The Colonization Of The New World

The age of exploration and discovery was compelled by economical reasons, after the eastern land routes became unsafe because of the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453, a new route to Asia had to be found. Columbus’s expedition was not for more knowledge of the world, but to find a suitable trade route to India by going west. This “exploration” (or conquest depending on the point of view) led to dramatic consequences for the whole world, and shaped it to become what it is today, as this is referred to by many historians as the start of globalization. This age also severely impacted Africa with the Atlantic slave trade and started colonialisation there. America was devastated by the ravaging epidemics and conquests. Europe was also affected but for more economical reasons.  

The conquest of South America was done by the Portuguese, but mostly by the Spanish with their conquistadors erasing large empires such as the Aztecs or the Incas. The Aztecs were conquered by Herman Cortes, as he took advantage of the division within that area and the microbial shock that was ravaging the population. This microbial shock was due to illnesses such as smallpox the European brought over that completely ravaged the population: it decreased by more than 90% in Mexico, in the span of less than a century. The conquest of the Incas was done by taking advantage of the civil war that was happening, and once again of the ravaging epidemics. These empires were replaced by European colonies: the city of Lima in nowadays Peru was founded by the Spanish after the conquest of the Incas, or the Spanish building a church over an Aztec temple. They also tried to forcefully convert the natives to Christianity with missionaries, sometimes even using force. The native populations were enslaved and did all the “dirty” work, such as working on sugar plantations or gold mines. This conquest led to a very mix population, as young settlers would take and rape native women, rendering the Spanish and Portuguese unable to completely erase the native population. 

Because of the ravaging epidemics and the growing demand for exotic products, there were not enough natives to be enslaved and work on the sugar or tobacco plantations. To remedy this, the European powers such as Spain or Portugal decided to get slaves from Africa. Slaves would be bought from African traders, who would capture anyone, all over the African continent. This severely divided Africa as this led to the creation of many clans, constantly at war. This mass slavery is referred to as the Atlantic slave trade, which took away 10 million west Africans. They would be transported in horrible conditions, stacked like objects under the deck of ships specially designed for this, only to work 6 days a week from dawn till dusk. They were also converted to Christianity but this led to the creation of Voodoo, as most slaves pretended to believe in Christianity. The goods they manufactured were then sent back to Europe, where they would trade some goods to African traders for slaves, who were sent to the Americas: it was the creation of the triangular trade. 

In all, while extremely damaging America (10% of the world population was lost through the microbial shock), and Africa (massive slavery and later colonization and exploitation of it’s resources), this era was very profitable for Europe, as they would get countless new resources. The Columbian exchange was particularly useful, as it gave them new plants and animals, and heavily helped sustain the resource intensive industrial revolution. But the introduction of all the gold found in South America created what is called a price revolution: because so much gold was introduced, it led to inflation, thus impoverishing the middle and low class, leading to the trade of other goods becoming vital. We can see this through the creation of many trading posts and ports all around the world, however there was no free trade, just mercantilism. This can still be seen as the start of globalization as goods moved internationally, in all directions and paved the way for today’ society.  

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