Europe and the Printing Press

Before 1450, books were produced by scribes who laboriously copied an existing book by hand. Between 1455 and 1500, the printing press, containing movable type using manufactured paper, revolutionized book production.
Europe and the Printing Press

By 1500, hundreds of printing presses throughout Europe had produced more than 6 million books, roughly equivalent to the total number of books produced in the prior 15 centuries.

This revolution was begun by an ordinary man named Johann Gutenberg (c. 1400–1468). Gutenberg had a printing shop in Mainz, Germany. Though often called the “inventor of movable type,” Gutenberg did not invent any of the major parts of the printing process but took the concepts and engineered a solution that touched off a rapid growth in printing.

Prior to the printing press, books were made at great expense by hand. Only kings, universities, large churches, or monasteries could afford the price of a book. The rising merchant class and lower nobility created a demand for a more economical book.

The components of the printing process had recently become available. Paper production had begun in Italy, taking rag stock, mixing it into pulp, then pressing it in a felt press. Paper cost about one-sixth the price of vellum (calf- or sheepskin). The printing press was already in existence for block prints of artwork, or other hand-crafted printing.

Oil-based ink that would work well for transfer to paper was in existence. The concept of movable type (individual letters or characters that could be put into a holder) had been invented by the Chinese centuries before and had slowly made its way over to Europe.

The genius of Gutenberg was in the careful perfection of a printing system. Gutenberg adapted a press to hold a form containing metal pieces. He manufactured more than 300 different symbols including capital letters, lowercase letters, numerals, large block letters, and ligatures (two or more letters attached together). He perfected the ink to work on paper stock acquired from Italy (an oil-based ink that would not smear, nor bleed through the paper).

He devised a system of rolling the ink onto the type form and finally printing it onto paper. Each page would be individually prepared by a skilled typesetter, and then many copies of that page would be printed by the press operator.

Gutenberg first produced some small works (a Latin grammar), but then with business partners Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer providing funding, Gutenberg undertook to produce a copy of the Bible in Latin beginning in 1450. By 1454 or 1455, the first edition was complete.

The Gutenberg Bible uses a typeface that appears hand-printed, since it was produced to compete with hand-printed bibles (at a much lower cost). The Bible would then be decorated (beginning letters colored by hand), and other annotations (or rubrications) added.

Books printed with this new printing press were enormously popular. By 1458, there were several other printers in Germany and Switzerland. By 1475, hundreds of printers with their printing presses were producing editions of books throughout Europe. By 1500, more than 40,000 editions of various works had been produced by printing presses.

While advancements were made to speed up the process of producing and ordering the movable type, the fundamentals of the printing press did not change till the 20th century with the advent of electromechanical printing and finally computer-based printing.

Martin Luther first nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the castle church in Wittenberg in 1517, 60 years after the invention of the printing press process by Gutenberg. Luther intended to raise an academic debate among the region’s theologians.

Instead he ignited a storm of controversy that swept Europe in the rapid communication of his theses through the printing press. Within weeks of his posting the Ninety-five Theses, printers in Wittenberg and other places were selling copies as a short pamphlet, distributing it throughout Germany and even other countries in western Europe.

Luther was a prolific and popular writer. Just over a year later in 1519, he received a note from a printer Basel named Johannes Froben: “We sent six hundred copies of your collected works which I published to France and Spain.

They are sold in Paris, read and appreciated at the Sorbonne. The book dealer Clavus of Pavia took a sizable number to Italy to sell them everywhere in the cities. I have sent copies also to England and Babant and have only ten copies left in the storeroom. I have never had such good luck with a book.”

Many of Luther’s shorter works were published as pamphlets, easily accessible to merchants, lesser nobility, and others who could read. The printing press enabled the rapid spread of Reformation.

The advent of the printing press produced other societal changes. With books more accessible, the system of instruction at the university level changed. Prior to the printing press, a professor would read from a single book (often the only copy at the university) and the students would take notes.

With the printing press, great works by authors of past eras were published more broadly, bringing the Renaissance abad to full fruition. The work of scientists such as Copernicus and Isaac Newton were published, bringing both debate and further development to science.

It also increased the desire of those in power to control what was published in their country or church. The first Index of Forbidden Books was published by King Henry VIII of England in 1526, and the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited (or Forbidden) Books was published in 1559 and revised constantly thereafter.

Powhatan Confederacy

The Powhatan Confederacy, which included approximately 30 different Algonquian-speaking tribes at the height of its power, developed on the Eastern Seaboard of North America in present-day Virginia.
Powhatan Confederacy

Powhatan, who was the leader of this confederacy in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, maintained control from his main residence in Werowocomoco on the York River. Before the English settled at Jamestown in 1607, the Powhatan Confederacy was the strongest force in the area.

Powhatan kept control by marrying the daughters of defeated chiefdoms in an attempt to link their families to his family and appointing a family member to the position of chief. To minimize the risk of tribes within the confederacy combating one another, Powhatan organized a hunting expedition in the Piedmont to incite conflict against the Monacan and Manahoac tribes.

Despite the fact that there was some degree of cooperation between the Powhatan and the English colonists, mutual suspicion destroyed the relationship between the two races. The English colonists thought very highly of Powhatan.

Despite the desire to use the English as allies, Powhatan was still suspicious of their intentions and attempted to contain their settlement; he was also concerned that the English might ally with his enemies. In order to contain the English settlement of Jamestown, Powhatan used the Paspahegh to create conflict with the English settlers.

The English soon adopted another policy to deal with the Powhatan—kidnap their children to force the Powhatan into a more subservient position. In 1613, the English captured Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas and took her back to Jamestown, where she converted to Christianity and assumed the name Rebecca. Powhatan accepted the fact that the English had captured his daughter and tried to reach some peace settlement by offering her to the English.

The peace settlement Powhatan arranged with the colonists improved relations between the Powhatan and the English colonists. Pocahontas accepted the English way of life by dressing in European fashions, marrying an Englishman named John Rolfe in 1614, and giving birth to a child.

She left her father to travel to England, where she succumbed to disease in 1617. Her father died in 1618 and was replaced by his brother Opechancanough, who changed the dynamics in the relationship between the Powhatan and the English colonists.

