Conquest and Exploration

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Sept, 18, 2012
Conquest and Exploration
Historical Background:
-Spain at this time was the kingdom of Castile which was the largest and there was the kingdom of Grenada and in
1490 this was still in the hands of Islamic people from North Africa and in 1492 it was taken over by Castile
-In 718 one of the kings started a re-conquest of their land that had been taken over by the Muslims since 702 and
in the beginning it was not just a religious war and was mainly over territory
-Christian kings gained more territory and Grenada was the last thing the Muslims could hang onto
-In the 13th century Spain was an example for many other countries because they had a diverse body of people
living peacefully and it was very tolerant for awhile but the re-conquest shaped ideologies of the later generation
of people and influenced actions in the New World and they had become very militaristic
-The re-conquest became a religious crusade and the state and the church were almost inseparable
-The queen of Spain in the 1490’s was Isabel and she was married to Ferdinand who was the king of Aragon
-Their agreement was that they would rule together but their respective countries would keep their customs and
laws and neither could impose on one another (she had the power because she controlled more territory)
-Once in the Americas the ideas of Castile were imposed (Aragon more democratic and monarchy more centralized
in Castile)
-Castile became Spain after Isabel died in 1504 and her grandchild took over and married into the Hapsburgs
-Charles was the first of Spain and the Fifth of Germany and he became emperor in 1516
-One of the problems that Isabel and Charles had to deal with was the nobility because it was very strong and
often the monarch could not impose their will on them (were worried about nobility forming in the Americas)
-They began after the re-conquest telling Jews to convert or leave and they said the same thing to the Muslims
-It was one thing to put out a decree but it took years to accomplish anything and this was all to unify the
kingdoms under one religion that fought together
-Were also overrun by the Muslims but they had expelled them much before in 1249 and the monarchy was firmly
established and easier to control for the monarchy because of the small size
-Not a wealthy country and had poor agriculture so they used the sea for trading and fishing (very long coast)
-Their southern tip was very close to the north tip of Africa and thus they had a lot of contact with them and they
found islands in the Atlantic and merchants were encouraged by the monarchy to go find trade areas and markets
Common Characteristics:
-Had managed to centralize power and had monarchs and problems with the nobles (but still well established)
-Have an agricultural economy but they were interested in trade and at the time there was wide spread poverty
and famines and this meant many people were willing to risk a lot to improve their lives
-Society was very hierarchical and they were based on birth and there was little chance to move up socially
-In the 1490’s people felt they had been chosen by god because they had expelled the Muslims and this was a big
deal to put down such a great threat and they also felt validated when the found the Americas (Spain especially)
The Voyages of Exploration:
Technological Developments (Study of Geography and Astronomy):
-Helped to develop means of navigation and people of the time were quite familiar with the Mediterranean but to
go South or go as Columbus did came with much uncertainty (thought water would boil or the world would end)
-The idea that the earth was round was accepted by educated people but it had not really been proved and they
had no concept of how big the earth was or how far they could go and they had no way of measuring distance and
what they did have was descriptions of different ports so you had landmarks (this was thought of by the Italians)
-Were starting to develop some instruments like the compass and they recorded logs to keep track of their travels
-They were starting to build different types of ships like the shapes of Mediterranean galleys and they adapted
using the square and triangular sails and it allowed more manageability (some were also based on Arab designs)
Medieval Mentality:
-We see this in the writings from this time for example they arrived at the Americas and they were looking for the
Amazons from Greek mythology and they were expecting a tribe of warrior women
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