Before European explorers arrived in the Americas, Native Americans had developed their own forms of social organizations that differed from one another in their levels of achievement. Europeans, concerned first with exploiting the New World and its peoples, regarded the natives as savages and set out to destroy their societies and replace them with a variation of European culture. The biological disaster brought on by smallpox and other diseases made it easier for the Europeans to conquer the tribes and civilizations, and to impose on the Native Americans a number of different colonial systems. To help make up for the Native Americans labor lost through wars and epidemics, Europeans brought in African slaves, who added to the cultural diversity of America. Conflicts in the Old World spilled over into the new as different nations got into the race for colonies, and the many connections between events in the Americas and the rest of the world became apparent. By the end of the sixteenth century, the age of discovery was all but over, and the great era of colonization, especially English colonization, was about to begin.
Brinkley, Alan (2007). American history: A survey. New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
America Before 1600
1469 Aragon and Castile unite to create Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella.
1492 Spain expels the Moors and Jews. Columbus's first voyage to America.
1493-96 Columbus's second voyage to America.
1494 Treaty of Tordesillas divides Western Hemisphere between Spain and Portugal.
1497-1509 John Cabot and Sebastian Cabot explore North American coast for England.
1498-1500 Columbus's third voyage to America.
1502-04 Columbus's fourth voyage to America.
1524-36 Giovanni de Verrazano and Jacques Cartier explore North American coast for France.
1519-21 Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés conquers Tenochtitlán and creates Mexico City.
1533-35 Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquers Incan empire.
1535 Spain creates New Spain.
1544 Spain creates New Castile.
American Diversity: Pre-English colonization in the Americas points particularly to the influence of the Spanish, French, Native Americans, and Africans in North America. Early settlement explains the presence of these cultures in the United States.
Culture: The cultural diversity represented in early America created both synthesis and tension. All groups adopted ways of the others, whether wittingly or not, but conflict was perhaps more prevalent between the groups. Non-European cultures were either subsumed, but more commonly almost destroyed by their contact with the English; the French and Spanish made greater attempts to accommodate non-Europeans.
Religion: The introduction of Catholicism to the Americas is the most significant religious development, followed by the Treaty of Tordesilas dividing the Americas between the Spanish and the Portuguese. Catholicism on the continents has lured Catholics to the Americas as well as creating religious conflict in both politics and society.
Slavery: The introduction of slaves to the Americas by the Dutch and the Portuguese established a model that was followed by the North American colonies. Acceptance of a racial hierarchy provided the Americas with an ample labor supply, but its legacy of white supremacy did, and continues to, contradict principles upon which the nation was founded.
George, J. & Brown, J. (2007). AP achiever: Advanced placement american history exam preparation guide. McGraw Hill.
Approximately 30,000 years ago, the Paleo-Indians, the ancestors of Native Americans, followed herds of animals from Siberia across Beringia, a land bridge connecting Asia and North America, into Alaska. By 8,000 B.C.E., these peoples had spread across North and South America. No one knows for sure how many Indians lived in the Western Hemisphere in 1492, but the number was in the millions. In no sense were the Americas empty lands. Although few textbooks today use the word "primitive" to describe pre-contact Native Americans, many still convey the impression that North American Indians consisted simply of small migratory bands that subsisted through hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. As we shall see, this view is incorrect; in fact, Native American societies were rich, diverse, and sophisticated. Food discovered and domesticated by Native Americans would transform the diet of Europe and Asia. Native Americans also made many crucial--though often neglected--contributions to modern medicine, art, architecture, and ecology. During the thousands of years preceding European contact, the Native American people developed inventive and creative cultures. They cultivated plants for food, dyes, medicines, and textiles; domesticated animals; established extensive patterns of trade; built cities; produced monumental architecture; developed intricate systems of religious beliefs; and constructed a wide variety of systems of social and political organization ranging from kin-based bands and tribes to city-states and confederations. Native Americans not only adapted to diverse and demanding environments, they also reshaped the natural environments to meet their needs. And after the arrival of Europeans in the New World, Native Americans struggled intently to preserve the essentials of their diverse cultures while adapting to radically changing conditions.
1. At least 2,000 distinct languages were spoken in the Americas in 1492. Cultural differences were marked. Some Indian peoples belonged to small bands of hunters and gatherers; some practiced sophisticated irrigated agriculture.
2. Complex, agriculturally-based cultures developed in a number of regions, including the Mayas and Aztecs in Mesoamerica, the Incas in Peru, and the Moundbuilders and Mississippians in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.
3. All Indians lived in organized societies with political structures, moral codes, and religious beliefs. All had adapted to the particular environments in which they lived. The idea of private land ownership was foreign; land was held communally and worked collectively.
4. The largest domesticated animals were dogs, llamas, and alpacas, and therefore the Indians could not rely on such animal by-products such as wool, leather, milk, and meat. Although some societies had developed the wheel, it was used as a toy. No society had shaped metal into guns, swords, or tools; none had gunpowder, sailing ships, or mounted warriors.
5. Deadly epidemics also aided the European conquest. The Indians were highly susceptible to European diseases. Smallpox, typhus, diphtheria, plague, cholera, measles, and influenza appear to have been unknown. Measles, mumps, whooping cough, and other epidemics dramatically reduced the Indian population.
Professor Miller introduces A Biography of America and its team of historians. The program looks at the beginnings of American history from west to east, following the first Ice Age migrations through the corn civilizations of Middle America, and the explorations of Columbus, DeSoto, and the Spanish.