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Angela Jong


September 19, 2008

Spanish Conquest Essay

Development is gauged through many ways, some of which is directly through the

wealth in possession. However a sure sign of development is the ability to meet the basic needs

of the general population to create government, traditions and language. At the time of the

Spanish Conquests in North America, one could call North America developed in many ways.

Within North America, there were several effective, yet complex civilizations that supported

millions of people. Although the Spanish conquest lead to much influence over North America, it

cannot be deemed necessary for North America’s development.

A prime example of the development of North America was the Aztec Empire in Mexico.

It reigned for about 200 years until its conquest by Hernan Cortes in 1521. This civilization

supported approximately 19 million people and hierarchy was as sophisticated as the European

countries’. Through the cultivation of corn, government, language, economy, and even education

was established. The advancement of technology was different from Europe, coinciding with the

needs of the people. For example the major civilizations in North America were much more

developed in mathematics and astronomy due to the reliance on agriculture and importance of

accuracy in time for planting.

The Spanish Conquest of North America was actually a disrupter to further development.

It interrupted the culture and ecosystem of North America through exploitation of the indigenous

people and the abuse of the natural resources. Even though the general population was not as
advanced in technology as Europe, in a few centuries, it would have equaled that of major

European nations. By the time of Spanish conquests, the Native Americans were already

experimenting with copper to create stronger weaponry. If the Spanish Conquest had not

occurred, there would not have been Mexico, but in its place would have been an equally strong

empire without the loss of hundreds of different tribes and cultures.

An important aspect of the Spanish Conquests was the exchanges that changed the way

of many Native Americans through the introduction of horses and other crops. But these benefits

do not outweigh the consequences resulted from this contact. The Native Americans died by the

droves from the various diseases that the people had no resistance to, such as small pox, malaria,

and diphtheria. The population of current day Mexico declined approximately 95% after the

Spanish conquest. Without the Spanish conquest, there may not have been horses or wheat, but

the agriculture present in North America was unique and adequate to support the major


Overall, there were few benefits for North America, while Spain received immense

profit. By taking the gold and other natural resources from North America, it helped strengthen

Spain while leaving the indigenous people of North America, diseased and oppressed. The

Spanish tried to compensate for their wrongs by Christianizing the people and creating

encomiendas to supposedly to ensure their welfare, when in fact forcing them into slavery and

ignoring their established religions. The disruption in the progress in North America caused by

the Spanish Conquest hindered and slowed the development rather than aiding it.