Americas from 1450-present

All Present-day Nations in North & South America

First Explorers

  • Portugal started European exploration

    • It's unique location (facing westward into Atlantic & blocked eastward by Spain) made it necessary for Portuguese to expand westward

    • Prince Henry (Henry the Navigator) sponsored voyages down the African west coast

    • Portuguese built trading posts on African west coast & forged alliances with African kingdoms

    • Conquered many African islands in the Atlantic

    • Bartholomew Diaz sailed around Southern Tip of Africa in 1488 but returned immediately to Portugal

    • In 1497, Vasco da Gama sailed around the Southern Tip of Africa to India & came back to Portugal with lots of spices

  • Christopher Columbus sailed westward to Americas in 1492

    • Sponsored by Spanish, sought a westward route to Asia

    • Landed in Bahamas, thought it was Japan

    • Confiscated gold from local Taíno people & enslaved them

    • Sent letters to Spain, Rapidly spread news about the land

    • Still believed the land he found to be Japan or China

  • In 1497, Amerigo Vespucci sailed to Brazil & realized that the land is a New World & isn't Asia

    • Thus, the New World was named America after him

  • Spain wanted a sea route to Maluku spice islands of Southeast Asia, so they employed Ferdinand Magellan

    • In 1519, Magellan sailed through a strait in the tip of South America (now named after him) & died after a physical argument in the Philippines​

    • His crew returned to Spain in 1522

  • Spain continued its expansion in the Americas as it was jealous of Portuguese success in India

  • Jacques Cartier sailed for France & landed in Montreal

    • Traded beaver fur with natives & acquired lots of fish

      • Fish was popular as other meat was prohibited by Church on special days


Colonial Expansion

Conquest of Aztecs

In 1519, Hernan Cortes led Spanish army into Mexico. Entered Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. 

Cortes allied with local tribe leaders that resented Aztec rule

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Smallpox aided Cortes as the native Aztecs weren't immune to it, so many Aztecs died, allowing Cortes to easily take over. 

Cortes led an army into Tenochtitlan & killed Aztec leader Montezuma (1520)

Cortes plundered Tenochtitlan, starved the city to death. Fully took over in 1521. 

Conquest of Incas

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro led Spanish army into Peru

Called all Inca rulers under pretext of a conference. Seized & killed them all except for Inca ruler, Atahualpa

Seized all of Atahualpa's gold, then killed him. Later seized all of Cusco's gold

Allied with local tribal leaders that resented Inca rule. Also used loss of authority from the existing civil war between ruling brothers Atahualpa & Huascar to seize power. Smallpox also helped him kill the Incas

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Consolidated control by 1540. Conquered last corner of Inca empire by 1572

Spanish & Portuguese Colonialism

  • Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) set rules for Spanish & Portuguese colonization

    • An imaginary line was drawn in Atlantic Ocean: Spain could have all lands west, Portugal could have all lands east​

  • Spain had direct rule over its colonies from the Spanish Crown

    • Two viceroyalties: New Spain (Mexico), New Castile (Peru)

    • Viceroy was Spanish representative to the colonies & governed all colonial affairs

    • Audiencia was a council below the viceroy that would support him & report any power abuses to the king

    • Corregidores were local governors that would govern local affairs in parts of colonies

  • Spanish had many innovative labor systems

    • Established encomienda system, where Spanish encomendores would look after indigenous American laborers in exchange for giving them shelter & food

    • Later used hacienda system, where indigenous laborers would work on Spanish plantations

    • In Mit'a system, each village would send 1/7 of its men to Spanish silver mines to work

    • Many indigenous Americans died of overwork

  • Spanish dominated silver trade in Americas

    • Had two silver mines: Zacatecas (Mexico), Potosí (Peru)

    • Would use indigenous & slave labor to work in them

    • Manila galleons would transport silver from Mexico to Philippines, where Spanish would sell them to China for Chinese luxury goods

