Chapter 1: New World Encounters, 20,000 B. C. – A



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Chapter 1: New World Encounters, 20,000 B.C. – A.D. 1600

  • colonizers insisted they brought the benefits of civilization to the primitive and savage peoples of North America

  • struggle over cultural superiority

  • “since you [English settlers] are here strangers, and coming into our Country, you should rather conform your selves to the Customs of our Country, than impose yours upon us” – shows the attitude of the natives to the encroachers

  • Europeans found ways to explain how they had come to inherit the land (conquest and resistance)

  • creative adaptations – rather than of exploration or settlement

  • allowed ordinary people of three different races and many different ethnic identities opportunities to shape their own lives as best they could

  • they made choices, sometimes rebelling, sometimes accommodating, but always trying to make sense in terms of their own cultures of what was happening to them

Native American Histories Before Conquest

  • brought into contact three worlds – Europe, Africa, and America

    • in the 15th century were already old

    • North America’s first migrants arrived 15 to 20 thousand years ago

  • the Ice Age and glaciers caused oceans to drop hundreds of feet below their current level

    • exposing a land bridge connecting Asia and North America (Beringia)

      • Paleo-Indians followed giant mammals across

  • members of these small migrating groups stopped hosting a number of communicable diseases (smallpox and measles being the deadliest)

  • they no longer suffered the major epidemics that under normal conditions would have killed a large percentage of their population every year (caused by physical isolation)

  • they did not domesticate animals – could have caused them to avoid the microbes that caused virulent European and African diseases

    • unfortunately they had no defense against the great killers of the Early Modern world

  • The Great Transformation: Food, Climate, and Culture

    • global warming substantially reduced the glaciers

    • new natives journeyed from Colorado to the southern tip of South America

    • expansion of human population coincided with the loss of scores of large mammals

    • the early Paleo-Indian hunters bear responsibility for the mass extinction of so many animals

    • contributed to an ecological process

      • they discovered how to cultivate certain plants

        • shift to basic crops – Neolithic Agricultural Revolution

    • establishment of permanent villages - hierarchies formed and populations expanded

  • Mysterious Disappearances

    • Chaco Canyon - massive pueblo was the center of Anasazi culture, serving both political and religious functions – may have housed as many as 15,000 people and included highways

    • Adena and Hopewell peoples – built large ceremonial mounds

    • Cahokia – a huge fortification and ceremonial site in Illinois – represented the greatest achievement of the Mississippian peoples and once supported a population of almost 20,000

      • both cultures disappeared mysteriously just before the arrival of the Europeans

  • Aztec Dominance

    • structure their societies in more complex ways

    • Mayan and Toltec – had vast cities, government bureaucracies, developed hieroglyphic writing, and an accurate solar calendar

    • Aztecs – conquered the great cities and had a center at Tenochtitlán where they performed elaborate human sacrifice for their sun god

  • Eastern Woodland Cultures

    • supplemented farming with seasonal hunting and gathering

    • Algonquian-speakers were part of a large linguistic family with very different dialects

      • Great Lakes region also supported Iroquoian dialects

    • divisions among Indian groups would in time facilitate European conquest

    • defined their place in society through kinship

    • lived in areas eventually claimed by England

    • were matrilineal – women owned the planting fields and houses, maintained tribal customs, and had a role in tribal government

    • patrilineal forms were much more common among native communities of Canada and the northern Great Lakes – men owned the hunting grounds that the family needed to survive

The Indians Discover a New World

  • conquest strained traditional ways of life

    • had to devise new answers, new responses, and new ways to survive in physical and social environments that eroded tradition

  • Creative Adaptations

    • eagerly accepted certain trade goods – generally resisted other aspects of European cultures

    • what they desired most was peaceful trade

    • Indians drove hard bargains – demanded gifts and set the time and place of trade

    • sign languages were used

    • ethnocentric Europeans tried repeatedly to “civilize” the Indians – persuading natives to dress like the colonists, attend white schools, live in permanent structures, and accept Christianity

