Modern history

Conclusion: A New America

When Spanish explorers happened upon the Americas, they brought Europeans into contact with native peoples who had inhabited the two continents for thousands of years. But these explorations and the conquests that followed did transform North and South America in dramatic ways. MartinWaldseemüller died in 1521 or 1522, so he was not able to incorporate into his maps the coastlines, waterways, and mountains reported by Magellan, Balboa, Cortes, Coronado, de Soto, Cartier, and other European adventurers. He would no doubt have been amazed to see the increasingly detailed maps that cartographers created of the elongated continent he first named America.

While mapmakers benefited from Europeans pushing deeper and deeper into the Americas, native residents were rarely asked if they wanted the plants, animals, goods, and germs offered by these invaders. Even Europeans seeking permanent settlements and peaceful trade relations with the Indians brought diseases that devastated local populations along with plants and animals that transformed their landscape, diet, and traditional ways of life.

Malintzin saw these changes firsthand. She watched as disease ravaged not only rural villages but even the capital city of Tenochtitlan. She encountered horses, pigs, attack dogs, and other European animals. She ate the foods and wore the clothes that her Spanish captors provided. Malintzin accompanied Cortes and his men as they conquered the Aztecs, and she watched as more Spaniards, including the first women, settled in New Spain. In 1522 she gave birth to Cortes’s son; two years later, she served as interpreter when he ventured north from Mexico City to conquer more territory. In 1526 or 1527, however, she married a Spanish soldier, Juan Jaramillo, and settled in Mexico City. She soon had a daughter, Maria, and in 1528 Jaramillo and “his wife, dona Marina” were granted lands for an orchard and a farm. We do not know how long Malintzin lived or what she thought of her life as the wife of a Spanish gentleman. But her children would grow up in a world that was very different from the one in which their mother was raised. In the century to come, the contacts and conflicts between native peoples and Europeans escalated, especially in North America. So, too, did conflicts among European nations seeking to gain control of North American lands.

Chapter Review


Identify and explain the significance of each term below.

Beringia (p. 3)

horticulture (p. 4)

Aztecs (p. 4)

Maya (p. 5)

Incas (p. 5)

Hopewell people (p. 6)

Crusades (p. 7)

Black Death (p. 9)

Renaissance (p. 9)

Enterprise of the Indies (p. 13)

encomiendas (p. 14)

Columbian exchange (p. 17)

conquistadors (p. 18)


Answer the focus questions from each section of the chapter.

1. Compare and contrast the Aztecs, incas, and Maya. What similarities and differences do you note?

2. How did the societies of North America differ from those of the equatorial zone and the Andes?

3. How and why did Europeans expand their connections with Africa and the Middle East in the fifteenth century?

4. How did early European encounters with West Africans lay the foundation for later race-based slavery?

5. What were the short-term consequences in both Europe and the Americas of Columbus's voyages?

6. How did the Columbian exchange transform both the Americas and Europe?

7. What motives were behind the Spanish conquest and colonization of the Americas?

8. What were the consequences in Europe of Spain's acquisition of an American empire?


13,000-11,000 B.C.E.

• First northeast Asians migrate to the Americas

1000 B.C.E.

• Agriculture develops in some parts of the Americas

900 B.C.E.- 300 C.E.

• Maya settle Yucatan peninsula

500 C.E.

• Mogollon and Hohokam communities established in present-day Arizona and New Mexico


• Mississippian people establish complex societies centered on towns and massive earthworks


• Mayan civilization begins to decline


• Norse establish small settlement in North America


• Marco Polo publishes his Travels


• Aztecs build Tenochtitlan


• Bubonic plague arrives in Europe from Asia


• Inca empire reaches the height of its power


• Portuguese begin to trade along the coast of West Africa


• Johannes Gutenberg uses movable type to produce 180 copies of the Bible


• Marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon leads to unification of Spain


• Portugal builds Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast of West Africa


• Bartolomeu Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope


• Isabella and Ferdinand expel last Muslim conquerors from the Iberian peninsula

• Columbus launches Enterprise of the Indies


• Vasco da Gama reaches India by sailing around Africa


• Martin Waldseemuller and Mathias Ringmann publish Universalis Cosmographia


• Malintzin captured by Spaniards


• Spanish and Indian army led by Cortes conquers the Aztecs


• Fleet led by Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigates the globe sailing west


• Francisco Pizarro conquers the Incas


• English colony of Roanoke established in North America

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