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17 - The Diversity of American Colonial Societies, 1530 - 1770.doc

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HST 101
Tom Wang

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CHAPTER 18 The Diversity of American Colonial Societies, 1530–1770 I0. The Columbian Exchange A0. Demographic Changes 10. The peoples of the New World lacked immunity to diseases from the Old World. Smallpox, measles, diphtheria, typhus, influenza, malaria, yellow fever and maybe pulmonary plague caused severe declines in the population of native peoples in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Syphilis was the only significant disease thought to have been transferred from the Americas to Europe. 20. Similar patterns of contagion and mortality may be observed in the English and French colonies in North America. Europeans did not use disease as a tool of empire, but the spread of Old World diseases clearly undermined the ability of native peoples to resist settlement and accelerated cultural change. B0. Transfer of Plants and Animals 10. European, Asian, and African food crops were introduced to the Americas while American crops, including maize, beans, potatoes, manioc, and tobacco, were brought to the Eastern Hemisphere. The introduction of New World food crops is thought to be one factor contributing to the rapid growth in world population after 1700. 20. The introduction of European livestock such as cattle, pigs, horses, and sheep had a dramatic influence on the environment and on the cultures of the native people of the Americas. 30. Old World livestock destroyed the crops of some Amerindian farmers. Other Amerindians benefited from the introduction of cattle, sheep, and horses. II0. Spanish America and Brazil A0. State and Church 10. The Spanish crown tried to exert direct control over its American colonies through a supervisory office called the Council of the Indies. In practice, the difficulty of communication between Spain and the New World led to a situation in which the Viceroys of New Spain and Peru and their subordinate officials enjoyed a substantial degree of power. 20. After some years of neglect and mismanagement, the Portuguese in 1720 appointed a viceroy to administer Brazil. 30. The governmental institutions established by Spain and Portugal were highly developed, costly bureaucracies that thwarted local economic initiative and political experimentation. 40. The Catholic Church played an important role in transferring European language, culture, and Christian beliefs to the New World. Catholic clergy converted large numbers of Amerindians, although some of them secretly held on to some of their native beliefs and practices. 50. Catholic clergy also acted to protect Amerindians from some of the exploitation and abuse of the Spanish settlers. One example is Bartolome de Las Casas, a former settler turned priest who denounced Spanish policies toward the Amerindians and worked to improve the status of Amerindians through legal reforms such as the New Laws of 1542. 60. Catholic missionaries were frustrated as Amerindian converts blended Christian beliefs with elements of their own cosmology and ritual. In response, the Church redirected its energies toward the colonial cities and towns, where the Church founded universities and secondary schools and played a significant role in the intellectual and economic life of the colonies. B0. Colonial Economies 10. The colonial economies of Latin America were dominated by the silver mines of Peru and Mexico and by the sugar plantations of Brazil. This led to a dependence on mineral and agricultural exports. 20. The economy of the Spanish colonies was dominated by the silver mines of Bolivia and Peru until 1680 and then by the silver mines of Mexico. Silver mining and processing required a large labor force and led to environmental effects that included deforestation and mercury poisoning. 30. In the agricultural economy that dominated Spanish America up to the 1540s, Spanish settlers used the forced-labor system of encomienda to exploit Amerindian labor. With the development of silver-mining economies, new systems of labor exploitation were devised: in Mexico, free-wage labor, and in Peru, the mita. 40. Under the mita system, one-seventh of adult male Amerindians were drafted for forced labor at less than subsistence wages for six months of the year. The mita system undermined the traditional agricultural economy, weakened Amerindian village life, and promoted the assimilation of Amerindians into Spanish colonial society. 50. The Portuguese developed the slave-labor sugar plantation system in the Atlantic islands and then set up similar plantations in Brazil. The Brazilian plantations first used Amerindian slaves and then the more expensive but more productive (and more disease-resistant) African slaves. 60. Sugar and silver played important roles in integrating the American colonial economies into the system of world trade. Both Spain and Portugal tried to control the trade of their American colonies through monopolies and convoy systems that facilitated the collection of taxes but that also restricted the flow of European goods to the colonies. C0. Society in Colonial Latin America 10. The elite of Spanish America consisted of a relatively small number of Spanish immigrants and a larger number of their American-born descendants (creoles). The Spanish-born dominated the highest levels of government, church, and business, while the creoles controlled agriculture and mining. 20. Under colonial rule the cultural diversity of Amerindian peoples and the class differentiation within the Amerindian ethnic groups both were eroded. 30. People of African descent played various roles in the history of the Spanish colonies. Slaves and free blacks from the Iberian Peninsula participated in the conquest and settlement of Spanish America; later, the direct slave trade with Africa led both to an increase in the number of blacks and to a decline in the legal status of blacks in the Spanish colonies. 40. At first, people brought from various parts of Africa retained their different cultural identities; but with time, their various traditions blended and mixed with European and Amerindian languages and beliefs to form distinctive local cultures. Slave resistance, including rebellions, was always brought under control, but runaway slaves occasionally formed groups that defended themselves for years. 50. Most slaves were engaged in agricultural labor and were forced to submit to harsh discipline and brutal punishments. The overwhelming preponderance of males made it impossible for slaves to preserve traditional African family and marriage patterns or to adopt those of Europe. 60. In colonial Brazil, Portuguese immigrants controlled politics and the economy, but by the early seventeenth century Africans and their American-born descendants–both slave and free–were the largest ethnic group. 70. The growing population of individuals of mixed European and Amerindian descent (mestizos), European and African descent (mulattos), and mixed African and Amerindian descent were known collectively as “castas.” Castas dominated small-scale retailing and construction in the cities, ran small ranches and farms in the rural areas, and worked as wage laborers; some gained high status and wealth and adopted Spanish or Portuguese culture. III0. English and French Colonies in North America A0. Early English Experiments 10. Attempts to establish colonies in Newfoundland (1583) and on Roanoke Island (1587) ended in failure. 20. In the seventeenth-century hope that colonies would prove to be profitable investments, combined with the successful colonization of Ireland,
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