The Meeting of Cultures
Before European explorers arrived in the Americas, Native Americans had developed manyforms 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 nativesas savages and set out to destroy their societies and replace them with a variation of Europeanculture. The biological disaster brought on by smallpox and other diseases made it easier forthe Europeans to conquer the tribes and civilizations, and to impose on the Native Americans anumber of different colonial systems. In the Spanish colonies the Catholic Church wasinstrumental in this effort. To help make up for the Native Americans’ labor lost through warsand epidemics, Europeans brought in African slaves, who added to the cultural diversity ofAmerica. Conﬂicts in the Old World spilled over into the new as different nations got into therace for colonies, and the many connections between events in the Americas and the rest ofthe world became apparent. By the end of the sixteenth century, the age of discovery was allbut over, and the great era of colonization, especially English colonization, was about to begin.
Points for Discussion:
What was the nature of the Indian societies and their geographic distribution before thecoming of the European explorers? What relationship existed between their subsistencepatterns and their general culture?2.
What "discoveries" were made in America before 1600? Which of these led tocolonization and which did not? What contributed to the success of these colonizationefforts?3.
What did the Indian cultures contribute to the Europeans, and why, despite thesecontributions, did the invaders still think of the Native Americans as savages? (Thedocument in the Study Guide, in which John Smith describes his meeting with the Indianswill be useful in showing the attitude of Europeans toward Native American customs andvalues.)4.
How were the Spanish and English motives for colonization different? How were theysimilar? How were these motives reﬂected in the organization of the colonies theyestablished?5.
What was the social and cultural background of the Africans brought to America? How didthis background differ from that of the Indians? Europeans? In what ways were thebackgrounds of these people similar?6.
In what ways did England, Spain, and other European nations use the experience gainedin earlier exploration and colonization when they attempted to colonize America?7.
European colonization has often been said to have been motivated by "gold, God, andglory." Assess this interpretation of the motives behind the European colonization ofAmerica.8.
The arrival of Europeans in America resulted in a complex interaction of cultures. Explainhow this interaction was harmful and/or beneﬁcial to both Europeans and NativeAmericans.9.
How did the cultural interaction mentioned in question number 8 change with the arrival ofAfrican slaves? Examine the origins of the African slave trade and the impact that Africanshad on the economy and culture of colonial America.10.
Who were the "positivists," and why has their approach to history been rejected by mostscholars today?
The colonization of the Americas was a collision of cultures
the European and NativeAmerican
that had been developing along completely different lines for thousands ofyears.AP US History WTW David WillmorePeriod 05