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01_Ch20: Spain Builds an American Empire

01_Ch20: Spain Builds an American Empire

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Published by Anthony Valentin
Lesson notes to Chapter 20 section 1 with an emphasis on Spanish colonial policies in the Age of Exploration.
Lesson notes to Chapter 20 section 1 with an emphasis on Spanish colonial policies in the Age of Exploration.

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Published by: Anthony Valentin on Jun 06, 2012
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01_Ch20: Spain builds an American EmpireFQ:
How were Europe's voyages of exploration becoming "voyages of commerce"?
 16th - 17th C
Main Idea:
 The voyages of Columbus prompted the Spanish to establish colonies in the Americas. The young Nation-States of Europe carried their distinct world view's with them on the voyages of exploration. Mercantile enterprises helped extend beyond Europe's shores the economic, political and cultural values of the nation-states.
I. Mercantilism
Mercantilism was an early form of capitalism. This brand of capitalism was heavily influenced by political imperatives. To call it 'State-Directed Capitalism' would not be too far from how it was practiced. This was capitalism that was structured to address the economic and political needs of Renaissance Europe’s developing nation-states. Among its central principles are:
A. Accumulation of specie (gold, silver) by the 'Mother Country'. Specie reserves would be a measure of economic and political power. As the nation's specie reserves increased they acquire the necessary funds to consolidate their national domain, extend their power beyond their borders, and spread the very values that shape their national identity. Charles I/ Charles V uses a significant portion of New World specie to fund his military and cultural campaigns against the Protestant movement. Spain had become the Church's vanguard in the Catholic Reformation.
B. Sea Power is an emphasis of the Mother Country as the protection of trade routes and colonies becomes vital in the maintenance and eventual expansion of commercial empires.
C. Quest to monopolize trade & trade routes to protect against competitors and ‘pirates’.
D. Establish colonies as sources of natural resources and raw materials (fur, lumber, cowhide, tallow, food staples, etc.) for the Mother country’s manufacturing sector. The colony, in turn, becomes a ‘captive’ market for the Mother country’s manufactured goods.
E. Restrictive trade policies enforced by Mother Country to preserve the condition of the colony as an exclusive resource and market. Exporting and importing activities of the colony are restricted for the exclusive benefit of the Mother country.
F. A Positive Trade Balance for the Mother Country is a goal made possible by the colonial quest for evermore resources to meet the demand of a mercantilist system that imposes a commercial loss.
II. Council of the Indies (c. 1524-1820)
As the Spanish ‘New World’ empire increases in size and the complexity of administering it similarly expanding, an agency of the royal government was created by Charles I to address it.
It was customary for the early Spanish Conquistadores and colonizers to have within their administrative staff an 1accountant/ secretary. This person was responsible for recording the amount of treasure (usually in the form of specie) that came into the possession of the representatives of the Spanish crown (Catholic Monarchs). Customarily, 20% would be set aside for the privy purse of the crown. This became generically known as 'The Royal Fifth'. The remaining 80% would be used to cover the expenses incurred by the colonization efforts and to pay for the services of the participants. Many of the conquistadores only received income if they acquired the treasures from which they would get paid and the crown received the royal fifth. This was an added incentive for colonizers to acquire wealth from the native peoples of the Americas and/ or extract it from the land using coerced labor.
01_Ch20: Spain builds an American Empire
Again, the efficient administration of a colonial empire ensured a profitable mercantilist environment for the Mother country. Responsibilities covered territorial possessions on the North & South American continents as well as the Caribbean Sea. Among its duties were:
A. Assigning Viceroys to Spanish colonies to serve five-year terms as governors. The main ‘Viceroyalties’ were:
1. New Spain (Mexico, North America) 1535
2. Peru (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia) 1542
3. New Granada (Colombia, Venezuela, Panama) 1739
4. Rio de la Plata (Argentina, Chile) 1776
B. Scheduling regular shipments of raw materials, specie, food staples, and other resources from the colonies to the Mother country (Spain) via the main port at Seville. Records created by this agency and preserved reveal the following:
Shipment of Specie (1500 – 1650)
Gold = 181 tons
Silver = 16,000 tons
Additional records indicate that output increased dramatically in the 1570's as mercury mines are found and exploited.
C. Instituting and enforcing royal directives in the Spanish colonies.
Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native American Advocate)
III. Coerced Labor & the Encomienda System
 Once the territory of the Americas and its native population is overwhelmed by European numbers, technology, animals, and disease, the aim of making the venture profitable led to the eventual servitude of millions. In the case of the native peoples, the Spanish Encomienda system was to be a humane method of tapping into the native labor force. The impact was often less than humane (by any standards) and had these characteristics: A. Native Americans
 Plots of land/ estates were awarded to certain Spaniards as possessions with certain
stipulations. The landowner was obliged to physically and spiritually care for the native peoples entrusted to him in return for their labor. The spiritual care often involved converting the natives to Christianity and teaching them to read the scripture in the Spanish language.
 Native peoples would be apportioned to these estates by a policy known as the Repartimiento.
 The tasks involved included ranching (for cowhide, tallow), farming (for tobacco, and then sugar cane as cash crops), mining (for specie) and other activities that tapped local resources.
 As exploitation reached such levels that Native American populations were being depleted, the Spanish government sent advocates like Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native American Advocate) to halt the abuse.
B. Africans
 The disease and overwhelming burdens of labor introduced by the European decimated the native populations they came in contact with. Africa, as a source of labor, was explored as early as the 15th C. by Portuguese voyages sponsored by Prince Henry (the Navigator). The need for African labor in Europe at the time was limited at best by economic and climatic conditions. The American colonial effort, however, was different. In that environment, the right mix of labor shortage, climate, and economic incentive created an enormous desire for labor that could augment, and eventually supplant, native laborers. The previous exposure that Africans had to Europeans had also allowed them to acquire immunity to disease that native peoples did not have.
 The Middle Passage of the Triangle Trade was responsible for transporting millions of slave laborers to the Americas. A significant portion never reached the Western Hemisphere and are
The influx of specie in vast amounts sends Europe’s economy into an inflationary spiral. Charles V’s massive war and 2imperial expenditures spreads specie wealth throughout Europe. This monarch is leading the effort against the spread of the Protestant ‘Heresy’.

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