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Content Overview

Unit 4: c. 1450-1750


Spanish America

Conquest of the Americas

Conquest of the Aztecs

Hernan Cortes led an army to conquer the Aztec Empire in Central Mexico. He then established Spanish rule there & tried to convert the Aztecs to Christianity

Conquest of the Incas

Francisco Pizarro led an army to conquer the Inca Empire in South America. He then established Spanish rule there

Labor Systems in the Americas


Failed for 2 Reasons

Spanish supervisors (encomenderos) employ Native Americans to work on plantations

1. Natives got sick easily
2. Natives knew the land & could escape


Americans who were in debt would work on plantations to pay off their debts


Existing Incan labor system; all adult males are drafted to work in silver mines


Slaves from Africa come to the Americas to work on plantations

Casta System


People born in Spain or Portugal


Direct descendants of Peninsulares (European people born in Americas)


People of mixed European and indigenous (or African) ancestry

Bottom Classes

Indigenous Americans & African slaves

Spanish Silver Mines

Spanish exploited some major silver mines in the Americas

Spanish sent this silver via Manila Galleons to Philippines

This silver was used to purchase Chinese luxury goods

The global circulation of Spanish silver facilitated global trade in the 16th and early 17th centuries

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Triangular Trade

Raw materials cultivated by slaves



Manufactured goods 



Slavery in the Americas

Millions of African slaves went to Americas to work on plantations

High slave mortality → New slaves kept going to Americas

They harmonized African cultures with Christianity → Syncretic slave culture

These 3 facts describe the brutal nature of slavery

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