European Empires in the Americas



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World History AP/ Period IV

Political Transformations (Ch. 13)/ Vocabulary list


European Empires in the Americas

European Advantage - Various benefits such as geographical location, political competition and technological advancements gave Europeans an edge to expanding European empires in the Americas.

Great Dying - The event in which over 90% of the Americas' indigenous populations died from various Old World diseases such as smallpox, measles, and malaria. Without acquired immunities, the native population dramatically dropped, allowing for Europeans to easily establish colonial empires.

Columbian Exchange - The international network of communication, migration, trade, disease, flora, and fauna generated by European colonial empires in the Americas. This created a Atlantic network connecting the New and Old Worlds together across four continents.

Mercantilism - The economic theory that colonies served as closed markets for the mother country's goods to produce bullion (precious metals) and encourage exports.

Mother Country - The large country which has established the colonies and benefits from mercantilism.



Comparing Colonial Societies in the Americas

Encomienda - A legal system in which the Spanish crown gave certain settlers a set number of native people from whom they could require services and products from in return for receiving "protection" and instruction in Christianity. This system became very exploitative.

Repartimiento - The legal system replacing encomienda, repartimiento was very similar except that officials had a bit more control than before.

Hacienda - The hacienda system allowed large estate (hacienda) owners to employ natives.

Peons - The natives which worked on haciendas for low wages and had little control over their lives.

Creoles - Spaniards born in the Americas.

Peninsulares - Spaniards born in Spain who were superior to Creoles.

Mestizo - A mixed-race population emerging in Mexico and Peru as a result of unions between Spanish men and Indian women. This eventually became the majority of the population in Mexico during the 19th century.

Indigenous - Groups native to a specific region.

Colonies of Sugar - Colonial societies in the Caribbeans and Brazil which earned profit by growing commercial sugar for export, while importing necessities.

Large Scale Sugar Production- pioneered by Arabs. Europeans brought from Mediterranean to Caribbean and northern South American colonies.

Conditions on Sugar Producing Estates- conditions were poor,with long, labor-intensive work days.

Racial Mixing- lots of mixing, but very few marriages (less than 10%). Concubines and informal ties between the settlers and the natives.

Mulattos- products of Portuguese and African unions. As many as 40 different types (mulatto-Portuguese, mulatto-mulatto, etc.)

Sharply defined racial system- system in Americas where both Spain and Portugal integrated large numbers of mixed-race groups

Self-Reproduction- slaves produced more slaves.



Perception of Color- In North America any trace of African descent made you “black”, but in South America, there were different names for different mixed-races.

Settler Colonies- third type of

Unpromising British Leftovers- Eastern North America didn’t have wealth or culture of Spanish lands.

Old European Society- the feudal system (Land owned by nobles and lords and worked by servants and peasants)

Gender Differences- Men able to escape, women were not. Women were more often persecuted for adultery than men, men had a bigger inheritance, women had less education and could never become ministers.

Racial Mixing- very few mixed couples, and those that were were heavily looked down upon.

Religious and politically unique- Protestant Christianity reinforced literacy so 75% of white males were literate. Viewed as “little Parliaments defending the “rights of Englishmen”

The Russian Empire

Russian Motives-importance of opportunity, land, fur-bearing animals, people to convert to Christianity

Yasak-tribute paid in cash or in kind demanded by Russian authorities

Incentives for Conversion-tax breaks, exemptions from paying tribute, promise of land or cash

Influx of Russians-increase in Russian population = decrease in native population

Russification-Siberians and steppes adopted Russian language and converted to Christianity

Russia’s Westward Expansion-military rivalries with major powers of the region and fostered awareness of Russia’s backwardness relative to Europe, prompting an extensive program of westerization

Peter the Great-enlarged and modernization of Russian military forces, new educational system for the sons of noblemen, and dozens of manufacturing enterprises, Russians instructed to adopt western cleanliness (shaving, dress in European styles, etc.)

Catherine the Great-efforts to Europeanize Russian cultural/intellectual life, viewed herself as part of European Enlightenment

Frontlines of Encounter between Asia and Europe-Christendom vs. Islam, identity problem

“Britain had an Empire, Russia was an Empire”-British/Spanish colonized new world while Russians absorbed adjacent territories and maintained unity



Asian Empires

Difference between Asian and European-Asian were regional while European were global, European colonies in America had global reach and worldwide impact, while Asian was the opposite

Qing/ Manchu-Chinese dynasty of foreign and nomadic origin, the Qing were conquered by the Chinese and remained distant from Chinese peoples

Eighty year military effort-aggressive activity that brought huge regions resisting Chinese authority under Chinese control

Treaty of Nerchinsk-marked boundary between Russia and China

Court of Colonial Affairs-area in central Eurasia conquered by Qing ruled separately from the rest of China with this Court

Assimilation of Non-Chinese-Chinese/Qing officials showed respect for Non-Chinese and honored their nobles socially by excusing them of taxes and labor service

Muslims and Hindus

Division of Mughal India- people divided in tribes, castes, sects and ethnolinguistic groups.

Akbar and Nur Jehan- Akbar accommodated for the Hindu majority and gave women more rights. Nur Jahan was the wife of Jahangir and she was the power behind the throne since Jahangir was always drunk or high.

Akbar’s social change- Hindus were allowed to remain Hindu and even work in high positions. He wanted the remarriage of widows, no more Sati and no more child marriage.

Akbar’s policy of toleration- Removed the jizya and restrained the ulama.

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi’s Muslim thinking- objected to Akbar’s cultural tolerance. Thought the cultural mixing made a new, demented version of Islam and needed to be stopped.

Emperor Aurangzeb- No more accommodation of other religions. Islam= supreme

Ottoman Empire’s Sultan- Defender of Islam, warrior, caliph and emperor

Sultanate of Women- largely influenced matters of politics through the royal court.

Growing Prominence of Turkic People- More Turkic people resulting from the growth of the empire.

Persian Culture- Had big position among elite- (poetry painting and imperial splendor)

Fall of Constantinople- Empire expanded to Anatolia and Christians converted which weakened the Byzantine state and it eventually fell.

Christian Experience- many openly converted bc of less tax, less oppression and more rights for women as compared to their previous Christian rulers. Also because of the ability for men to become elite without converting.- comparable to Akbar's rule on India.



Devshirme- collected boys from Balkan Christian families who learned Turkish, converted to Islam and trained for civil admin or military service in elite Janissary units.

Centrality of Context

Eurocentrism- Belief of the superiority of the Europeans. - Europe is not the only center of expansion.


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