I) The Spice Trade – spices, particularly pepper, became extremely desirable in Europe during the late 14th and early 15th centuries; in the days before effective refrigeration, meat was preserved by curing it with salt, smoking it, or drying it in the air – methods which tended to remove much of the flavor. Spices, therefore, became highly prized.
A) Control of the spice trade – therefore became a highly prized commodity, itself.
1) Spices’ origination – the most desirable spices originated in Asia, particularly peppers and cinnamon.
(a) India – traders from India sailed the Indian Ocean, and sold spices from India to Muslim traders in eastern Africa; from eastern Africa, these spices were transported overland in camel caravans to the Levant (what we today refer to as Israel and Palestine and Lebanon and Syria), where they were traded for other goods (mainly gold) to traders from the Italian city-states, principally Genoa and Venice (important later, because Columbus himself was Genoese, and this was a contributing factor in the Portuguese king rejecting his plan to sail westward across the Atlantic to Asia). These Italian merchants then distributed the spices throughout the rest of Europe.
(i) Price of spices – because of the transportation costs of taking the spices over land, and the fact that there was also profit taking by two groups of middlemen, the cost of spices were out of reach for all but the wealthiest Europeans. This high cost, and the demand for spices, made it an attractive target for other Europeans outside of the Italian city-states, because they would be able to charge slightly lower prices for the spices, and still make a hefty profit. This possibility made the spice trade attractive to the Portuguese, and to freebooters like Christopher Columbus.
B) Henry the Navigator – member of the royal family in Portugal, part of the invading party and one of the Portuguese heroes at Cueta. With part of the booty from the haul at Cueta, Henry set himself up on an estate in the far southeast corner of Portugal (show location on map). From this location, Henry set up a school of navigation and maritime trades (although known as Henry the Navigator, he did no actual sailing himself), where he was able to attract talented map makers, and the best and brightest from around Europe in navigation, as well as a number of younger sons of noblemen in Portugal who saw the opportunity to sail to faraway lands as a means of gaining wealth and status that were denied them should they remain in Portugal (explain importance of primogeniture in inheritance).
1) Development of ocean going vessels – because of its physical location (the country furthest west in Europe, without a good port on the Mediterranean Sea), the Portuguese fishing boats had always sailed into the Atlantic to fish. They were always refining this technology, and therefore had experienced shipbuilders to call upon when Henry set up his school of navigation
(a) The Caravel (draw picture) – important, because it was the first European ship to be three masted, which allowed more sail area, which meant that a larger ship could be moved through the water efficiently.
2) Explorations of the Portuguese
(a) West Coast of Africa – as Henry’s school refined its map making and ship building, they also began exploring down the African coast.
(b) Portuguese “factories” – fortified establishments on the African coast, from which the Portuguese traded with local Africans.
(i) 1444 the Portuguese traded for the first African slaves, which were then returned to Lisbon and made life long servants. Slavery was not unique to Africa; it was an ancient means of controlling labor, and was in fact used throughout the world (including North and South America before the arrival of the Europeans). The Slavic people, in fact, were so named because other Europeans believed that they made the best slaves. As Christianity spread, strictures against enslaving other Christians in Europe began to be applied—a practice copied from Muslims, who did not enslave co-religionists (although they did enslave Christians)
(c) 1487 Bartholomew Dias rounded the Cape of Storms (renamed by the king of Portugal the Cape of Good Hope, to encourage financiers to invest in voyages around the southernmost cape of Africa; this proves that Africa does end (there had been speculation that it did not), and leads to the Portuguese determination to sail around Africa to Asia (India in particular). This information is kept secret by the Portuguese, however.
3) Christopher Columbus – Genoese sailor and adventurer, who was in Lisbon to gather intelligence officially, but the government in Lisbon had kept a tight lid on their explorations (other nations were aware, however, that ships were regularly sailing from Lisbon into the Atlantic.
(a) Columbus becomes enamored with the idea of sailing to the west to reach India, and pitches this idea to the king of Portugal, who turns him down (as do the kings of England and France, as well). By this time the Portuguese probably figure they have too much time and money invested in sailing around Africa (which they know will work), rather than sailing west into “unknown” territory (the Portuguese, in fact, may have already gathered enough information from voyages into the Atlantic to know that there was a large land mass that was not Asia at the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean).