The major point of contention between the Powhatan and the English arose over ownership of land as the English colonists needed a significant area of land to grow tobacco. The fact that more English colonists continued to arrive in Virginia strengthened the resolve of Opechancanough to strike at the English before their numbers became too great.

The first major attack took place on March 22, 1622, and resulted in the death of approximately 347 colonists. The English retaliated by organizing offensives against Powhatan towns and destroying their crops before the harvesting period.

The Powhatan Confederacy, suffering from starvation, participated in peace negotiations with the English colonists. In 1623, at the closing stages of the peace talks, 250 natives met with the leaders of the English colony in what they believed was a cordial meeting, but the English poisoned the drinks of the natives and killed the delegation. This led to further reprisals by the Powhatan, who organized a massive offensive on April 18, 1644, which resulted in the deaths of more than 400 colonists.

At this point, it was a losing battle for the Powhatan as there were too many colonists for them to overcome. The resistance of the Powhatan to English imperialism sustained a further blow when Opechancanough was captured in 1646 by the English and shot by a disgruntled colonist while in prison.

The Powhatan Confederacy suffered greatly from English colonization, as frequent warfare and epidemics dropped the population from 24,000 Algonquians when the English settled Jamestown in 1607 to 2,000 Algonquians in 1669. The selesai dispersal for the Powhatan Confederacy occurred with the Treaty of Albany in 1722, which protected the Powhatan from Iroquois attacks, allowing the Powhatan to disperse into various groups.

Potosí (Silver Mines of Colonial Peru)

The extensive silver mines of the mountain of Potosí (in the highlands of contemporary Bolivia, at an altitude of 4,800 meters) proved among the most important sources of wealth in all of Spain’s New World holdings, fleetingly filling the coffers of the Spanish treasury for more than two centuries while relegating thousands of Indian laborers to a hellish work existence.
Potosí (Silver Mines of Colonial Peru)
Potosí (Silver Mines of Colonial Peru)

Silver ore was serendipitously discovered at Potosí by an Indian yanacona (servant) named Diego Gualpa in 1545. Within a few years there had commenced a vast silver rush, which peaked in the 1590s, after which silver production underwent a gradual decline, though the mines continued to be worked throughout the colonial period.

In 1545, the population of Potosí and its environs stood at around 3,000. Thirty-five years later, in 1580, the numbers had swelled to around 120,000, and by 1650 to around 160,000, making the remote mining center one of the largest urban concentrations in the world.

Crucial to the stupendous growth of Potosí and its mining economy was the introduction of the smelting process.

The first mercury mines at Huancavelica were discovered in 1559; others came into operation soon after. In 1571, after numerous trials, the Spanish perfected the techniques for refining Potosí’s silver ore with Huancavelica’s mercury, prompting Viceroy Francisco de Toledo to gush that the union of the two mines would create the world’s greatest marriage.

Illustrative of the enormous quantities of wealth extracted from colonial Peru’s “mountain of silver,” the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote changed the phrase “worth a Peru” (describing Francisco Pizarro’s plunder during the conquest of Peru) to “worth a Potosí.”

Official figures show a quadrupling of silver exports to Spain from Potosí from 1571–75 to 1581–85 (from 4.6 million to 19.1 million pesos), to a peak of around 5 million pesos annually in the 1590s.

By 1650, the number had dropped to around 3 million pesos annually, after which it continued to decline until the early 1700s, when the mining economy underwent a gradual resurgence, though it never reached its former heights.

Potosí’s burgeoning mining economy also had important local and regional ripple effects, sparking the growth of commerce, agriculture, and specialized craftwork in surrounding communities, and in regional economies as distant as Río de la Plata, Chile, and northern Peru.

Working conditions in the mines were exceedingly brutal. “Some four years ago,” wrote the Spaniard Domingo de Santo Tomás to the Council of the Indies in 1550, in a typical description, “to the complete perdition of this land, there was discovered a mouth of hell, into which a great mass of people enter every year and are sacrificed by the greed of the Spaniards to their ‘god.’

This is your silver mine called Potosí.” Another Spaniard, Rodrigo de Loaisa, described the typical weeklong stint in the mines: “The Indians enter these infernal pits by some leather ropes like staircases ... Once inside, they spend the whole week in there without emerging, working with tallow candles. They are in great danger inside there ... If 20 healthy Indians enter on Monday, half may emerge crippled on Saturday.”

According to another Spaniard, Alfonso Messia, Indian laborers descended hundreds of feet into the mines, “where the night is perpetual. It is always necessary to work by candlelight, with the air thick and evil-smelling, enclosed in the bowels of the earth.

The ascent and descent are highly dangerous, for they come up loaded with their sack of metal tied to their backs, taking fully four or five hours step by step, and if they make the slightest false step they may fall seven hundred feet.”

The great silver mines of Potosí thus became symbolic not only of fabulous wealth, but of Spain’s oppression and exploitation of Indian laborers, and Indian resilience and survival in the face of the extreme brutality of colonial rule.

Popul Vuh

In 1908, Lewis Spence, one of the foremost scholars of myth and religion of his day, said of the Popul Vuh, “There is no document of greater importance to the study of the pre-Columbian mythology of America than the Popol Vuh.
Popul Vuh
Popul Vuh

It is the chief source of our knowledge of the mythology of the Kiché [the modern accepted form is the Quiche] people of Central America, and it is further of considerable comparative value when studied in conjunction with the mythology of the Nahuatlacâ, or Mexican peoples.” Popul Vuh means “Record of the Community” and is literally translated as “Book of the Mat,” perhaps because the earliest versions were delivered orally as people sat together on their woven mats.

The Popul Vuh is one of two sacred texts of the Mayan Indians of Mesoamerica, Central America, and Mexico that have survived. While the Popul Vuh belongs to the Quiche Maya of Guatemala, the Chilam Balam was written among the Maya of Yucatán in Mexico.

Mesoamerican history has been divided into distinct periods by historians and archaeologists for purposes of study. These are the Preclassic Period of history (2000 b.c.e. to 300 c.e.), the Classic Period (300 c.e. to 900 c.e.), and the Postclassic (900 c.e. to 1520 c.e.), the year before Hernán Cortés crushed the last major indigenous kingdom, the Aztec Empire, thus ending the rule of Mexicans.

The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, today’s Mexico City, succumbed to Hernán Cortés in 1521. The Mayas of Yucatán defied Spanish conquest until 1528, when they were defeated by Pedro de Alvarado, perhaps the most brutal of Cortés’s conquistadores.

