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01_Ch20: Spain builds an American Empire

FQ: How were Europe's voyages of exploration becoming "voyages of commerce"?

Timeline: 16th - 17th C

Main Idea: The voyages of Columbus prompted the Spanish to establish colonies in the
Americas. The young Nation-States of Europe carried their distinct world view's with them on the
voyages of exploration. Mercantile enterprises helped extend beyond Europe's shores the
economic, political and cultural values of the nation-states.


I. Mercantilism
Mercantilism was an early form of capitalism. This brand of capitalism was heavily
inuenced by political imperatives. To call it 'State-Directed Capitalism' would not be too far from
how it was practiced. This was capitalism that was structured to address the economic and
political needs of Renaissance Europes developing nation-states. Among its central principles
A. Accumulation of specie (gold, silver) by the 'Mother Country'. Specie reserves would be
a measure of economic and political power. As the nation's specie reserves increased
they acquire the necessary funds to consolidate their national domain, extend their power
beyond their borders, and spread the very values that shape their national identity.
Charles I/ Charles V uses a signicant portion of New World specie to fund his military
and cultural campaigns against the Protestant movement. Spain had become the
Church's vanguard in the Catholic Reformation.

B. Sea Power is an emphasis of the Mother Country as the protection of trade routes and
colonies becomes vital in the maintenance and eventual expansion of commercial

C. Quest to monopolize trade & trade routes to protect against competitors and pirates.

D. Establish colonies as sources of natural resources and raw materials (fur, lumber,
cowhide, tallow, food staples, etc.) for the Mother countrys manufacturing sector. The
colony, in turn, becomes a captive market for the Mother countrys manufactured goods.

E. Restrictive trade policies enforced by Mother Country to preserve the condition of the
colony as an exclusive resource and market. Exporting and importing activities of the
colony are restricted for the exclusive benet of the Mother country.

F. A Positive Trade Balance for the Mother Country is a goal made possible by the
colonial quest for evermore resources to meet the demand of a mercantilist system that
imposes a commercial loss.

II. Council of the Indies (c. 1524-1820)
As the Spanish New World empire increases in size and the complexity of administering
it similarly expanding, an agency of the royal government was created by Charles I to address it.
It was customary for the early Spanish Conquistadores and colonizers to have within their administrative staff an 1
accountant/ secretary. This person was responsible for recording the amount of treasure (usually in the form of specie)
that came into the possession of the representatives of the Spanish crown (Catholic Monarchs). Customarily, 20% would
be set aside for the privy purse of the crown. This became generically known as 'The Royal Fifth'. The remaining 80%
would be used to cover the expenses incurred by the colonization efforts and to pay for the services of the participants.
Many of the conquistadores only received income if they acquired the treasures from which they would get paid and the
crown received the royal fth. This was an added incentive for colonizers to acquire wealth from the native peoples of the
Americas and/ or extract it from the land using coerced labor.
01_Ch20: Spain builds an American Empire
Again, the efcient administration of a colonial empire ensured a protable mercantilist
environment for the Mother country. Responsibilities covered territorial possessions on the North
& South American continents as well as the Caribbean Sea. Among its duties were:

A. Assigning Viceroys to Spanish colonies to serve ve-year terms as governors. The
main Viceroyalties were:
1. New Spain (Mexico, North America) 1535
2. Peru (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia) 1542
3. New Granada (Colombia, Venezuela, Panama) 1739
4. Rio de la Plata (Argentina, Chile) 1776
B. Scheduling regular shipments of raw materials, specie, food staples, and other
resources from the colonies to the Mother country (Spain) via the main port at Seville.
Records created by this agency and preserved reveal the following:
! Shipment of Specie (1500 1650)
! Gold = 181 tons
! Silver = 16,000 tons
! Additional records indicate that output increased dramatically in the 1570's
as mercury mines are found and exploited.
C. Instituting and enforcing royal directives in the Spanish colonies.
! Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native American Advocate)

III. Coerced Labor & the Encomienda System
### Once the territory of the Americas and its native population is overwhelmed by European
numbers, technology, animals, and disease, the aim of making the venture protable led to the
eventual servitude of millions. In the case of the native peoples, the Spanish Encomienda system
was to be a humane method of tapping into the native labor force. The impact was often less than
humane (by any standards) and had these characteristics:
A. Native Americans
### Plots of land/ estates were awarded to certain Spaniards as possessions with certain
#stipulations. The landowner was obliged to physically and spiritually care for the native peoples
entrusted to him in return for their labor. The spiritual care often involved converting the natives to
Christianity and teaching them to read the scripture in the Spanish language.
### Native peoples would be apportioned to these estates by a policy known as the Repartimiento.
### The tasks involved included ranching (for cowhide, tallow), farming (for tobacco, and then
sugar cane as cash crops), mining (for specie) and other activities that tapped local resources.
### As exploitation reached such levels that Native American populations were being depleted, the
Spanish government sent advocates like Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native
American Advocate) to halt the abuse.
B. Africans
### The disease and overwhelming burdens of labor introduced by the European decimated the
native populations they came in contact with. Africa, as a source of labor, was explored as early
as the 15th C. by Portuguese voyages sponsored by Prince Henry (the Navigator). The need for
African labor in Europe at the time was limited at best by economic and climatic conditions. The
American colonial effort, however, was different. In that environment, the right mix of labor
shortage, climate, and economic incentive created an enormous desire for labor that could
augment, and eventually supplant, native laborers. The previous exposure that Africans had to
Europeans had also allowed them to acquire immunity to disease that native peoples did not
### The Middle Passage of the Triangle Trade was responsible for transporting millions of slave
laborers to the Americas. A signicant portion never reached the Western Hemisphere and are
The inux of specie in vast amounts sends Europes economy into an inationary spiral. Charles Vs massive war and 2
imperial expenditures spreads specie wealth throughout Europe. This monarch is leading the effort against the spread
of the Protestant Heresy.
01_Ch20: Spain builds an American Empire
lost to history. The bulk of the remainder were apportioned so that South America (Portugal's
Brazilian colony) received the largest portion. The Caribbean and North America received smaller,
but sizable, portions.
### As the number of African slaves available increased, American land owners had the resource
to pursue labor intensive agriculture. Beginning with tobacco, then sugar, and nally cotton, labor
intensive cash crops propelled plantation owners into the new American aristocracy. One point
that should not go unmentioned here is that the relative inexpensive labor and the lucrative
market for the cash crops, made technology innovation stagnant. In other words, the slave labor
system perpetuated itself with the aid of the economic environment.
### The volume of human cargo of the Atlantic Slave Trade increased as control of the trade went
from Spain, to Portugal, and then to the Dutch. British control of the trade eventually brought a
close to this most horric example of human treatment.

IV. Summary: Why It Matters Now.
Throughout the Americas, Spanish culture, language, and descendants are the legacy of this
Compendium and Description of the West Indies. The Human Record, pages 465 - 470. Respond
to questions 1 - 6 on page 466 by taking targeted notes.

Materials/Sources:#Refer to the course calendar for additional assignments and pertinent due dates.

World History: Patterns of Interaction

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