Exam preparation materials

Part Three

U.S. History Review

Chapter 3: The Meeting of Three Peoples



Columbus discovers America


Treaty of Tordesillas signed


Cortés conquers Mexico


Magellan circumnavigates the globe


Pizarro defeats Incas


St. Augustine established


Pope’s Rebellion takes place


Age of Exploration







St. Augustine

Black Legend


Pope’s Rebellion

Treaty of Tordesillas


Ferdinand and Isabelle

Prince Henry the Navigator

“The Spanish have a perfect right to rule these barbarians of the New World and the adjacent islands, who in prudence, skill, virtues, and humanity are as inferior to the Spanish as children to adults, or women to men, for there exists between the two as great a difference as between savage and cruel races and the most merciful, between the most intemperate and the moderate and temperate and, I might even say, between apes and men.”

—Juan Gines Sepulveda, 1547


The exploration and settlement of the New World is often dated from the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. However, centuries before Columbus and his crew set foot on the soil of the New World, others had begun the long and arduous journey across the Bering Straits from Asia through Alaska and down through North and South America, settling throughout these two continents. The first contact the Europeans had with this New World occurred with the voyages of the Norse, most notably Leif Ericsson, to Newfoundland around the 1000s. This settlement was fleeting and of little consequence to Europe. By the time Columbus reached the New World in 1492, some rather sophisticated civilizations had already been established there, including the empires of the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayas, along with the mainly tribal civilizations scattered throughout what is now the United States. Despite Sepulveda’s comments on the barbaric nature of these peoples, quoted above, the Europeans found people who had built large cities, possessed organized governments, had made advances in science, and had established economies. Despite these advanced civilizations, the Europeans overwhelmed the native inhabitants of the Americas through transmission of disease, trickery, and advanced weaponry.


When the Europeans arrived in the New World, they found advanced civilizations with great cities, religious centers, irrigation systems, road networks, and commerce. Some civilizations, like the Mayas of the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America, had developed hundreds of years before their arrival and were already in decay by the time the Europeans arrived. The Mayas used written language, higher mathematics, and a calendar more accurate than the European one.

The central plateau of Mexico had been a center of civilization for centuries before the European arrival. There the Europeans encountered the Aztecs, a people who had moved from the north to conquer the peoples of central Mexico and build a strong centralized empire. Their beautiful capital city of Tenochtitlán (the site of Mexico City) was one of their finest accomplishments.

The Andes Mountains of South America were also a cradle of civilization. There the Europeans encountered the Incas, whose pyramidal society mirrored the feudal society of Europe. The Incas’s vast empire, stretching from Colombia to Bolivia and Chile, was held together by an extensive road system linking the high valleys of this mountainous region.

Native American Tribes of North America

The tribes of North America were scattered across the continent and differed from one another in how they lived, governed, and survived. Most of the tribes were nomadic people who worked together using the environment for survival. A large tribe could number as many as 10,000 people. The tribes had established governments, in many cases democratic in their form, with the chief being elected by the tribespeople. In many of these tribes, women performed vital roles not only in traditional positions as homemakers and mothers but also as political forces within the tribes. The Native Americans used items not known to the Europeans, such as tobacco and corn. They also created medicines from plants and used many animal products for survival. Many tribes had written language and crafted tools and weapons used for survival. These were a communal societies, in which people helped each other when necessary.

As in other societies, the Native Americans were protective of the land they occupied, and some conflicts arose among the tribes. The greatest difficulty among these tribes, which would later lead to their defeats by European settlers, was their lack of unity. Although the Iroquois Confederation was a confederacy—that is, a political organization of tribes loosely bound together—Native Americans never formed a viable, united force to combat the Europeans, and later the Americans, as the new settlers’ hunger for land increased.


The Crusades of the 1100s catapulted the people of Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. Europeans tasted the knowledge and products of the people from the East, increasing their desire for silks and spices from the Eastern world. The desire for an all-water route to the Far East led to the Age of Exploration and the ultimate discovery of the New World.