      • native women jealously guarded traditional culture

    • when Native Americans and whites married – unions the English found less desirable than did the French or Spanish – the European partner usually elected to live among the Indians

    • Indian slaves ran away or died – they did not become Europeans

  • Dependency: Trade and Disease

    • cooperative encounters between the Native Americans and Europeans became less frequent

      • the objects most coveted inevitably brought them into debt

    • demonstrations of force usually resulted in the suspension of normal trade

    • disease – ultimately destroyed the cultural integrity of many North American tribes

    • European adventurers exposed the Indians to bacteria and viruses against which they possessed no natural immunity

      • smallpox, measles, and influenza

        • other diseases like alcoholism took a terrible toll

    • speculated that a Christian God had providentially cleared the wilderness of heathens

      • some tribes suffered a 90 to 95% population loss

    • decreased the suplly of indigenous laborers, who were needed by the Europeans to work the mines and to grow staple crops such as sugar and tobacco

      • seek a substitute labor force in Africa

        • effort by Europeans to “repopulate” the New World

West Africa: Ancient and Complex Societies

  • shaped by the Islamic faith, brought by the Prophet Muhammad during the 7th century

  • survived by use of camel caravans that crossed the Sahara to trade in gold and slaves

    • the gold for salt exchange

  • large empires formed in West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Songhai), exercising loose control over large areas

    • major states and other stateless societies – that were really largely autonomous communities organized around lineage structures

    • disputed among members of lineage groups were generally settled by clan elders

    • communities were economically self-sufficient

  • first to reach West Africa were the Portuguese under the direction of Henry the Navigator

  • Mali and Joloff officials insisted that Europeans respect trade regulations established by Africans

    • pay tolls and other fees and restricted the foreign traders to conducting their business in small forts or castles located at the mouths of the major rivers

      • slave traders accepted these terms, largely because they had no other choice

  • slaves were primarily prisoners of war taken from the interior of the African continent others were victims of judicial practices designed specifically to supply the growing American market

    • forced to work on the sugar plantations of Madeira and the Canaries, Atlantic islands

    • approximately 10.7 million Africans were taken to the New World as slaves

  • during every year between 1650 and 1831, more Africans than Europeans came to the Americas

Europe on the Eve of Conquest

  • the ships of Greece and Rome were ill designed to sail the open ocean, the lands to the west remained the stuff of legend and fantasy

  • Scandinavian seafarers, the Norsemen (Vikings) – were the first to reach the Americas

    • almost a thousand years would pass before the Vikings would receive credit for their accomplishments

    • Eric the Red – named Greenland, reasoning that others would more willingly colonize the icebound region “if the country had a good name”

    • Leif Ericson - settled at L’Anse aux Meadows in Vinland, an area in northern Newfoundland

  • Building New Nation States

    • medieval kingdoms were very loosely scattered and organized because of the ‘Dark Ages’ (plague, lack of learning, fierce feudalist loyalties)

      • all discouraged people from thinking expansively about the world beyond their own immediate communities

    • in the fifteenth century Renaissance European political power was more centralized and strong monarchies began to form

      • fostered a more expansive outlook among literate people

      • economic prosperity created powerful new incentives for exploration and trade

    • centralization of political authority under a group of rulers known as the: New Monarchs

      • Henry VII (Tudor) of England

      • Louis XI of France

      • Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile – Spain

        • recruited armies and supported these expensive organizations with revenues from national taxes

          • created national courts

    • prerequisites for exploration:

      • powerful authority

      • standing armies

      • national revenue from taxes

      • reliable technology

        • which spread quicker after the invention of movable type printing by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s

Making Sense of a New World

  • the centralization of political authority and advances in geographical knowledge brought Spain to the forefront as a world power

  • Reconquista – effort of Ferdinand and Isabella to take Spain back, by expelling the Muslims from southern Spain and eventually forcing thousands of Jews and Moors to leave the country or convert to Catholicism