  • Due to high silver production, Spain had severe inflation

    • Spanish expelled Muslims & Jews during reconquista, which were its best businessmen, which caused Spanish economy to decline​

    • As silver in New World declined, Spain had severe inflation & lost its influence in the New World

    • Spain's wealthy landowners raised rent, causing peasants to leave, leading to lower agricultural production

    • Spanish kings didn't care much about the internal problems, leading to a decline in Spanish power

    • Spain lost Franco-Spanish War & signed Treaty of Pyrenees (1659), giving all extensive territories to France

    • Spain recognized Portuguese independence in 1688

  • Portugal also had direct rule from Portuguese crown

    • Would give land grants to Portuguese nobles to settle in the New World to established Portuguese presence

  • Spanish & Portuguese established Christianity in New World

    • Many Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit missionaries came

    • Virgin of Guadalupe became a symbol of Christianity in Mexico

      • Formed a Virgin Mary appeared on a hill near Mexico City

    • Some missionaries learned about American native culture to better understand how to teach them Christianity

English, French, & Dutch Colonialism

  • English established many colonies in present-day US

    • First was Roanoke, established in 1585

      • It's settlers lost contact with Britain

    • Virginia was founded in Jamestown in 1607

    • Plymouth was founded by pilgrims on Mayflower 1620

    • Puritans settled in Massachusetts in 1630

    • Catholics settled in Maryland in 1632

    • Quakers settled in Pennsylvania in 1681

    • Mostly wanted to avoid religious persecution in England

    • Mostly governed by local councils as opposed to direct governance by English crown

  • Samuel de Champlain created permanent French settlement in Quebec in 1608

    • Founded Montreal later on

    • French sailed throughout St. Lawrence river

    • French traded fur with indigenous people

    • French reached Louisiana & Gulf of Mexico via Mississippi River

    • French acquired many colonies & islands in Caribbean & put sugar/tobacco production there

    • French also mostly had local governance instead of direct governance from the French crown


Slave Trade

Triangular Trade


Raw materials cultivated by slaves


Manufactured goods 

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Slave Treatment in the Americas

  • Europeans allied with African kingdoms to get slaves

    • African kingdoms would raid other kingdoms to capture slaves and would receive guns from Europeans

    • African kingdoms would use these guns to capture more slaves & would then acquire more guns from Europeans

    • The cycle is endless, which caused certain African kingdoms to become super powerful by acquiring guns

  • Slaves first had to travel the middle passage from Africa to Americas

    • Hundreds of slaves crammed into one deck

    • 25% of slaves died in this passage

    • Sick slaves would be thrown overboard to prevent the spread of disease on board

  • In Americas, slaves were forced to do harsh work

    • Often whipped or beaten for working poorly

    • Mortality was high, which caused a greater demand for new slaves from Africa

  • In the Americas, slaves often harmonized their culture with American culture

    • They harmonized African religion with Christianity

    • Harmonized rituals & dances from different parts of Africa among all the slaves they met

  • Ideas about race helped justify slavery

    • Europeans regarded Africans as racially inferior to Europeans, which allowed them to enslave them​

    • Michel de Montaigne & William Shakespeare wrote about topics related to racism

  • Slaves cultivated sugar & other cash crops in Americas

    • Slaves cultivated sugar, tobacco, indigo, rice, cotton in Americas, which were all sent to Europe

    • In Europe, some of these were used to make manufactured goods

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Columbian Exchange

  • Exchange of goods, animals, crops, and diseases from Afro-Eurasia to the Americas
    • First time the ecosystems of Americas & Afro-Eurasia were connected

    • Potatoes, maize, squash, tomatoes went from Americas to Afro-Eurasia

      • Led to enriched diet & population growth in Afro-Eurasia

    • Livestock, fruits, sugarcane, disease went from Afro-Eurasia to Americas

  • Disease was one of the most influential things that went from Afro-Eurasia to Americas

    • Indigenous peoples of Americas weren't immune to European diseases → Died in large numbers

