The Spanish were the first people to discover and colonize America. They encountered the Indians, who they subdued with ease, and conquered most of the Mexico and the Caribbean’s. The Native American societies had a complex lifestyle before the conquest by Spain. They were the indigenous occupants of the Americas and as such, they had various lifestyle methods such as the sedentary, non-sedentary and semi-sedentary lifestyle. The Indians who chose a sedentary lifestyle organized themselves into various townships. Some of the townships conquered the others and formed large empires such as the Aztec empire that were ruled by emperors. These emperors ruled over millions of people and organized military and economic structure, forming a great civilization by right. The semi-sedentary and the non-sedentary native societies roamed the Great Plains without a defined system of governance and lived in tribes scattered across the prairies. They had tribal leaders to govern their small groups. There was also a division of labor among these people. The women would tackle the agricultural activities, especially in the semi-sedentary societies, and the men would be in charge of engaging in warfare and hunting (Leopore, 2000).
During the medieval period, there was a great militarization of the Christians that was evident in the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula, where the Muslims were expelled from this region, and after them the Greeks. They developed the notion that it was their duty to spread Christianity to the non-believers whom they referred to as the infidels by all means. The notion of encomienda’s was evident at this time. The belief that conquest was a settlement and was one of the methods to spread Christianity was developed at this time with Explorers such as Christopher Columbus making this dream possible. They sailed and conquered the new lands in the name of Christianity. Various factors contributed to the success of Spain, including the superior technology and great military organization that helped subdue of the natives. Christopher Columbus, for example, was able to subdue the Caribbean islands after he came with three troops of men. Their supernatural beliefs also aided in the conquest. The conquest of the Aztec empire by Cordes was easier because of the belief that the Spanish were supernatural and that he was Quetzalcoatl, who had come back from the east to lord over their children.
The resentments between the people helped the Spanish in their cause. The Spanish took advantage of these divisions to conquer the natives. Most notably were the conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru by Pizarro, whose victory was aided by civil war between Atahualpa and Huascar on who would ascend to the throne. Pizarro defeated Atahualpa with the aid of the Canari people who supported Huascar. His army was mainly made up of the natives, and he used this army to match to the city capital and take over the Inca Empire. The spread of diseases was also another source of victory for the Spanish. The Spanish brought with them diseases that devastated the human population of the natives since the natives had not encountered such ailments before, they were instantly life threatening. They sparked various civil wars such as the succession war in the Inca Empire after smallpox killed the empire and his rightful heir, which the Spanish used to their benefit (Benjamin, 2009). The diseases also killed the non and semi-sedentary natives, which made it easier to subdue them as they were weakened. Brazil was subdued by the Portuguese, and people showed an interest in the trade with the Portuguese. Once the international community showed a great interest in Brazil, Portugal sent settlers who subdued the people and took them as slaves.
The principle of Encomienda was introduced here but was renamed to repartimiento. The Spanish organized the natives into groups and would exploit these groups for resources and labor. They were organized in densely populated places such as Peru. This was to satisfy the great demand for slave labor by the Spanish settlers after the conquest. The natives would move to the Spanish regions to avoid the encomienda system and earn a living where they were gradually incorporated into the Spanish culture, losing their own. As the Spanish interacted with the natives, there were intermarriages and the children would be known as Mestizas, due to their mixed racial backgrounds. In the periphery, the people retained their indigenousness for a longer time as they had limited contact with the Spanish. This is because the Spanish found it hard to subdue them due to the terrain they lived in, and their nomadic lifestyle which meant that they did not live in one place for very long. Instead, they were pushed west, further from the Spanish terrain, limiting the interaction between them and the Spanish, enabling them to retain their culture (Kicza, 2003).
Spain and Portugal were Christian countries. The church sent missions to the natives so as to convert them to Christianity. The church worked hand in hand with the colonial government to spread the religion to, even more, natives. The church insisted on the conversion of everyone to Christianity and demolished the traditional shrines that they found in the colonies. The nomadic and the semi-sedentary Native Americans were converted to Christianity by the missionaries who were sent to their territories. These missionaries convinced the natives to take up Christianity. Some of the missionaries sympathized with the suffering of the Native Americans and dedicated themselves to their plight.
The Spanish desire for dominance had clearly started long before the discovery of America. The Christian doctrines that the Spanish people hid behind so as to justify their cruel actions were a corruption of religion. Their domination had adverse effects on the native human population and led to the fall of great civilizations.
Benjamin, T. (2009). The Atlantic World: Europeans, Africans, Indians and their shared history, 1400-1900. Cambridge, England New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kicza, J. (2003). Resilient Cultures: America’s native people confront European colonization, 1500-1800. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall.
Leopore, J. (2000). Encounters in the New World: a history in documents. New York: Oxford University Press.
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