The Popul Vuh can be dated from after the Classic Period among the Maya. The Mayan people existed in two communities, one in the northern Yucatán and the other in the Guatemalan highlands. The Chilam Balam owes its origin to the Mayas of Yucatán, and the Popul Vuh to those in Guatemala.

Today, although their kingdom has long since vanished, the Quiche Maya still exist in Guatemala as a definable tribe proud of the Popul Vuh, despite a brutal government campaign against them. Indeed some historians of Mesoamerica maintain that Guatemala was in fact the first home of the Maya people. What most scholars agree about is that the area influenced by the Maya was great.

In the aftermath of the Spanish conquest, there was a massive destruction of ancient Aztec and Mayan texts by the missionaries who accompanied the Spanish in their conquest of Mesoamerica.

Having seen the human sacrifice on a large scale by Aztec priests in the temples in Tenochtitlán (many victims were captive Spanish they had known), they determined such a culture could only be demonic and thus consigned the Mayan and Aztec books, or Mesoamerican Codices, to the flames.

Diego de Landa, who became the bishop of Yucatán, burned 27 hieroglyphic manuscripts in 1562; despite the criticism de Landa received as a result of his actions, historians believe that other missionaries probably followed suit. Three Mayan codices were known to have survived in Paris, Madrid, and Dresden, Germany.

However, both the Popul Vuh and the Chilam Balam appear to owe their survival to the direct intervention of missionaries who felt that the cultures that had been conquered were worthy of preservation.

After the conquest, missionaries set about to teach sons of the Maya and Aztec nobility Spanish to help them preserve their ancient culture in writing. It is Francisco Ximénez, who came to Guatemala in 1688, who played a pivotal role in the discovery of the Popul Vuh.

For a time after Ximénez’s death, it appeared the Popul Vuh had been lost, but it was recovered in library of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. Researchers learned that Ximénez had placed it in his convent’s library, and it passed to the university library in 1830.

The Popul Vuh itself is a fascinating document that belongs in the category of creation myths, in which people record their understanding of the creation of the world. Dennis Tedlock, editor of a recent edition of Popul Vuh, records that its writers begin “their narrative in a world that has nothing but an empty sky above and a calm sea below.

When the gods of the sky and earth meet, ‘they conceive [of] the emergence of the earth from the sea and the growth of plants and people on its surface.’ After three failed attempts, the gods are successful in creating the first real human beings out of corn, a symbol of the importance of corn in all the indigenous cultures of North, Central, and South America.”

First, four men are created, and then four women to keep them company on the earth. “From these couples,” Tedlock explains, “come the leading Quiche [Maya] lineages.... Other lineages and peoples also come into being, and they all begin to multiply” to populate the face of the earth.

Battle of Plassey

Robert Clive of the British East India Company was the winner of the Battle of Plassey, 70 miles north of Calcutta in 1757. At the head of 1,000 English and 2,000 Indian (sepoy) soldiers and with eight pieces of artillery, he routed the 50,000 soldiers and 50 French-manned cannons of his opponent Siraj-ud-Daula, the governor, or nawab, of Bengal. This victory established British primacy in Bengal.
Battle of Plassey

With the Mughal (Mogul, Moghul) Empire in India in rapid decline in the 18th century, Great Britain and France became competitors for control of the subcontinent. Their rivalry was played out by employees of their respective East India Companies and when the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) and Seven Years’ War (1756–63) pitted Britain and France on opposing sides, India became a theater of war.

France won the first round when its agent in India Joseph Dupleix captured the British outpost Madras in 1746 and then extended French influence in the Indian state of Hyderabad.

However Dupleix was outmatched by a brilliant young Briton named Robert Clive, who decided to expand British power to the Bay of Bengal and the Ganges River delta during the Seven Years’ War. First he took revenge on the unpopular Mughal governor of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daula, for the death of many Britons in the infamous “Black Hole of Calcutta.”

He recaptured Calcutta in 1756, then moved upriver and captured the French fort at Chandernagore in the following year. In the next phase of the conflict, the French supported Siraj-ud-Daula, whose oppressive rule had alienated his Muslim noblemen, including the powerful Mir Jaffa. On the other hand Britain had the support of Bengali businessmen and bankers.

These rivalries culminated in the Battle of Plassey, June 23, 1757, which pitted Clive’s 1,000 European soldiers and 2,000 Indian sepoys (no cavalry) and eight cannons against Siraj-ud-Daula’s 50,000 combined infantrymen and cavalry and 50 cannons manned by French soldiers. Mir Jaffa’s neutrality and Siraj-ud-Daula’s flight in the midst of battle caused demoralization and the rout of the latter’s army. Clive lost only 22 European soldiers; fewer than 50 were wounded.

Clive’s victory was a turning point in Indian history. French influence was eliminated from Bengal, and at the end of the Seven Years’ War, from all of India. Britain’s client Mir Jaffa was invested the new governor of Bengal by the Mughal emperor in Delhi, who in turn granted landholder’s rights of 882 square miles around Calcutta to the British East India Company.

Clive remained in Bengal for two years to organize the new administration. In 1759, the Mughal emperor granted land tax rights of all Bengal and Bihar provinces to the British East India Company and made Clive the highest-ranking noble of the Mughal Empire.

The British government made Clive baron of Plassey. Events that developed after Clive’s victory at the Battle of Plassey would change the British East India Company from a trading company to a governing power and draw Britain to conquer the whole of India. Thus the Battle of Plassey was a historic turning point, and its principal participant Robert Clive an empire builder.

Francisco Pizarro

Ranking with Hernán Cortés as one of the most ruthless and effective of all the Spanish conquistadores, Francisco Pizarro was the principal force behind the conquest of Peru and subjugation of the Inca Empire in the 1530s.
Francisco Pizarro

Along with his brother Gonzalo and half brother Hernándo, Francisco successfully suppressed a rebellion launched by his erstwhile partner in conquest Diego de Almagro in 1537–38, only to have disgruntled Almagrists acting under the nominal authority of Almagro’s mestizo son, Almagro the Younger, slay him in his palace in Lima on July 26, 1541.

