Conquest and Colonies
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Main Idea: The countries of Europe established colonies in the lands they discovered but, in some cases, only after violently conquering the native people who lived there.

Today's Lesson Essential Question: What are the costs and benefits of interaction between cultures. With regards to the Columbian Exchange, who benefited the most/least and why?

Instructions: As you go through this webquest, be sure to read everything. Action items are in red. Important names and terms that will pop up on the unit test are bolded. Your responses must be typed and submitted on the assignment post in Schoology. This is an individual assignment.


1. Action Item: After reading the passage below, create a chart (or timeline) showing the sequence of events leading to Spain's conquest of the Aztec Empire.

The Conquest of Mexico
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From the Caribbean some Spaniards moved to the mainland to set up colonies. One such person was Hernan Cortes, who led an expedition to Mexico that ended with the conquest of the Aztec Empire. Cortes was a conquistador, or conqueror, a term applied to Spanish military leaders who fought against the native peoples of the Americas.


At the time of the Spanish arrival in Mexico, the Aztec emporer was Moctezuma II. Though the Aztecs were very powerful and ruled much of Mexico, they were unpopular with those they had conquered. Cortes was able to use this lack of popularity to his advantage. By the time he reached the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Cortes's small band of Spanish soldiers had been joined by thousands of Native Americans who wanted to defeat the Aztecs.
Among the Native Americans who joined Cortes was a woman named Malintzin, also called Malinche. Because she was able to speak the Aztec language, Malintzin became invaluable to Cortes as a translator.


In addition to his Native American allies, Cortes had several other advantages that helped him defeat the Aztecs. He head metal weapons and heavy armor, neither of which was known to the Aztecs, as well as guns. Also, Cortes and a few of his soldiers rode horses, animals never before seen in the Americas. Some Aztecs were so scared at their first sight of the horses that they fled in terror. As it had in the Caribbean, disease also swept through the Aztec Empire, killing thousands of people.

On November 8, 1519, Cortes and his army entered Tenochtitlan. Though Cortes and Moctezuma greeted each other respectfully, the Spanish soon took the emperor prisoner. Battle erupted, during which Moctezuma was killed. After months of heavy fighting, Cortes took the city and the entire Aztec Empire. King Charles V of Spain appointed Antonio de Mendoza the first viceroy of Spain (officials selected to rule a large area in the king's name).


2. Action Item: After reading the passage below, create a chart (or timeline) showing the sequence of events leading to Spain's conquest of the Inca Empire.

The Conquest of Peru

About 10 years after the conquest of the Aztecs, a conquistador named Francisco Pizarro led an expedition to Peru. Pizarro had heard of the fabulous wealth of Peru's Inca Empire, and he hoped to win some of that wealth for himself.

The Inca Empire that Pizarro found was already weakened significantly. Smallpox had recently swept through, killing many people, including the emperor. In the wake of the emperor's death, civil war had broken out. A new ruler, Atahualpa, had only just taken control of the empire when the Spanish arrived.

Atahualpa heard of the Spaniard's arrival and agreed to meet with them in 1532. At that meeting, Pizarro demanded that Atahualpa accept Christianity and hand over his empire to Spain. Atahualpa refused, and the Spanish took him prisoner. Though Atahualpa gave Pizarro a huge fortune in gold and silver, the Spanish killed him and headed South to Cuzco, the Inca capital. There they destoryed the Inca army and took over the empire.



3. Action Item: Infer - What event is taking place in the picture below? What evidence supports your answer?
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4. Action Item: Read the passage below then answer the following questions.
  • Analyze - According to Las Casas, how have the Spanish mistreated the Native Americans?
  • Infer - For what audience do you think Las Casas was writing? What makes you think so?

Some Spaniards were apalled at the treatment of Native Americans and called on others to protect those who remained. The most vocal of these reformers was a priest named Bartolome de Las Casas. In seeking to protect the Native Americans, however, Las Casas recommended replacing them as laborers with imported African slaves (later in life, Las Casas recants this idea). Slave labor soon became a common practice in the Americas.

In his History of the Indies, Las Casas described the terrible ordeals that the Natvie Americans faced as forced laborers, despite orders from the king of Spain that they be protected and taught Christianity.

"The Indians were totally deprived of their freedom and were put in the harshest, fiercest, most horrible servitude and captivity which no one who has not seen it can understand. Even beasts enjoy more freedom when they are allowed to graze in the fields. When the Indians were allowed to go home, they often found it deserted and had no other recourse than to go out into the woods to find food and die. When they fell ill, which was very frequently because they are a delicate people unaccustomed to such work, the Spaniards did not believe them and pitilessly called them lazy dogs, and kicked and beat them; and when illness was apparent they sent them home as useless. I sometimes came upon dead bodies on my way, and upon others who were gasping and moaning in their death agony, repeating "Hungry, hungry." And this was freedom, the good treatment, and the Christianity that Indians received.

Is there a single nation which would not think that the world is full of just such evildoers as the Spaniards if their first experience with that outside world was with a people who entered territories by force, killed the people, and deprived them of their rights? Just because the Spaniards told them to obey the King of Castile [Spain], supposing they understood, what obligation did they have to obey since they already had their own kings?

5. Visit CIA Factbook to view current statistics on the people of Brazil, Mexico, and Peru. Once the website is loaded, you will be able to select each country from the dropdown menu. Expand the section on "People" and view the languages spoken, religions, etc.
  • Based on this data, explain how exploration and colonization have impacted the culture in Mexico and South America.
  • How might the history of Mexico and South America be different if the Spanish had not discovered gold and silver there?