    • Spanish authorities showed no tolerance for people who rejected the Catholic faith

  • developed a harsh labor system in the Canaries, would serve as models of subjugation in America

  • Calculating Risks and Rewards

    • Christopher Columbus – sailed on the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria to the New World in 1492, under a charter from Spain

      • Portugal refused his request, because they suspected that he had grossly miscalculated the distance around the globe and that he would starve before reaching Asia (he had by more than 7,000 miles)

    • no one seriously believed that Columbus and his crew would tumble off the edge of the earth

    • sighted an island in the Bahamas after only 32 days, believing that it was Asia

      • never occurred to Columbus that he had stumbled upon a new world

    • encountered the Native Americans he called ‘Indians’

    • Columbus returned to the New World three more times

    • he died in 1506 a frustrated but wealth entrepreneur, never knowing he had reached a previously unknown continent separating Asia from Europe

    • Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) – issued by the pope, divided the New World among Spain and Portugal along a line located 270 leagues west of the Azores

      • everything west of the line went to Spain

      • everything east went to Portugal, including Brazil

  • The Conquistadores

    • Conquistadores– Spanish men sent to the New World for ‘God, gold, and glory’

      • were made up of men eager for personal glory and material gain, uncompromising in matters of religion, and unswerving in their loyalty to the crown

      • came for instant wealth, preferably gold, and were not squeamish about the means they used to obtain it

    • in less than two decades, the Indians who had inhabited the Caribbean islands had been exterminated, victims of exploitation and disease

    • Hernan Cortes – conquered the Aztecs

      • scuttled the ships that had carried he and his men to Mexico to prevent them from retreating

      • Montezuma – thought that the Spaniards were gods, representatives of the fearful plumed serpent, Quetzalcoatl

    • Francisco Pizarro – conquered the Incas

  • From Plunder to Settlement

    • Mexico – renamed New Spain

    • to bring the conquistadores (who were chiefly concerned with their own wealth and glory) under control of the crown, the encomienda system was established – making the colonizers dependent upon the crown

      • rewarded the leaders (the encomenderos) of the conquest with Indian villages

      • made the colonizers more dependent on the king, because it was the king who legitimized their title

      • despite the difficulties of trans-Atlantic communication, the system worked

        • a year would often pass before receipt of an answer to a simple request

    • Fra Bartolomé de las Casas – questioned the legitimacy of European conquest of the New World

    • Spain – initiated reforms designed to bring greater “love and moderation” to Spanish-Indian relations

    • Virgin of Guadalupe – newly converted Christian reported a vision of the Virgin, a dark-skinned woman of obvious Indian ancestry

    • so few Spanish women migrated – especially in the 16th century, men often married Indians and blacks

    • the Spanish were more tolerant of racial differences, than the English who settled in North America

      • criollos – persons born in the New World to Spanish parents

      • peninsulares – native Spaniards

      • mestizos – Spanish and Native American

      • mulattos – Spanish and black

    • regarded the American colonies primarily as a source of precious metal:

      • 200 tons of gold

      • 16,000 tons of silver

    • inflation and wars, Spain became dependent on the annual shipment of bullion from America

The French Claim Canada

  • were looking for the Northwest Passage

    • a short water route to China, around or through North America

  • Samuel de Champlain resettled the Gulf of Saint Lawrence region after Jacques Cartier left

  • migrated in search of wealth and in the hopes of converting the Indians to Christianity

    • missionaries lived among the Indians and learned to speak their languages

  • French worked with the natives in order to acquire furs, viewed them as necessary economic partners

    • even taking native wives, and studying local cultures

  • established New Orleans as an important port city in their claim of Louisiana

  • Canada’s European population would remain small

The English Enter the Competition

  • John Cabot – the first transatlantic voyage by an English vessel, also looking for the Northwest Passage

  • Birth of English Protestantism

    • Act of Supremacy – Henry VIII proclaimed himself to be head of the Church of England

