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Study guide for Term Test #1 (first 5 events)

Course Code
Nhung Tuyet Tran
Study Guide

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Term Test Study Sheets
Event 1: Conquest of the Aztec Empire
Context and Summary
Aztec expansion and demographic growth
oSub-ordinates began to outnumber rulers
oOrganized into city-states
oHad to be appeased, or they could unify to overthrow the ruling class
Triple Alliance (in the 1430s)
oTexcoco, Tenochtitlan, and Tlacopan
Tenochtitlan (Aztecs) eventually becomes dominant, and the other two members of the Triple Alliance pay
tribute to Tenochtitlan
Each maintained its own independent leadership, but owed tribute and allegiance to the Aztecs
oDynastic ruling elite
oHigher power than other city-states
Economic Organization
oPermanent settled agriculture
oSystem of labour exaction: common people owed a set amount of service to the elite
Produced and stockpiled goods for various reasons (incl. religious)
1519: Spanish governor of Cuba Diego Valquez sends Cortes to Mexico to find and conquer the Aztec empire
oAs Valquez is about to discharge Cortes, he sets off for Mexico without the governors permission
Cortes finds his own city upon arrival; may indicate his power-hungry nature, need for a legacy, need for a base, tangible
ownership in the New World
oCortes writes a letter to the governor saying that he will conquer the Aztec empire for the following reasons (and sets
off without waiting for a reply)
Convert the Aztecs to Christianity
Find and capture treasure (gold)
Nov 8, 1519: Cortes meets the Aztec emperor, Motecuhzoma in a friendly, diplomatic meeting
oWar is sparked by Spanish killing Aztecs during a religious ritual
oNight of Sorrows
Spanish try to flee at night, many are killed and gold is recollected by the Aztecs
Motecuhzoma, the emperor, has died

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New emperor, Cuitlahuac is appointed (to be succeeded by Cuauhtemoc) and a celebration ensues; the
Spanish are thought to have retreated
oJuly 20, 1520: Cortes allies with Texcoco (a disgruntled member of the Triple Alliance)
Successfully converts a Texcoco prince to Christianity
Also allies with Tlaxcala
oAugust 13, 1521: Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan
Aztec population weakened by smallpox, exhaustion from war, starvation, dehydration (waterways polluted)
Cortes demands the gold lost on the Night of Sorrows
Battle pursues
Aztecs killed, Cuauhtemoc tortured; Aztecs called to stop fighting by Cuauhtemoc and to flee
City falls to the Spanish
Causes of the Downfall
Biological Factors (Cortes major advantage)
oDisease from the Spanish (smallpox, flu, typhus)
oAztecs did not have immunity to these diseases
oApprox. 13 million dead due to this alone
Political Factors (Cortes major advantage)
oNon-loyal city-states allied with the Spanish
oAztec empire was not a united force
oAllied with Texcoco, a member of the Triple Alliance
oAllied with Tlaxcala: was at a strategic point halfway between the coast and the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan
oEssentially an Aztec civil war that the Spanish took advantage of
Technological Factors
oSpanish had advanced weaponry
Gunpowder, steel, horses, dogs, guns
oAztecs used obsidian and copper weapons; not guns or knowledge of gunpowder
Cultural Factors
oAztecs were more ceremonial with war; differences of customs surrounding war
They expected a tribal challenge before a battle, which was not a Spanish custom

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oMay have thought of the Spanish as gods
Effects of the Downfall
Political Effects
o1524: Council of Indies created and a government installed in Mexico
o1535: viceroyalty of New Spain established; head of the Spanish empire in the Americas
oMass immigration from Spain into newly conquered Mexico
Economic Effects
oEncomienda system: Aztec method of labour where encomenderos (those who owned the land and had people work
on it) were paid tribute by the people living on their land
Men became concerned with their own profit and wealth
o1542: Encomienda system banned and replaced by the Repartimento
Indigenous people were obligated to work for a set wage on plots of land; they could not choose where they
oExtraction of precious metals
Silver discovered
Social Effects
oImposition of Christianity (forcibly)
Spanish inquisition
oLoss of traditional land rights of the indigenous people
oMovement of populations
Mostly due to the Repartimento; people could not choose were they wanted to work
oIndigenous resistance and adaption to the new systems
Some elite intermarried
Some acted as translators
oGave rise to slavery and free wage labour
Biological Factors
oThe Colombian Exchange”
Diseases, smallpox, influenza, etc all brought to the New World
oExchange of plants and animals, wheat, olives, sugar, tobacco, tomatoes, cocoa, cattle, pigs
Event 2: The Portuguese Conquest of Malacca (1511)
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