An illiterate swineherd as a youth and the illegitimate son of a minor nobleman, Francisco Pizarro was born in Trujillo, Estremadura, Spain, around 1476. He arrived in the Americas in 1510 and participated in the expedition across Panama led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa that led to the European discovery of the Pacific Ocean in 1513. After the first two exploratory expeditions along the Peruvian coast, in 1528, Pizarro returned to Spain to seek the Crown’s sanction (capitulación) for an expedition of conquest.

He received it, along with the title of governor and captain-general of Peru, to the dismay of Almagro, who received a much less exalted title. One of his most memorable and consequential acts was in July 1533 when he decided to execute the Inca Atahualpa in Cajamarca to the chagrin of King Charles V, provoking an outcry among Spaniards.

He is also credited with founding numerous towns, including the colony’s capital city along the coast, Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings, founded on January 6, 1535), which by the late 1500s had become known as Lima, a corruption of its indigenous name; Cuzco (1534); the coastal city of Trujillo (1535); and San Juan de la Frontera, later known as Huamanga (1539).

He was also responsible for allotting Indians in encomienda and repartimiento to reward his followers and supporters, a tactic he also used to buy off potential adversaries, including members of the Inca royal family such as Manco Inca’s half brother Pallu, to whom he granted a repartimiento of more than 5,000 Indians in 1539.

This was the same year that the Crown granted him the title of marquis and his own coat of arms, which depicted a chained Atahualpa reaching into two chests laden with treasure.

His most consequential political error, in the judgment of many scholars, was to sow the seeds of the Almagrist war by his own extreme greed and his niggardly allotments to Almagro, whose supporters slew him in 1541.

His many descendants ranked among the richest and most powerful members of Peru’s colonial society. An imposing statue of the legendary conquistador astride his steed can be found in the town of his birth, facing the palace built by his brother Hernándo.

Piracy in the Atlantic World

Not long after the Spanish colonies in the Americas started to generate massive wealth, pirates started to attack the ships, taking the gold, silver, and other treasures from the Americas to Spain and later from Brazil to Portugal. In addition to attacking ships, some of the more daring buccaneers, such as Francis Drake, went as far as attacking ports.
Piracy in the Atlantic World

While some of the early raiders were freelance pirates, the cost of maintaining a ship and the ability to find a friendly port meant that many were privateers. These were French, Dutch, and more particularly English sailors, who operated in the Caribbean and in the Atlantic on behalf of their government, who had issued them a “letter of marquee,” allowing them to attack enemy shipping in times of war.

Often the news of the end of a particular conflict took a long time to reach remote outposts and as a result attacks often still took place in peacetime. Some pirates also regularly exceeded their “letters of marquee” and attacked any ships they came across.

Although privateers could use the excuse of attacking enemy ships in time of war, many modern historians are more understanding of their actions given the appalling Spanish treatment of the indigenous population of the Americas, from which they gained much of their gold and silver.

The initial attacks on Spanish ships sailing across the Atlantic led the Spanish to establish a treasure fleet from the 1560s. This involved a large number of ships, including many men-of-war, sailing together taking manufactured goods to the Americas and returning with gold or more often silver. By this time, the English, French, and Dutch had established settlements in the Caribbean, which their privateers used as bases in their attacks on the Spanish.

The English buccaneer Francis Drake managed to capture some of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1580 and sacked the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena in the Caribbean in 1585, and later that year attacked and sacked the port of Cádiz in Spain.

This led to the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604, which turned many of the English pirates into privateers, weakening the Spanish merchant navy and providing a large source of profit for English and Dutch traders.

While Francis Drake operated ostensibly for patriotic reasons, the Spanish denounced him as a pirate, and by the early 17th century, there were large numbers of pirates operating in the Caribbean. Many used isolated European settlements around the West Indies, with a few operating from their own bases in isolated bays.

A few places, such as Port Royal in Jamaica, became famous haunts of the pirates, growing rich but also becoming exceedingly dangerous places, gaining the reputation of being one of the “richest and wickedest” cities in the world. Other places used by pirates included the islands of Antigua and Barbados.

The Thirty Years’ War, which lasted from 1618 until 1648, led to renewed Protestant-Catholic conflict in Europe, which led to fighting in the West Indies, and British as well as Dutch ships attacked those belonging to Spain and France. It was during this period that English privateers and pirates started to use the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua to establish bases, which allowed them to attack Spanish ports and Spanish ships with ease.

From 1660 until 1720, the so-called golden age of piracy, pirates again operated as privateers. This period saw some sailing under the famous “Jolly Roger” flag, with attacks by English pirates on both Spanish and French ships. There were also English attacks on the Dutch; the island of Saint Eustatius, a Dutch sugar island, was attacked by pirates and British soldiers on many occasions, changing hands 10 times during the 1660s and early 1670s.

French pirates also started operating freely from their ports on the island of Hispaniola (modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Sir Henry Morgan, a Welsh buccaneer, sacked the Spanish town of Portobelo in Panama, which had been well garrisoned.

Morgan later destroyed Panama City in 1671 but was arrested by the British, as the attack violated a treaty between England and Spain. At his trial in London, Morgan was able to prove he had no prior knowledge of the treaty and was released, knighted, and appointed lieutenant governor of Jamaica.

Other pirates such as Edward Teach, “Blackbeard,” became infamous not only for his savagery but for his outlandish appearance. He was killed in combat in 1718. There were also female pirates such as Anne Bonny, originally from Ireland, and Mary Read from London, who were captured and tried in 1720 in Jamaica, with both escaping execution.

The career of these two female pirates, which started when the former joined the crew of “Calico Jack” Rackham, and the second a ship captured by him, was related in many published books of the period.

After 1720, stronger European garrisons throughout the Caribbean caused a massive decline in the number of pirates operating in the region. At the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, the 1714 Treaty of Utrecht allowed the British to sell African slaves in the Americas, and many of the former pirate crews found that they were able to operate legitimately as slave traders.

The nations involved in Caribbean trade decided to eliminate the pirate threat to their lucrative trade routes. In 1720, two famous pirates, Charles Vane and “Calico Jack” Rackham, were hanged at Port Royal, and two years later some 41 pirates were hanged there in a single month.

Without the ability to seek refuge in places such as Port Royal, although some pirates continued operating through to the 1750s, they had access to fewer and fewer ports. This coincided with the European powers’ massively strengthening their hold on their West Indian possessions, and it became far more likely that pirates would be caught.