      • divorced his first wife Catherine without papal consent, severed all ties with the pope, seized church lands, and dissolved many of the monasteries

        • many Catholic ceremonies survived

      • 1539 –first Bible in English, many people could now read the word of God in the vernacular

    • Mary I – loyal to the Catholic faith, she inadvertently advanced the cause of Calvinism by creating so many Protestant martyrs

    • Elizabeth I – developed a strong central administration, while England became more and more a Protestant society

  • Militant Protestantism

    • Martin Luther – the Reformation and Lutheranism

      • divided kingdoms, sparked bloody wars and unleashed an extraordinary flood of religious publication

      • God spoke through the Bible, Luther maintained, not through the pope or priests

      • believed people were saved by faith alone

    • theologians – religious thinkers who would determine the course of religious reform in England, Scotland, and the early American colonies

    • John Calvin – a lawyer, turned theologian – stressed God’s omnipotence over human affairs – chose some persons for “election” (the gift of salvation), while condemning others to eternal damnation (Calvinism, belief in predestination – that your path of salvation had already been determined)

      • a man or woman could do nothing to alter this decision

    • France – Huguenots

    • Scotland – Presbyterians

    • England and America - Puritans

  • Woman in Power

    • Elizabeth I – led England to become a more Protestant society

      • established a unique institution, Catholic in much of its ceremony and government, but clearly Protestant in doctrine

        • believed that neither radical change nor widespread persecution gained a monarch lasting popularity

    • Catholic militants would constantly plot to overthrow the Tudor monarchy

      • “the Age of Religious Wars”

  • Religion, War, and Nationalism

    • Sir Francis Drake – led the “Sea Dogs” – privateers for the English crown

      • English sailors’ raids were little more than piracy, but in this undeclared state of war, such instances of harassment passed for national victories

    • Philip II – united the empires of Spain and Portugal in 1580

      • ordered the construction of a mighty fleet – the Spanish Armada – or the invincible fleet

      • it was a grand scheme, and an even grander failure

      • the smaller, more maneuverable English navy (under Sir Francis Drake) dispersed Philip’s Armada, and severe storms finished it off

Irish Background for American Settlement

  • English Conquest of Ireland

    • English settlers, however humble their origins, always felt themselves to be superior to the Irish

    • forced the Irish either into tenancy or off the land altogether

  • English Brutality

    • Irish frequently rebelled

      • English condescension turned to violence

    • Sir Humphrey Gilbert – harsh military governor of Ireland

      • when the Irish in his district rose up, he executed everyone he could catch “man, woman, and child

      • helped to generate a lot of hatred towards the English

    • Ireland served as an experiment for later English colonization

An Unpromising Beginning

  • English adventurers made almost every mistake one could possibly imagine

  • did acquire valuable information about winds and currents, supplies and finance

  • Roanoke Mystery

    • Sir Walter Raleigh – named the area of Virginia, in honor of his patron, the Virgin Queen, but chose a very poor location for his first settlement

      • area proved extremely difficult to reach

      • Sir Richard Grenville – (the leader of the expedition) added to the colonists’ troubles by destroying an entire Indian village in retaliation for the suspected theft of a silver cup

      • peculiar series of events transformed the settlement into a ghost town

      • in the spring of 1586, Sir Francis Drake sailed by and because an anticipated shipment of supplies was overdue, the colonists climbed aboard his ship and went home

        • first attempt was abandoned

      • in 1587, Raleigh tried again

      • between 1587 and 1590 no ship visited the Roanoke colonists

      • eventually found the village deserted, fate of the “lost” colonists remains a mystery

        • second attempt the inhabitants mysteriously disappeared

          • possibly absorbed by neighboring groups of natives

  • Dreams of Possession

    • Richard Hakluyt – published accounts of the New World and shaped public opinion about how England needed American colonies

      • The Principall Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589)

        • book's central point: England needed American colonies

    • European perspective on development though, invited continuous human suffering and ecological disaster


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