The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 33,000 BC-1769 AD.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 1.
So apparently, the earth wasn’t created 6,000 years ago and to make matters worse, when we ‘stumbled upon’ the Americas, there weren’t any cool links or videos. Just angry natives who stupidly thought they were entitled to their land or something silly like that.
The aforementioned planet Earth was formed some 225 million years with a large super-continent, Pangaea. How this pertains to American history, no one quite knows. Anywho, chunks of terrain began to sink into the various oceans and the landmasses that we know and love today were formed. It’s also important to note that the American landscape wasn’t fully formed until after the Ice Age about 10 million years ago.
The Ice Age had made a huge land bridge, which was actually ice and not land, but who was really keeping track anyway? People began to migrate into America through said land bridge. It was a paradise for those early nomadic Asians. They formed hunter-gatherer tribes and drifted all the way down to South America, and by the time Columbus came a-knockin’, their numbers reached 54 million, according to our textbook.
These Native Americans were extremely resourceful and smart. They relied heavily on maize, what we Americans call ‘corn’. Mayans could predict solar eclipses centuries before our Western ancestors could. The only downside were the Aztecs, who would literally yank the hearts our of their human sacrifices. But hey, don’t we all have that one uncle we don’t like to talk about?!
Now back to corn. It changed hunting-gatherer groups into vast agricultural civilizations as the Native Americans began to make intricate systems for growing maize. It seems that corn only had a major influence on Native Americans south of the border, seeing as there were no crazy large cities in the US at that time. But eventually, maize spread like herpes and everyone grew to love it.
In addition to corn, they also grew beans and squash, which led to a population boom, especially in the Northeastern US. For the most part, the American Indians in North America lived in small groups all over the place. They had no desire to bite the hand that feeds, I’m referring to utter destruction of nature, unlike the Europeans did when they completely obliterated the landscape.
The first Europeans to land on American soil were Scandinavian Vikings in 1000 AD. However, they were one-hitter-quitters and left soon after their settlement in Newfoundland failed. Other Europeans opted to get resources from the Far-East, springing the first-ever bout of consumerism. But their lust for Far-Eastern goods was very expensive and soon, they wanted to look elsewhere for goods.
Marco Polo had returned from his 23-year trip in 1295 with great tales of the treasures of China. Many people were scared out of their wits to travel around all the way around Africa, seeing as there were badass winds and large currents. Many Europeans wanted to explore Africa and soon would be rewarded.
In 1450, Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to set foot in West Africa and set up trading posts for gold and slaves right away, which was nothing new to the area. Slaves were then used to cultivate sugar plantations in Portugal and Spain. The Portuguese followed the Arab and African tradition and founded the origin of the plantation system, which was based on commercial agriculture and the exploitation of slave labor.
Meanwhile, back in Spain, assuming that it was somewhat un-united, they became united with the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella! Jealous of their neighbors for discovering the spoils of Africa, the Spanish wanted to out-do them. Because the Portuguese controlled the only route to Asia, around Africa, the Spanish looked to the west.
The Europeans were getting greedy. They wanted more and more goods at cheaper prices. Africa had been set up as the first ever slave-a-lot and Spain was ready to colonize anything in its path. The Italian Chris Columbus convinced the Spanish crown to let him galavant with a crew on a westward journey. Columbus would use a mariner’s compass, an Arabian invention, and on October 12, 1492, Columbus reached the Bahamas and the New World was born.
Of course, Columbus had thought that he had landed in India, and naturally called the natives Indians. Chris’ discovery spurred a new world economy. Europe had the markets. Africa had the labor. America had the raw materials. The triangle trade had begun.
Foodstuffs from the New World were rapidly shipped home as maize, tomatoes, tobacco, and potatoes revolutionized European markets. In a gesture of reciprocation, Columbus released hundreds of Old World animals into America. Among them were horses and pigs, the latter having killed millions of Native Americans through disease.
Sugar also revolutionized the West Indies, where Columbus originally landed. Soon after his arrival, Native Americans died off in the droves because of the Old World diseases. About 90% of the native population died after Columbus set foot in the West Indies. Some saw it as a sign from Providence that the New World was their land and everyone else should GTFO.
Right away, Spain ensured they would keep their land with the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed with Portugal in 1494. In the 1500s, the New World was dominated by Spanish conquistadores who ravaged the land looking for gold and glory, all while serving god. Two important conquistadors were Balboa (not an ancestor of the boxer), who in 1513, discovered the Pacific Ocean and declared it property of the King of Spain and Magellan (not the original creator of the shoe insert brand), who from 1519-1522, completed the first circumnavigation of the world.
Other conquers include de Soto, who massacred loads of Floridian Indians with disease and bullets alike, and Pizarro, who decimated the Incas and sent home lots of booty. Spain was now vastly wealthy, which would lead to the start of capitalism and the commercial banking system. What was left of the native population was enslaved, though it was normally called Christianization.
Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Spanish missionary in Hispaniola, was appalled by the Spanish slavery system of encomienda, which gave the Spanish government power to give away Indians to people who promised to Christianize them. He would later express his opinions in his Destruction of the Indies.
By far, the most important conquistador was Hernan Cortes. On his way to the Aztec capital, he picked up a few hitchhikers that knew the Aztec languages well. Once Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlan (don’t even try to pronounce it), he was treated like a god, explaining that his made-up disease’s remedy was gold.
Tenochtitlan was huge! It was larger than any city the conquistadors had seen. But after a while, Cortes overstayed his welcome and the Aztecs got restless. The Aztecs eventually attacked on June 30, 1520, though Cortes would mount a counterattack and take down the entire city about a year later.
Tenochtitlan became known as Mexico City and soon the Spanish were on the fast track to massive colonization.
While the Spanish seemed to hold a monopoly on the New World, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Other countries jumped in head-first, starting with the Englishman John Cabot, who explored northeast North America in 1497 and the Frenchman Verrazano, who explored eastern North America in 1524. The French eventually looked north to Canada and decided that it would do.
Though the Spanish had been in America for a while, they hadn’t set up an actual settlement. That all changed with the creation of a fortress in St. Augustine, FL in 1565. the settlement was built in order to protect against the English and French and save some more souls. More Spanish settled in as they formed the capitol city of the New Mexico in Sante Fe.
If gold was ever in short supply, there was one thing that could easily be harvested: souls. The Spanish were Roman Catholic. Not just most of them. They were Catholic. The Native Americans in New Mexico eventually revolted against the missionaries in 1680 and managed to maintain their land for about 50 years. Later, in 1769, Father Junipero Serra, known as the last conquistador, founded San Diego, which led to the settlement of California.
To protect against the advancing French, the Spanish built new forts in Texas and famously built a Catholic mission there, called the Alamo. Sound familiar?
The Spanish’s actions in the New World helped form the ‘Black Legend’, which held that the Spanish were killing for Christ. They pillaged and raped and pretty much did whatever the hell they wanted. Albeit, the Spanish did create a massive empire and instead of shunning and killing every Native American, like the English would later do, they decided to make love, not war, and many Spaniards went on marry a Native American.
Eventually the English would invade– err, settle in North America and would do most of the things that the Spanish did.