victory to our most illustrious King and Queen, and to their kingdoms rendered famous by this glorious event,

Document 2

Hernan Cortes, Letter to Carlos V, 1520

I said everything to them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a knowledge of God our Lord. Moctezuma replied, the others assenting to what he said, that they had already informed me they were not the aborigines of the country, but that their ancestors had emigrated to it many years ago; and they fully believed that after so long an absence from their native land, they might have fallen into some errors; that I having more recently arrived must know better than themselves what they ought to believe; and that if I would instruct them in these matters, and make them understand the true faith, they would follow my directions… In regard to the domestic appointments of Moctezuma, and the wonderful grandeur and state that he maintains, there is so much to be told, that I assure your Highness I know not where to begin my relation, so as to be able to finish any part of it. For, as I have already stated, what can be more wonderful than a barbarous monarch, as he is, should have every object found in his dominions imitated in gold, silver, precious stones, and feathers; the gold and silver being wrought so naturally as not to be surpassed by any smith in the world…

Document 3

Law of Burgos, 1512

Regulation of the Spanish Crown,

Whereas, the King, my Lord and Father, and the Queen, my Mistress and Mother (may she rest in glory!), always desired that the chiefs and Indians of the Island of Española be brought to a knowledge of our Holy Catholic Faith, …Whereas, it has become evident through long experience that nothing has sufficed to bring the said chiefs and Indians to a knowledge of our Faith (necessary for their salvation)… Therefore, for these reasons and for many others that could be adduced, it was agreed that for the improvement and remedy of all the aforesaid, the said chiefs and Indians should forthwith be brought to dwell near the villages and communities of the Spaniards Also, we order and command that, after the Indians have been brought to the estates, all the founding [of gold] that henceforth is done on the said Island shall be done in the manner prescribed below: that is, the said persons who have Indians in encomienda shall extract gold with them for five months in the year and, at the end of these five months, the said Indians shall rest forty days, and the day they cease their labor of extracting gold shall be noted on a certificate…we order and command that no person or persons shall dare to beat any Indians with sticks, or whip him, or call him dog, or address him by any name other than his proper name alone

Document 4

Fray Bartolome de las Casas, Bishop of Chiapas

The Black Legend, 1542

New Spain [Mexico] was discovered in 1517 and, at the time, great atrocities were committed against the indigenous people of the region and some were killed by members of the expedition. In 1518 the so-called Christians set about stealing from the people and murdering them on the pretence of settling the area. And from that year until this--and it is now 1542--the great iniquities and injustices, the outrageous acts of violence and the bloody tyranny of these Christians have steadily escalated, the perpetrators having lost all fear of God, all love of their sovereign, and all sense of self-respect. Even now, in September 1542, the atrocities get worse by the day, it being the case, as we have said, that the infernal brutality and utter inhumanity of the acts committed have readily increased as time has gone on.

Document 5

European document, unknown author

Circa 1580

[The Spanish] "forced the people (that were not used to labour) to stande all the daie in the hotte sunne gathering golde in the sande of the rivers. By this means a great nombre of them (not used to such paines) died, and a great number of them (seeing themselves brought from so quiet a life to such miserie and slaverie) of desperaction killed them selves. And many wolde not mary, bicause they wolde not have their children slaves to the Spaniards."

Document 6

Patent given to John Cabot by King Henry VII of England, 1492,

To find, discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions or provinces of heathens and infidels, in whatsoever part of the world placed, which before this time were unknown to all Christians. We have also granted to them and to any of them, and to the heirs and deputies of them and of any one of them, and have given licence to set up our aforesaid banners and ensigns in any town, city, castle, island or mainland whatsoever, newly found by them. And that the before-mentioned John and his sons or their heirs and deputies may conquer, occupy and possess whatsoever such towns, castles, cities and islands by them thus discovered that they may be able to conquer, occupy and possess… And further we have given and granted to them and to their heirs and deputies, that all mainlands, islands, towns, cities, castles and other places whatsoever discovered by them, however numerous they may happen to be, may not be frequented or visited by any other subjects… [must] pay to us, either in goods or money, the fifth part of the whole capital gained

Document 7

Letter from Hernando Pizarro (brother of Francisco Pizzaro) to the Royal Audience of Santo Domingo, 1533

When Atahualpa had advanced to the centre of an open space, he stopped, and a Dominican friar, who was with the Governor, came forward to tell him, on the part of the Governor, that he waited for him in his lodging, and that he was sent to speak with him. The friar then told Atahualpa that he was a priest, and that he was sent there to teach the things of the faith if they should desire to be Christians. He showed Atahualpa a book which he carried in his hands, and told him that that book contained the things of God. Atahualpa asked for the book, and threw it on the ground, saying: "I will not leave this place until you have restored all that you have taken in my land. I know well who you are and what you have come for." Then he rose up in his litter and addressed his men, and there were murmurs among them and calls to those who were armed. The friar went to the Governor and reported what was being done and that no time was to be lost. The Governor sent to me; and I had arranged with the captain of the artillery that, when a sign was given, he should discharge his pieces, and that, on hearing the reports, all the troops should come forth at once. This was done, and as the Indians were unarmed they were defeated without danger to any Christian.

Document 8

Samuel de Champlain, French explorer and navigator, 1604

For this reason, many princes have striven to find a northerly route to China, in order to facilitate commerce with the Orientals, in the belief that this route would be shorter and less dangerous. In the year 1496, the king of England commissioned John Cabot and his son Sebastian to engage in this search. About the same time, Don Emanuel, king of Portugal, despatched on the same errand Gaspar Cortereal, who returned without attaining his object. Resuming his journeys the year after, he died in the undertaking; as did also his brother Michel, who was prosecuting it perseveringly. In the years 1534 and 1535, Jacques Cartier received a like commission from King Francis I…

Document 9

Guaman Poma de Ayala, bilingual Quechua Indian

Letter to King Phillip III, circa 1600

Any shortage in the labor gangs s made an excuse for punishing the [Indian] chiefs as if they were common thieves or trators instead of the nobility of the country. There is no remuneration for the journey to the mines and a day’s labor is paid at the rate of half a day… Your Majesty has granted large estates including the right to employ Indian labor, to a number of individuals, of whom some are good Christians, and the remainder are very bad ones… they are harmful to both the labor force and to the surviving Indian nobility.

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