As a result there was a decline in piracy, with the former pirates having to find work in the slave trade, legitimate shipping, or the lumber industry, cutting logwood and later mahogany in what became British Honduras (modern-day Belize).

The romantic image of the pirates was nurtured by many writers, such as Daniel Defoe, who wrote A General History of Pyrates (1724), which described the lives of many of the more famous individuals, and much later Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island (1883); a small number of pirates published their own accounts. The subject of pirates and piracy remains popular in today’s novels, plays, and films.

Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in Southeast Asia. It contains a great deal of diversity in ethnicity and social organization. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, there were very few credible accounts of life on the archipelago and, consequently, what is known about precolonial Philippines depends on postcolonization sources. Prior to Spanish rule, the Philippines consisted of small-scale communities with little connection to any larger state.
Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

Junks had been traveling to the islands from China for centuries and some islands and ports had roles in the international spice trade. The southern islands of the Philippines had become partly Islamized since the 15th century from Brunei to Mindanao and the Sulu islands.

Both Spain and Portugal had become active in the Southeast Asian region by the late 15th century, attracted by the valuable spice trade, access to the markets of China, and the possibility of converting souls to Christianity.

Relations between Spain and Portugal were regulated by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which divided lands outside Europe between the two powers. This division was further regulated by the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529, which fixed the exact line in the Pacific at 17 degrees east of the Moluccas Islands.

A Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, arrived a Cebu (part of the chain that became the Philippines) across the Pacific from the Western Hemisphere in 1521. In 1565, the first permanent Spanish settlement was established on Cebu. Manila was established in 1571; it became the capital of Spanish-ruled Philippines.

The spread of Spanish influence occurred quickly and peaceably, since there were few large communities able to resist the superior technology and organization, except for the Islamized states in the south, especially Mindanao. None of the desired spices were found in the Philippines.

The colonization was, consequently, of only limited success from the Spanish perspective and the local cultural heritage partly replaced by European Christianity and agriculture and other economic activities were reorganized and surplus was exported to Spain. Spanish appointed governors replaced the indigenous rulers.

Local exports to Spain, however, were very secondary to Chinese-made goods that Chinese merchants took to Manila, as they had been doing since the end of the first millennium c.e.

These goods, primarily silk textiles, tea, and porcelain, were in great demand in Europe, with the result that Manila became the gathering place of Spanish galleons that would sail in convoy annually to ports on the Pacific coast in southern Mexico, whence they would be carried across the isthmus by Mexican porters to Veracruz, a port in the Gulf of Mexico, and loaded onto ships for transport across the Atlantic to Spain. Thus the Philippines were more important to Spain as a gathering place for goods made in China and secondarily from Japan than for its own products.

As a result of Spanish rule until the end of the 19th century, the Philippines is the only Asian country with a majority Catholic population.

Philip II - Spanish Monarch

Despite the fact that Philip II was the ruler of the Spanish Empire when its influence in the world was at its peak, his record as a monarch was not entirely successful. The birth of Philip on May 21, 1527, in the city of Valladolid was a welcome joy to his parents, Charles V and Isabella of Portugal.
Philip II - Spanish Monarch

His parents had a significant impact on his upbringing as his father taught him at an early age how to govern the realm, while his mother’s piety played a large part in Philip’s life. Although Philip was a very devout individual, his interest in the occult was evident in his collection of hundreds of books on this subject.

In the 16th century, Spain was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. Charles V ruled over a sizable empire as he controlled Spain, Sardinia, Naples, Sicily, the Netherlands, land in central Europe, and colonies situated in the Caribbean and South and North America.

Control of this large territory was difficult to manage, and when Charles V stepped down as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1558, he chose two people to rule the Habsburg lands—his brother Ferdinand and his son Philip.

Philip received the largest bulk of the empire, as he acquired Spain, the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and North and South America, Sardinia, Naples, and the Netherlands, in comparison to Ferdinand, who acquired Habsburg territories in central Europe.

Philip acquired the kingdom of Portugal and its colonies following the death of the Portuguese King Manuel I in 1580 because Manuel failed to produce a male heir. Philip inherited this kingdom because his mother was one of Manuel’s daughters.

Philip spent much of his life trying to attain unity and protect his empire rather than extend his absolute rule over the areas he controlled. The empire was too large for Philip to attain absolute rule as is evidenced by the fact that his control of the empire was ineffective outside Madrid.

Despite the division of Habsburg possessions in Europe, Philip was still left with a significant area of territory to govern and had the potential to add further territories to Habsburg possessions. Philip married Mary I of England in 1554; the marriage could have brought England into the possession of the Habsburg family but failed to produce a child.

The accession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England in 1558 changed the dynamics of Spanish-English relations. Elizabeth was a Protestant, who supported the Dutch in their fight for independence against the Spanish and endorsed English piracy against Spanish ships.

Philip sent a powerful naval armada to remove the “heretic” Elizabeth from power, but English ships were able to destroy a number of ships, while dangerous weather forced a number of others to crash into rocks off the coast of Scotland and Ireland.

This defeat was a massive blow for the Spanish fleet as at least 70 of the 130 ships that participated in the invasion were destroyed. This massive blow to the Spanish navy forced Philip to give up his plans of removing Elizabeth from power.

Philip spent a great deal of time trying to secure Habsburg possessions in Italy against the encroachments of France by signing the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. After securing Italy, Philip was able to concentrate more on the threat that the Ottoman Empire posed to the western Mediterranean and to southern Spain. From 1559 to 1577, the Spanish navy was engaged in frequent fighting against the Ottoman navy.

The southern coast of Spain was vulnerable against Ottoman naval incursions as a result of the weakness of the Spanish navy in that region and a rebellion initiated by the Moriscos, who were Christian Moors, over taxation. The naval war between the two empires climaxed in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto, where the Spanish navy decisively defeated the Ottomans, ending the Ottoman threat to southern Spain.

Religion and Politics

It is difficult to assess the degree in which religion played a role in Philip’s foreign policy, and historians have been debating this question for years. Religion was a major focus in the life of Philip II as is evidenced by the fact that he undertook many administrative reforms in the church in Spain by creating an archdiocese at Burgos, creating seven dioceses, and cutting off over 300 monastic houses in Spain from their religious orders in Europe, giving the Spanish government more influence in their affairs.