    • Whooping cough, smallpox, measles all killed majority of indigenous American population


Spread of Enlightenment Thought in Americas

  • Descendants of Europeans in the Americas, known as creoles, started resenting European rule

    • Most creoles have lived in the Americas for many generations

    • Identified closer with the Americas than with Europe

    • Sometimes, Europeans married indigenous Americans or African-American slaves, forming mestizo (mixed) societies

      • These also resented European rule

  • Enlightenment thought spread to the Americas

    • Believed in the ideas of human progress, leading to more criticism of colonialism​

      • Studied ideals of John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, etc., wanted autonomy & self-government


American Revolution

Britain had lots of war debts from the 7 Years' War (1756-1763)

Britain levied many taxes on the American colonists to raise funds. Most notable were the Stamp Act, Tea Act, & Townshend Act

American colonists revolted, thought it was unfair they were being taxed when they have no representation in British Parliament. Chanted "no taxation without representation!"

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In 1781, Britain surrendered as it was already engaged in some wars & lost a lot of power. Signed Treaty of Paris (1783)

American colonists signed Declaration of Independence (1776). France joined the war on the American side as it resented the British after losing the 7 Years' War

War of independence started in 1775 as American colonists attacked the British. Thomas Paine published a pamphlet, Common Sense, to encourage colonists to keep fighting

Haitian Revolution

French colony of Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti) was home to whites, free blacks, and enslaved blacks. Enlightenment ideals spread from America & France, leading to chaos as whites didn't want blacks to gain freedom

National Assembly refused to give freedom to free blacks as they thought it would lead to slave independence

Slaves organized revolts, starting in Aug 1791. Met in the night to plan revolts, attracted thousands of slaves 

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National Assembly (France) promised emancipation for everyone who fought for France against Spain & Britain. Spain & Britain sought control of Saint-Domingue

Spanish colony of Santo Domingo (modern-day Dominican Republic) supported slaves, brought slaves into Spanish army. Britain also arrived & blockaded the colony

National Assembly issued decree in 1792 extending freedom to free blacks. Hoped it would allow free blacks to help suppress slave revolts

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In Oct 1793, slavery was abolished throughout Saint-Domingue. In 1794, National Convention (France) made it official & abolished slavery throughout French territory

Toussaint L'Ouverture, a freed Haitian slave who joined Spanish army, switched sides & supported French against Spanish & British. Became commander of the Western part of the colony

Andre Rigaud, a free black, took control of Southern part of the colony, Didn't want slaves to get freedom (he was a free black), leading to tension with L'Ouverture

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Jean-Jacques Dessalines led victory against French, declared independence on 1/1/1804. Named the colony "Haiti"

Napoleon sent an army to capture L'Ouverture in 1802. They captured him & sent him to France, where he died in 1803

In 1799, L'Ouverture's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, helped take over the Southern part of the colony, uniting the entire colony

In the 1800s, the US industrialized in response to British industrialization

US Joins the War

  • Woodrow Wilson (US president, 1913-1921) initially opposed the war
  • US economy boomed as it exported munitions to Allies powers (Britain & France mostly)
    • US also gave loans to Allies​
    • Only made financial sense for Allies to win, so US joined the war to help the Allies (1917)
  • German submarines sank British ship Lusitania, killing 128 US citizens

    • This was one reason why US joined the war against Germany

  • The main reason why US joined the war against Germany was because of Zimmerman telegram

    • Zimmerman telegram was sent from Germany to Mexico, asking Mexico to declare war against US so US wouldn't declare war on Germany​

    • In exchange, Germany would help Mexico gain back its territories lost in Mexican-American War

    • However, US intercepted the telgram & declared war on Germany

  • US intervention was the only reason Allies won

US Joins the War

  • Woodrow Wilson (US president, 1913-1921) initially opposed the war
  • US economy boomed as it exported munitions to Allies powers (Britain & France mostly)
    • US also gave loans to Allies​
    • Only made financial sense for Allies to win, so US joined the war to help the Allies (1917)
  • German submarines sank British ship Lusitania, killing 128 US citizens