Spain and Portugal were the leaders in the Age of Exploration. Both states had developed strong national governments, were located on the Atlantic Ocean, and had the advantage of easy access to the water. Prince Henry the Navigator, son of the Portuguese rulers, opened a school for navigation and geography in 1416. He financed expeditions and encouraged exploration. The invention of the caravel, a fast-moving sailing ship, allowed the Portuguese to explore the African coast and bring back gold and slaves. The Spanish enjoyed similar political stability when Ferdinand of Argon and Isabelle of Castille ascended to the Spanish throne in the late 15th century. With the expulsion of the Moors from Granada in 1492, a new spirit of Spanish nationalism developed, which encouraged exploration. The voyage of Columbus, the Genoan who had also petitioned Portugal, England, and France, was financed by Ferdinand and Isabelle.

In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed between Portugal and Spain, basically dividing the world between them: A line drawn north to south between the 46th and 47th meridian marked the dividing line between Spanish and Portuguese exploration. The Spanish explored to the west of the line, while the Portuguese explored to the east. This explains the heavy Spanish influence in most of the Western Hemisphere and the heavy Portuguese influence in Brazil, Africa, and the Far East.

The conquistadors of Spain were the soldiers and explorers who conquered the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans between the 15th and 19th centuries. In doing so, they tortured the native populations, stole their gold, and infected them with smallpox. Stories exaggerating this cruelty while depicting the native populations as peaceful and childlike became known as the Black Legend. The Spanish adopted a system called encomienda, which allowed the colonists to exploit the native population for labor, provided there was an attempt to convert the native population to Christianity. In 1680, Popés Rebellion occurred when a Pueblo Indian leader named Popé convinced other tribal leaders to end Spanish missionaries’ efforts to suppress the Pueblos’ native religion.

Along with disease, the Spanish brought with them cattle, swine, horses, and sugarcane. The mingling of the native population and the Spanish resulted in a new race known as the mestizosSt. Augustine, in what is now Florida, was settled by the Spanish in 1565 and became the oldest permanent European settlement in the land that is today the United States.

The English did not enter into the Age of Exploration until Elizabeth I became Queen in 1588. Much of the English exploration of the New World occurred in the areas unexplored by the Spanish and Portuguese, most notably in the northeastern part of North America. Jamestown, founded in 1607 on the James River near the mouth of the Chesapeake, became the first permanent English settlement in North America. As a result of English exploration, a new nation was born, which became a dominant force in the world.

The French joined the British as late arrivals to the New World. They explored mainly the northern parts of North America, most notably Canada, where the first French settlement of Quebec was established in 1608. The proximity of the French and British settlements led to conflicts in North America, foreshadowing the larger conflict between the British and French in North America between 1754 and 1763.


Explored for



Bartholomeu Diaz



Explored southern tip of Africa

Vasco da Gama


1497–99, 1502–03,


Reached India around Africa

Christopher Columbus


1492–93, 1493–96,

1498–1500, 1502–04

Reached the Americas

Vasco Balboa



Discovered the Pacific Ocean and claimed all the lands that touched it for Spain

Juan Ponce de Leon


1508, 1513

Explored Florida

Ferdinand Magellan



First to circumnavigate the globe

Hernan Cortés



Conquered Mexico

Francisco Pizarro


1513–14, 1524,

1526–28, 1530–35

Conquered the Incas of Peru

Francisco Coronado



Explored Arizona and New Mexico; discovered the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River

Hernando de Soto



Discovered the Mississippi River

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo



Explored the California coast

Don Juan de Onate


1598, 1601, 1604–05

Explored northern Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley

Giovanni Cabot



Explored northern coast of North America

Giovanni de Verrazano


1508, 1524, 1527–28

Explored the eastern part of present-day United States

Jacques Cartier


1534, 1535–36,


Explored the St. Lawrence River

Robert de La Salle


1669, 1679–80,


Traveled down the Mississippi River


For many years prior to the exploration of the New World, Arab and African traders participated in the slave trade. Africans were first bought by the Portuguese to search for gold in the areas under exploration. However, as the sugar industry developed, the Portuguese began to import slaves to work on the sugar plantations of Brazil. The Spanish, Dutch, French, and British adopted the Portuguese plantation system as they established sugar plantations in the West Indies. This resulted in as many as 40,000 slaves coming to the New World by 1600.

The English settlers in North America became involved in slave trade in the mid-1600s as a result of the raising of tobacco, a labor-intensive crop. By 1612, John Rolfe had perfected tobacco production after experimenting with strains of the plant that local Indians had been growing for years. The development of rice, indigo, and, later, cotton, contributed to increased numbers of slaves in British North America.