C) Reconquista in Spain
1) 1492 – Castille was united with Granada, which to that time had been held by the Moors; this allowed Ferdinand to unite all of the provinces outside of Portugal into one united kingdom
(a) Spanish Inquisition – also begins at this time; fidelity to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church become an early manifestation of Spanish nationalism, and Muslims and Jews who remained in Spain were forced to convert (the so-called “New Christians”)
2) Voyage of Columbus – financed by Spain at the insistence of Queen Isabella; the favorable terms that Columbus was able to negotiate were indicative of the confidence of the Spanish government in the likely success of his voyage (meaning, not very much).
(a) Made landfall in the Bahama Islands, and brings back two captives that he calls “Indians,” because he believed that he had discovered India (this belief he later questions, but he never figured out to the day he died that what he indeed discovered was a whole new hemisphere.
D) Papal Bull of 1493 – the Pope divided the world into two spheres of influence between Spain and Portugal (another indication that the Portuguese were already aware of the new land mass at the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean, since they were able to negotiate the division to a longitude that gave them a foothold in the western hemisphere in present day Brazil); this cuts out both France and England, however.
1) England – Henry VIII broke with Rome over not being allowed to rid himself of his wife, who had “failed” to produce for him a male heir—he declared himself head of the Church in England. Henry ruled as king from 1509 to 1547. Although wife number three did produce a male heir (Edward VI), he was a sickly child, and Henry subsequently married three more times. The last years of his reign were spent attempting to combat the forces of the Protestant Reformation, which his own defiance of the authority of the Church had done so much to unleash. After Edward’s death, his sister, Elizabeth, succeeded him.
2) Authority of Pope challenged elsewhere
(a) Martin Luther – disagreed with and challenged the selling of “indulgences” (forgiveness of sins); Luther nailed his challenge to the selling of these indulgences, known as the 95 theses, to the door of the church in Wittenberg.
(b) John Calvin – preached that indulgences were worthless in attaining eternal salvation, as were “good works.” Calvin believed in the idea of “predestination;” that is, God had already chosen who would be called to heaven, and nothing an individual did on earth would change that. This idea challenged not only the authority of the pope, but eventually the authority of kings, as well.
II) Africa in the Age of European Discovery
A) Social organization
1) Economic Development – scholars in the past have long believed that the current underdevelopment of the African continent has its antecedents during the period before European exploration; however, recent scholarship has called this into question.
(a) Manufacturing – most African societies produced goods that they needed; trade with Europeans brought them different goods. In some areas of Africa, the manufacture of iron and steel products was as good, or better, than comparable manufactories in Europe.
(b) Trade – trade with Europe was mainly for “luxury” goods—different kinds of textiles, for instance, or goods that were sold more cheaply by Europeans than they could obtain from fellow Africans, or some goods—like alcohol—, which were not available locally.
2) Labor organization and slavery
(a) The slave trade was controlled by the African people themselves; Europeans did not invade Africa and forcibly take many slaves—the “factories” that were established on the African coast stayed there, initially, because Africans in power wanted them to remain there; after slavery began to have a dehabilitating effect on African societies this control was diminished. The weaponry developed by Europeans—particularly muskets and cannon—were particularly sought after trade items (as well as less violent items like woolen cloth—a novelty item in sub-Saharan Africa—and the highly sought after
(b) Slavery did not result from a weakness in African society—slavery had always been around, all over the world.
(i) A contributing factor to this was that in many African societies during this time period, land had no value as property—one had to have the labor available (mainly slave labor) to produce goods on this land to create value or wealth.
III) The Mexica and the Conquistadores
A) Mexica culture
1) Hierarchical society
2) Human sacrifice—to appease a sun god; to ensure the continued appearance of the sun. Mostly practiced on the people the Mexica conquered and forced tribute from—which gave the Spaniards lots of potential allies when they landed.