    • This was one reason why US joined the war against Germany

  • The main reason why US joined the war against Germany was because of Zimmerman telegram

    • Zimmerman telegram was sent from Germany to Mexico, asking Mexico to declare war against US so US wouldn't declare war on Germany​

    • In exchange, Germany would help Mexico gain back its territories lost in Mexican-American War

    • However, US intercepted the telgram & declared war on Germany

  • US intervention was the only reason Allies won

US Stock Market Crash of 1929

In 1929, people were buying stocks on margin. They'd buy stocks & sell them after making a slight profit

People believed stocks would go down in price, so they all sold all their stocks

On Black Thursday (10/24/1929), all prices plummeted significantly, stock market crashed. People lost their life savings

US Response to Great Depression

  • In the US, Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the New Deal to combat the Great Depression​

    • Devalued the dollar to raise prices, allowing farmers to earn more

    • Promoted public works projects to employ people

Pearl Harbor Attack (1941) & US Entry into World War 2

German military victories inspired Japan

Japan conquered many places in Southeast Asia, including French Indochina

US imposed oil embargo on Japan to protect the French. Germany, Britain, Dutch supported embargo

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US allied with Britain & USSR (Allies powers) against Germany, Italy, & Japan (Axis powers)

Germany & Italy responded by declaring war on US

Japan renounced tripartite pact (with Germany & Italy) and attacked Pearl Harbor in US (1941)

End of World War 2

Allies Victories

  • US, Britain, and Russia created Grand Alliance (China & France were also part of it later on)

    • Sought to kill the Nazis, then Japan​

  • Germany started expanding into North Africa

    • At 2nd Battle of El Alamein in North Africa, Allies beat Axis, preventing further Axis expansion (known as "hinge of fate")

  • US & Britain took over Italy & overthrew Mussolini, but Germany rescued him & occupied North Italy

    • Thus, Allies had Southern Italy & Axis had Northern Italy

  • US & Britain developed sonar technologies to detect German submarines

    • German submarines previously would sink Allies ships, preventing food from reaching Allies

  • US & Britain also boosted their industrial production & bombed German industrial centers

  • Russian army later defeated Germans at Stalingrad, causing Germans to retreat


Allied Victory & Axis Surrender

  • On D-Day (6/6/1944), US & British troops landed in Normandy, France

    • 2 million troops & 500,000 army vehicles from Allies pushed the German front lines all the way to the German border

    • By 1945, the Allies forces had crossed the Rhine into Germany

    • Also, Allies forces pushed Germans out of Italy in 1945​

      • The same year, Italian communists executed Mussolini

  • Meanwhile, Russian forces defeated Germans & pushed westward into Germany

    • In 1944, the Polish underground army took over Warsaw (Warsaw Uprising), but Soviets didn't enter Warsaw as they predicted the uprising

    • Thus, Germans crushed the Warsaw Uprising & allowed Soviets to freely advance

    • Soviets took over Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary

    • Soviets entered Germany from the east in Jan 1925 & met US & British forces there

  • Germans were forced to surrender on May 8, 1945

    • Hitler committed suicide a week earlier

  • In the Pacific, US took over many Japanese Pacific Islands & dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima & Nagasaki

    • Japan surrendered in Sep 1945


Origins of Cold War

Peace Settlement of WW2 & Start of Cold War

  • After World War 2, the 4 Allies (USSR, UK, US, France) would occupy Germany & Austria to prevent them from becoming powerful again

    • USSR was ruthless & confiscated all industrial machinery & railroads & sent it to the USSR

    • The 4 Allies held the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946) where they tried high-ranking Nazi officials for war crimes, often sentencing them for year in jail

  • In Feb 1945, US, UK and USSR met in Yalta in Crimea to discuss post-war peace settlement

    • US & UK sought to hold off on peace settlement until this time because they didn't want conflict with communist Stalin