Philip attempted to create a fair political and judicial administration in order to win the hearts of his loyal subjects and the fear of criminals. He intervened in the judicial and government systems as little as possible, and only when he believed that injustices were committed against his people.

Philip even put class distinctions aside as he punished the aristocracy when he believed they violated the law. This is not to suggest that Philip II was without prejudices; he attempted, after all, to expel the Jewish population from Lombardy.

Philip endured many tragic events in his personal life, including the death of his wives, Maria of Portugal, Mary I, Elizabeth of Valois, and Anne of Austria. Philip was also forced to live with the death of his son Don Carlos.

The relationship between Philip and Don Carlos was characterized by incessant friction, and it is possible that Don Carlos supported Dutch leaders who were becoming dissatisfied with Spanish rule. Philip imprisoned his son in 1568, and he died six months later, possibly on the orders of Philip. Philip was not always eager to marry, but diplomatic ties and the need for an heir to the throne prompted the king to take four wives.

This need for a male heir became acute following Don Carlos’s death. The duduk perkara concerning a male heir was solved as Anne gave birth to a boy, Philip III, on April 14, 1578, who became the king of Spain following his father’s death in 1598.

Philip was not a popular monarch among his people. He preferred to spend most of his day alone and avoided the public as much as possible. Despite the fact that Philip ruled over a large empire, his military was too weak to defend much of it, and his administration too ineffective to rule it.

Historians have critiqued the rule of Philip II, with varying conclusions. Some point to his securing of the western Mediterranean from Turkish incursions and unification of Portugal and Spain as major achievements while others look to his foreign and domestic policies to show that Spain was weak at the time of his death.

Epidemics and famine led to a decline in population while declining trade and a weakening industrial and agricultural base crippled the empire as the Castilian peasants were forced to pay over a third of their income in taxes to the government.

Peter I the Great - Czar of Russia

The rise to power of Peter the Great was fraught with death and uncertainty, but his reign as czar greatly strengthened Russia in regard to its acquisition of territory in the Baltic and Black Sea regions, and the modernization of Russian society. Czar Alexei (1645–76) and his wife, Natalia Naryshkin, did not believe their son Peter would drastically change the course of Russian history when he was born on May 30, 1672.
 Peter I the Great - Czar of Russia

The death of Czar Feodor III (1676–82) created a persoalan for the continuation of the Romanov dynasty in Russia since Fedor left no heirs; the debate developed concerning Ivan or Peter as successor.

Ivan was Fedor’s brother, but Ivan, who was 16 years old, was mentally and physically handicapped. Peter was the half brother of Ivan and had the support of many of the boyars and the patriarch Joachim, since this healthy 10-year-old offered stability to the Russian throne.

The Zemsky Sobor, an assembly of boyars, was assembled and voiced its support for Peter, but Sophia, Feodor’s sister, refused to allow Peter to be crowned as czar and attempted to incite the Streltsi, a regiment of guardsmen, to turn against Peter. On May 15, 1682, the Streltsi, upon hearing rumors that Ivan and a number of boyars were murdered, rebelled and stormed the Kremlin.

The Streltsi swore their loyalty to the Romanov family after Ivan Naryshkin and Doctor Van Gaden were brutally murdered. These two individuals were killed because the Streltsi believed they played a role in the presumed death of Ivan.

Following these murders, the Streltsi decided that Ivan and Peter would corule Russia, with Ivan acting as the senior czar and Sophia as the regent over both czars. The double coronation ceremony was held on May 26, 1682.

Sophia’s control over the Russian government quickly deteriorated with mounting tension between Sophia and Peter as Peter tried to assert his authority over her. In August 1689, Sophia called up some of the palace guards to protect her from a suspected attack from supporters of Peter.

This intensified the situation, because a number of people loyal to Peter believed that these guards were called up to attack him. Peter fled for refuge to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, where he rallied a sizable force. Sophia, fearful of Peter’s increasing strength and of her declining support, capitulated.

Peter’s mother, Natalia, was selected to replace Sophia as the regent of the czars, but her regency was short, as she died in 1694. Ivan died shortly later in 1695, leaving Peter as the czar of Russia, and in a position to pursue his own policies.

Military Might

Peter’s first interests were against the Crimean Turks, as Peter was anxious to acquire access to the Black Sea so that Russia could trade with Europe throughout the whole year. The battle against the Turks at Azov in 1695 was a failure despite the fact that Peter assembled an army of approximately 31,000 men to attack Azov, and another 120,000 men to fight near the Dnieper River.

The reason for the failure was that the Turks could still ship supplies to Azov via water transport. Peter decided to correct this oversight in his strategy and collected money from monasteries and boyars to build a Russian naval fleet. The second attempt to take Azov in June 1696 with an army of 80,000 soldiers and a fleet was successful.

With the campaign against the Turks a success, Peter decided to focus his attention toward the West. In 1697, Peter and an entourage of 250 Russians toured Europe to examine Western knowledge and technology. Peter was impressed with the wealth Holland was able to acquire through its trading access and commercial fleet.

This wealth left such an impression on Peter that he was determined to emulate this success by constructing his own commercial fleet. He wanted to give Russia a window to the West via trade and to acquire more European technology to strengthen Russia.

Peter also wanted to import Western culture to Russia; he forced the nobles to shave their beards, changed the Russian calendar to conform to the European calendar, and made the Russian New Year conform to the European New Year.

In fact, the historian Paul Bushkovitch has credited Peter with introducing modern culture and political thought to Russia. Peter was also able to create a stronger state by making the Eastern Orthodox Church subservient to the Russian government.

The money Peter seized from monasteries and the reformed tax system helped Peter to build an academy to improve the education system in Russia. Peter was also able to bring order to the Russian social hierarchy by formulating the Table of Ranks in 1722, which determined an individual’s status in Russian society.

Moving West

Instead of pursuing Russian expansion to the south against the Turks, as previous Russian foreign policy dictated, Peter moved west, initiating hostilities against Sweden. The Great Northern War against Sweden dominated much of Peter’s reign.

In order to defeat the Swedish, Peter built a large army based on the same model as his Preobrazhenskii regiment, which had Western-style uniforms, training, and promotion through the ranks based on merit instead of birth. Poland sent a declaration of war to the Swedish government in January 1700, and Denmark quickly followed suit.