1) Hernan Cortez—landed in present-day Mexico in 1518, with a small band of men (several hundred). Most of men were mounted on horses, however, and accompanied as well by a compliment of mastiff dogs, trained to attack, muskets, and cannon. Upon landing, Cortez ordered the ships beached and burned, and the lead nails recovered for use as musket balls
C) Tenochtitlan—the capital of the Mexica empire. Cortez and his small band, accompanied by thousands of new native allies, were welcomed into the city by the rather capricious Mexica leader, Monctezuma. The Spanish were particularly impressed with the amount of gold used in the public buildings, and in order to acquire a portion, decided to hold Monctezuma for ransom. This ends disastrously, and the Spanish are forced to beat a hasty retreat with only a small portion of the gold they sought. Rather than leave behind these riches, however, Cortez rallies his men, recruits thousands of his Indian allies to throw off the yoke of tyranny imposed by the Mexica, and re-enters Tenochtitlan—only to find token resistance, because in the intervening months, the combination of microbes introduced by the Spanish and internal problems within Mexica society had devastated the population there.
D) Gold and Silver—in the land of the Mexica—Mexico—the Spanish found plentiful supplies of gold and silver, which they forced the natives to mine (and eventually, when the native labor supply died out, African slaves), and the proceeds were shipped back to Spain, where it financed a large share of the variety of wars Spain fought against other peoples in Europe.
E) The Black Legend—the mistreatment of the native population by Spanish colonial officials was brought to the attention of the world by a Spanish Dominican friar, Bartolome de las Casas. Wildly exaggerated tales of Spanish behavior became on of the justifications for both England and France to challenge the right of the Spanish monarchy to claim most of the New World for them.
IV) Spain and the “Black Legend” -- Spain’s mistreatment of native inhabitants in the New World legitimated the attempts by other European governments (Netherlands, France, and England) to attempt to undermine Spanish control, and to make their own claims in order to proselytize Christianity—and to seek riches in the territory that they could claim and hold.
A) Cortes and Pizzaro—the phenomenal success of Cortez with the Aztecs and Pizzaro with the Inca people set the early model for Spanish behavior in the new world—the conquest. This model had only limited success after Cortes and Pizzaro, however; outside of the centralized native societies in Mexico and South America, the Spanish found it nearly impossible to maintain their advantage and control.
i) Cabeza de Vaca—part of a conquistadores party led by Panfilo de Narvaez, who was determined to outdo rival Cortes in Florida. Plagued by hit-and-run raids from Apalachee people, planned to build barges and coast around Gulf from present-day Tampa back to Mexico; on the Texas coast five barges caught in storm and wrecked. Passed among numerous native peoples because of their “healing powers.” Ultimately made it back to Mexico, where Cabeza de Vaca became an advocate for humane treatment of natives (and to publish an account of the to-then inhumane treatment; along with Casas, these accounts led to a change in policy for Spanish—but also to the idea of the Black Legend); two others in the party came back with fantastic stories of lost cities filled with gold.
2) Hernando de Soto—accompanied Pizzaro to Peru, which had made him a rich man, but he wanted to outdo Cortes, as well. Both Soto and Coronado, who followed him, were supposed to follow the new, gentler “pacification” policy of the Spanish government. Once in the bush, however, both leaders permitted their men to follow the old conquistador’s model of rape, pillage, murder and mayhem. Along with the microbes that accompanied the Spaniards, this devasted the Mississippian peoples, forcing them to abandon their cities (the seats of their advanced culture), and move in among the hill people, who had been their subjects, and who had a less advanced culture.
3) Francisco Vasquez de Coronado—excited by the prospects of finding “Cibola,” a city in the American southwest purported to rival the wealth of Tenochtitlan, Coronado invested most of his own wealth in financing a party to find it in 1540. As the group neared the Rio Grande, they came upon a group of Pueblo people; appropriating their food, houses, and women.
B.) Spanish forces in Florida—because of the success of privateers, Spanish officials came to see the necessity of controlling the waters between Florida and the Bahamas. To that end, they set up a military installation at St. Augustine, the first permanent settlement of Europeans in the present-day confines of the US. In order to hold this settlement, however, felt it necessary to defeat nearby settlement of French Huguenots (protestants) who the Spanish “put to the knife.” Although maintaining St. Augustine was a money loser, Spain did so in order to attempt to keep privateers from feasting on the annual convoy between Mexico and Spain.