    • The 3 Allies decided that USSR will occupy nations in Eastern Europe & impose free elections

      • Known as Yalta Compromise

  • Later, Yalta Compromise started falling apart​​

    • Communist regimes started taking root in some Eastern European nations

    • At Postdam Conference (Jul 1945), Stalin changed his mind about Yalta Compromise

      • Stalin sought to impose communism in the other Eastern European nations

    • US sought to prevent the spread of communism & impose capitalism (free elections) there

  • This was the start of the Cold War: An indirect war between US & USSR over spreading capitalism vs communism


Developments in the West Bloc (US & its Allies)

  • US president Truman issued Truman Doctrine, stating that he seeks to contain the spread of communism

  • US initiated Marshall Plan, a bill giving $13 billion in aid to Western European countries

    • ​Allowed Western European nations to recover their economy​

    • These Western European nations were anti-communist (capitalist)

  • US aided anti-communist forces in Greek Civil War (1946-1949), allowing the anti-communist forces to win

  • US prevented Soviet expansion in Turkey

  • US created NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), an organization of US's anti-communist allies

    • Included US & most of Western Europe as well as Turkey & Greece


US's Holdings in the Divided Germany

  • As part of the Yalta Compromise, Germany would be divided among US, France, UK, and USSR to prevent it from becoming powerful & starting another war

  • US, UK, and France (West Bloc) took over West Germany while USSR (East Bloc) took over East Germany

  • Additionally, Berlin was completely surrounded by East Germany but was also divided among the West & East Bloc

    • Thus, West Germany was completely surrounded by East Germany​

    • To get to West Germany, one had to travel through East Germany

  • USSR issued a blockade of West Germany, preventing people from accessing West Germany by traveling through East Germany

    • Thus, West Bloc members had to airlift supplies (e.g. food) to West Germany

  • Many East Germans crossed the border into West Germany to escape communist rule

    • Thus, a wall was built (Berlin Wall) to surround West Germany, preventing people from migrating there

    • The wall had multiple layers of barbed wire & many checkpoints that shoot anyone who crosses


Indirect Battles of the Cold War

Nuclear Arms Race

  • US & USSR had an indirect competition of building powerful nuclear weapons

    • Both nations sought to build more powerful weapons than the other nation

    • Eventually, they developed the nuclear bomb

    • Both nations had enough weapons to destroy the entire world

      • Known as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), where both nations can destroy each other​

    • Developed missiles, spy satellites, nuclear submarines, nuclear bombs, etc. 

  • Nuclear race also spread into space

    • In 1957, USSR launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth

    • USSR sent first astronaut to orbit the Earth in 1960

    • US created NASA in 1958 to beat the USSR in the space race

      • Sent first man to moon in 1969

  • Development of more sophisticated computers helped with developing advanced aeronautical & military tech

    • Invention of transistor in 1947 made computers much less bulky

  • Scientific innovations also were useful for ordinary public

    • Green R​evolution was an agricultural revolution that used genetic modification to increase crop yields

    • Transistors made radios & kitchen appliances less bulky & cheaper, allowing more people to buy them

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Reduction in Cold War Tensions (Detente)

  • In 1960s, many Western European nations became more left-wing, bringing them closer to socialism

    • This allowed for more peace between Western Europe & East Bloc​

    • In 1970, former West German chancellor Willy Brandt went to Poland to sign peace agreements

      • Apologized for poor treatment of Jews

      • Negotiated with some East Bloc nations to accept existing national borders

        • Agreed that force cannot be used to change national borders

  • US & USSR also agreed to limit nuclear arms race

  • This relaxation of Cold War tensions was known as detente

  • US, USSR, Canada, & most European Nations signed Helsinki Accord (1975)

    • Agreed that existing national borders cannot be changed by force

    • Decreased Cold War tensions & gave some civil liberties to its citizens

  • Meanwhile, many people (especially students) protested involvement in the Cold War

    • Believed the war was useless & costly