These two countries gave Peter allies in a war against Sweden, initiated when the Russian government declared war against the Swedish government on August 20, 1700. Unfortunately for Peter, the Danes sued for peace on August 20, 1700, leaving Russia and Poland to fight against the Swedish empire without this valuable ally.

As this alliance between Poland and Russia developed, Charles XII of Sweden reviewed his plans to protect his empire. Unfortunately, he was not able to recognize the major threat to his country’s boundaries. The Swedish strategy during the Great Northern War consisted of concentrating the main bulk of their forces against the Polish armies while Charles relied upon a token force to limit the Russian advance in the east.

It is true that the Swedes quickly attacked and defeated a Russian force at Narva on November 30, 1700. At this battle, a small Swedish force of 10,000 soldiers was able to overwhelm a Russian force of 40,000 men and seize the battlefield.

Despite this victory, the Swedes did not follow up their attack with further pressure against the Russians. The Swedish strategists preferred to concentrate their war effort against the Poles. It took the Swedes eight years to launch their second invasion into Russian territory.

Following his victory at Narva, Charles maintained a Swedish force of 15,000 men to protect his Baltic possessions. This force proved to be inadequate in the defense of the eastern portion of his empire against the armies of Peter. In January of 1702, Peter gained some momentum with his victory over the Swedes at Errestfer.

This battle had major consequences for the Swedish war effort since its army lost 3,350 soldiers. This Swedish defeat was compounded by another Swedish rout half a year later. This defeat cost the Swedish army a significant number of soldiers and provided the stimulus Peter needed in order to expand into the Baltic area.

Peter was able to strengthen Kronstadt after the capture of the fortresses of Nyenskans and Nöteborg. Peter was determined to hold on to his acquisitions in the Baltic region and give Russia closer ties with the rest of Europe by founding St. Petersburg in 1703, which became the future capital of Russia.

It is important to note that the Russian armies acquired more than territorial gains from this Baltic campaign. Through these military victories, the Russians were able to acquire more experience and confidence, as well as increase the size of their army.

When Charles XII finally turned his attention toward the Russian front, Peter had already established himself on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea. The eight-year gap between the two Swedish invasions of Russian territory provided Peter with a reprieve in which he could strengthen his armies.

The number of cavalry regiments increased from two in 1700 to 34 regiments at the time of Charles’s return. As Charles advanced through the Ukraine, Peter was obliged to follow a scorched earth policy in order to stall for time and demoralize the invading Swedes.

Vicious methods were employed to deprive the Swedes of anything of use as the town of Dorpat was destroyed after the inhabitants were forcibly moved eastward and Russians were forbidden to provide Swedish troops with provisions.

Swedish Defeat

On May 11, 1709, the Swedish army unknowingly began a siege that would lead to the capitulation of the Swedish government 12 years later. The Poltava battle accurately foreshadowed the decline of Swedish power in the affairs of the Baltic as this battle cost the Swedish army 9,700 soldiers. This is a significant number of men compared to the 4,545 casualties the Russian army endured.

The consequences of this battle were further devastating to the Swedes. On July 1, 1709, fully 20,000 Swedes surrendered to the Russian armies at the town of Perovolochina. The Russians were unable to capture their royal opponent as Charles XII, who abandoned a significant portion of his army, fled south to the Ottoman Empire.

Poltava is recognized by scholars as a battle that not only changed the course of the Northern War, but completely altered the balance of power in northeastern Europe. It must be noted the governments of Western Europe were anticipating not only the destruction of the Russian army, but the further expansion of Swedish influence into eastern Europe.

The consequences of the Battle of Poltava ended any hope of imposing Swedish influence on the Russians. Not only did the Swedes lose a substantial portion of their army, but the old alliance against them was strengthened.

In this respect, Peter shifted from a passive role during the first alliance into a more active role. Peter, who encountered Augustus on the Vistula River, agreed to help his former comrade reclaim his throne since he was deposed following the Swedish victory over the Poles at Kliszow in 1702.

Peter attempted to make the Polish throne more secure to the family of Augustus by making the Polish monarchy a hereditary position. This illustrates the massive degree of power Peter now possessed in the internal affairs of the Polish government. The Danes, already allied to Augustus, wished to restore the old balance of power in northern Europe.

Invasion of Finland

Peter was able to use his gains in the Baltic to their fullest potential as he launched an invasion of Finland in order to strengthen his position at the upcoming peace negotiations with the Swedish government. The Russians won a remarkable victory against the Swedish at Storkyro in March 1714.

This land victory was followed by a Russian naval triumph over the Swedish navy at Gangut. In 1718, the Swedish government faced another threatening situation: Charles XII died during a battle in Norway. Ulrika, Charles’s sister, faced increasing pressure resulting from Peter’s invasions of the Swedish heartland.

The Russians were also enlarging the size of their Baltic fleet at an alarming pace. These threats compelled the Swedish government to end the war against the Russians. The Russians were able to gain a significant degree of power in the Baltic region from the Treaty of Nystadt.

The agreement between these two powers allowed the Russians to take possession of several islands, the territories of Livonia, Estonia, Ingermanland, and a section of Karelia. The Russians were given significant influence in Baltic affairs since they kept the fortress of Viborg.

More important, the Russian czar was regarded as an imperial monarch by the Prussians and the Dutch. Even the Swedes and other western Europeans eventually acknowledged this title.

Peter’s death on January 28, 1725, brought uncertainty to the succession of a new ruler for two reasons. Peter did not have a male heir to succeed him, and he failed to nominate his successor before he died. Peter’s only son and heir to the throne, Alexei, died on June 26, 1718, as a result of the torture inflicted on him for his rebellious attitudes.

Alexei was an outspoken critic of Peter’s reforms and feared the wrath of his father, resulting in his flight to Austria in 1716. Despite the fact that he was plotting against his father, Alexei was eventually persuaded to return to Russia and was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, where he later died. His wife, Catherine, was nominated to succeed Peter since she had the support of a number of Peter’s advisers and the Imperial Guard.

Conquest of Peru

Conquest of Peru
Conquest of Peru

Following on the heels of the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean, conquest of Mexico, and conquest of Central America, the conquest of Peru was a long, complex, and bloody process marked by recurrent civil wars among factions of Spaniards and fierce Native resistance against Spanish efforts to subjugate them.

