?Irish explorers (Saint Brendan, c. 570)
?Prince Madog c. 1170
Leif Erickson c. 1000 AD and Vinland settlements
Marco Polo and the Crusades gave Europe a taste for spice, silks, and other treasures of the orient
1453: Fall of Constantinople—no more spice, silk, et cetera
Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, obsessed with sailing and the ocean, had established a school for mariners in 1418
Portuguese went after gold in the Gold Coast, and, after 1453, started looking for a route around Africa
1486: Bartholomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope by accident in a storm
1498: Vasco de Gama reaches India
1500: Pedro Cabral gets to Brazil
1492: Spain expels the Moors from Granada, has time to send Columbus exploring
Columbus found San Salvador in the Caribbean. He called the place India, because that’s where he thought he was. America is named after Amerigo Vespucci, a cartographer who had visited the new world and put his name on his maps
1494: Pope Alexander IV divides world between Spain and Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas
Spain is after three Gs: God (counter-Reformation), Glory (military tradition after beating up Moors) and Gold
1513: Ponce de Leon explores Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth
Most of America is crummy compared to the riches of Asia, so Europeans look for a way across or around
1513: Vasco de Balboa crosses Panama and is the first European to see the Pacific
1519-1522: Magellan’s crew is the first to circumnavigate the world
1519-1521: Cortes and 570 conquistadores conquer the Aztecs and destroy Tenochtitlan with guns and germs (perhaps 90% of the Aztecs died), and by using all the Aztecs’ conquered peoples against them
1532-1538: Francisco Pizarro conquers Incas in a similar way
Now Spain is rich in gold and silver, and starts to explore North America, establishing encomiendas, in which Indians were converted to Catholicism and put to work on Spanish farms. Although the Spanish Peninsulares and Creoles make the Indians work for them, they also marry Indians creating mestizo (or mixed) offspring. Forts and missions were established throughout the southwest, of which one is now Los Angeles. Indians are enslaved to work in the mines, and some do OK, but most die, so the Spanish and Portuguese start importing Africans.
1539-1542: Hernando de Soto explores American Southeast, entering Tennessee.
1540-1542: Francisco Coronado explores the southwest looking for El Dorado, the city of gold based on a story told by the shipwrecked Cabeza de Vaca
1565: St Augustine, Florida—the oldest standing European settlement in America
From the New World, see page 26, Spain gets corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peanuts, pumpkins, beans, cocaine, and syphilis. The Indians got wheat, cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, mules, smallpox, typhus, and the measles.
As Spain grows rich, England and France grow jealous, but that is a lecture for the future
1524: Giovanni de Verrazano comes from France to the New World looking for the Northwest Passage
1534: Jacques Cartier looks for the same thing
In France the Huguenots are troublesome and are persecuted, so some come to the New World, but most are kept home if possible so they don’t mess up the New World. Rather, the French try to convert the Indians and make them French.
1673: Marquette and Joliet explore the Mississippi valley
1681-1682: La Salle explores the midwest
The Spanish mix with natives.
The French try to turn natives into them.
The English segregate themselves from
the natives and deal with a small local elite.
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This page last updated 30 August, 2003.