The Age of Exploration, while profoundly impacting the native peoples of the newly discovered lands, also affected the European nations. Fundamentally, exploration had taken place for gold, glory, and God. This led to economic changes in Europe, which ushered in the beginnings of capitalism and the development of mercantilism, an economic system in which the colony exists for the good of the mother country by providing raw materials for the mother country and a market for its products.

New products, such as corn, tobacco, beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, were introduced to European markets. At the same time, the native populations were introduced to European goods, such as horses and gunpowder. They were also introduced to European diseases, which all but annihilated the native populations.

The introduction of African slavery to the New World established the chattel slavery that would lead to racism and bloodshed as the New World developed.

Finally, with the desire for more gold, greater riches, and power in the New World, rivalries developed among the colonizing nations as they competed for control over these new lands. Eventually, the British won the battle for North America, giving birth to a new nation.


The Age of Exploration grew out of a need for an all-water route to the Far East so that the Europeans could access the goods available from that region. What they discovered instead was a vast new land, populated by people who had established their own governments and culture. The meetings of these people altered the lives of the people in both the Old and New Worlds. The Europeans were about to embark on an experience yet to be duplicated in history.


•  Capitalism: An economic system in which the production and distribution of goods is determined by individual consumer preference; characterized by the free-enterprise system, competition, profit motive, and pricing based on the laws of supply and demand

•  Encomienda: A policy developed by the Spanish in the 1500s in which the Spanish settlers in the New World were permitted to use Native American labor if the settlers promised to attempt to Christianize them; led to the exploitation of the Native Americans

•  Mercantilism: This was an economic system in which a colony exists for the good of the mother country. The colony’s role is to provide raw materials for the mother country (especially products that the mother country cannot produce itself) and serve as a market for the goods produced in the mother country.

•  Mestizos: The mixed race of people that developed as a result of the intermarriage of the Spanish and Native American populations in the 16th and 17th centuries


1.   Which of the following events occurred LAST?

(A)    Establishment of St. Augustine

(B)    Establishment of Jamestown

(C)    Establishment of Quebec

(D)    Signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas

(E)    Discovery of America by Columbus

2.   The most compelling reason for European exploration in the 1400s was the

(A)    desire to Christianize new lands.

(B)    increased need for labor.

(C)    need for new lands to support growing populations.

(D)    desire for an all-water route to the East.

(E)    desire for religious freedom.

3.   The exploration of the New World

(A)    led to the rise of capitalism.

(B)    provided the raw materials needed for the New World to further its development.

(C)    provided markets for goods produced in the Americas.

(D)    allowed for excess African population to be sent to the New World.

(E)    ended the economic system known as mercantilism.

4.   The first permanent European settlement in the territory that would become the United States was

(A)    Plymouth.

(B)    Jamestown.

(C)    St. Augustine.

(D)    Santa Fe.

(E)    New Amsterdam.


1.    C

Quebec, the first permanent French settlement in North America, was founded in 1608. St. Augustine, the first European settlement in the United States, was established by the Spanish in 1565. Jamestown was established by the British in 1607. Columbus set foot on the shores of the New World in 1492. The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494.

2.    D

The Crusades had led to a desire for goods from the East. Because of the control of the Mediterranean by the Italian city-states and the difficulty of overland transport of goods from the Far East to Europe, Europeans were searching for an all-water route to the East. The desire to spread Christianity to the new lands developed after these new lands were discovered. There was sufficient population to meet labor needs in Europe. The need for labor developed later as a result of the new trade and products found in these new lands. The desire to relieve overcrowding in Europe became a problem for the British in the late 1500s, when economic problems developed in England. It was not a reason for the early exploration by Spain and Portugal. Finally, the desire for religious freedom led colonists to settle in the New World, but it was not a major reason for the initial exploration.

3.    A

The development of markets and trade led to the rise of a market economy known as capitalism. It also led to the beginnings of a modern banking system. Raw materials were provided by the New World for manufacture in the mother countries, and the Americas provided a market for goods produced by the mother countries. The need for African labor developed because of the development of sugar plantations in the West Indies. These Africans, however, did not represent excess population. Mercantilism, the economic system by which the colonies exist for the good of the mother country, developed as a result of exploration.

4.    C

St. Augustine was settled by the Spanish in 1565. Plymouth was settled by the English in 1620. Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, was established in 1607. Santa Fe was established by the Spanish in 1610. The Dutch founded New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1624.

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