The conquest’s beginnings in 1532 with the first Spanish incursions into the Andean highlands are easier to mark than its ending, which is conventionally dated to 1572 with the destruction of the remnant Inca state of Vilcabamba and the execution of the last Inca, Tupac Amaru.

Some scholars maintain that the conquest was never fully completed, as Peru’s indigenous peoples resisted Spanish domination throughout the colonial period, sometimes in armed rebellion, more often in less violent and more subtle ways, including the retention of many cultural and religious beliefs and practices. Few would disagree that the conquest of Peru represents one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the Americas.


In the early 1520s, with the conquest of Central America well under way and a launching-off point at Panama City on the Pacific side of the isthmus, the Spanish were poised to turn their attention to the Pacific coast of South America.

The first exploratory expedition was in 1522 under Pascual de Andagoya, who sailed 200 miles south along the Colombian coast in search of a people called the Viru or Biru, a name later corrupted to Perú. Further expeditions followed.

In November 1524, Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Almagro, and the priest Hernando de Luque sailed as far south as the Port of Hunger along the Colombian coast before turning back. A second Pizarro-Almagro expedition sailed two years later and discovered tantalizing hints of an advanced civilization in the interior. Pizarro returned to Spain to seek royal authority for an expedition of conquest.

His arrival coincided with Hernán Cortés’s return from his dazzling successes in Mexico, which whetted the appetite of the Crown and drew many adventurers to Pizarro’s side. On July 26, 1529, the queen granted Pizarro the authority he had sought, along with the title governor and captain-general of Peru.

Almagro was named commandant of Tumbez, a lesser title that sowed the seeds of future conflict between the two men. Pizarro and Almagro returned to Panama and launched their third expedition on December 27, 1530.

After a slow and cautious beginning, on November 8, 1532, Pizarro began his march into the Andean mountains. By this time, much of the Andean population had been ravaged by virulent European diseases, especially smallpox, that had spread overland from Central America and northern South America years before the Spanish set foot in the Andes.

By weakening the Inca Empire, these diseases proved to be one of the Spaniards’ most important allies. Pizarro’s turn into the mountains could not have been more propitiously timed.

The recent death of the Inca Huayna-Capac from an unknown disease had created crisis of dynastic succession and civil war among the Inca, leading his sons Huascar and Atahualpa to contend for supremacy. Huscar headed the Cuzco faction of the Inca royal family; Atahualpa, the Quito faction.

By stunning good fortune, Atahualpa’s 7,000-strong army was camped in the mountain valley of Cajamarca, near Pizarro’s line of march. Pizarro and his 150 men boldly marched straight into the valley.

After some initial friendly interactions with the Inca, Pizarro launched a surprise attack on November 16, 1532, and slaughtered the Inca’s entire force. As was the case throughout the Peruvian campaign, Inca weaponry proved no match for Spanish steel, armor, and horses.

The arquebus, the most sophisticated firearm in the Spanish arsenal, played little role in the conquest. Swords, pikes, and horses proved their most valuable weapons. Time after time, small numbers of Spaniards proved able to defeat vastly larger native armies.

With the Inca Atahualpa now his prisoner, Pizarro demanded a huge ransom of gold and precious objects for his release. Over the next eight months, trains of native porters carted massive amounts of treasure into Cajamarca.

Meanwhile, convinced that the Spaniards represented no threat to the empire, Atahualpa arranged for the murder of his brother Huascar, thus eliminating his brother’s claim to the Inca throne. Pizarro had no intention of honoring his part of the bargain. On July 26, 1533, after a month of melting down and distributing the loot among his men, he executed Atahualpa.

One of the signal events of the conquest, Atahualpa’s execution remained a key moment in divergent Spanish interpretations regarding the morality of the conquistadores’ actions. Almagro’s force of 150 men arrived soon after the division of spoils, of which they received a small share. The unequal distribution of loot generated lasting animosities between the Almagro and Pizarro factions.

By this time, Pizarro’s scouts had probed the vulnerabilities of the Inca capital in Cuzco. Recognizing the need for a puppet Inca to invest political legitimacy into the Spaniards’ anticipated domination of Peru, Pizarro arranged the crowning of Huascar’s younger brother, Tupac Huallpa, as Inca.

It was a pattern repeated numerous times in the coming years. Meanwhile, Francisco Pizarro’s brother Hernando returned to Spain with the Crown’s requisite “royal fifth” of the treasure.

News of the events spread quickly throughout Spain and Europe. Recruiting drives for additional soldiers saw great success, while also planting the seeds of future conflict between Spaniards who had profited from the initial successes and fresh arrivals whose hunger for treasure would go unfulfilled.

Back in Peru in August 1533, Francisco Pizarro, Almagro, and their men began their march toward Cuzco, 750 miles south along the Inca road. En route, in October, the puppet Inca Tupac Huallpa died.

After numerous battles in which the vastly outnumbered Spanish roundly defeated their Inca attackers, Pizarro’s force of several hundred men entered Cuzco on November 15, 1533. Two days earlier the same day that Pizarro burned alive the leading Inca general Chalcuchima, a second puppet Inca presented himself—Manco Inca, son of Huayna-Capac.

In Cuzco on November 16, 1533, one year after executing Atahualpa, Pizarro appointed Manco Inca as Inca. In December, he was officially crowned. Presenting themselves as liberators, backers of the Cuzco faction in the civil war, the Spaniards quickly took over the city’s most important buildings and palaces.

From this point, divisions among and between Spaniards combined with a series of mass Indian uprisings against the invaders. Almagro, still stinging from the paltry share of treasure received in Cajamarca, was sent south into Chile in search of further riches. Pedro de Alvarado, fresh from his successes in Mexico and Central America, arrived in Ecuador in February 1534 and headed toward Quito.

Hoping to head off Alvarado’s unauthorized invasion, Pizarro’s captain Sebastián de Benalcázar marched on Quito, took the city, and defeated the remaining Inca armies in the north. With looted treasure he bought off Alvarado, who returned to Guatemala, though many of his men remained.

Soon after, in January 1535, Francisco Pizarro founded a new capital city on the coast, Ciudad de los Reyes, later known as Lima, a corruption of its indigenous name.

Meanwhile, disillusioned by the invaders’ avarice and violence, Manco Inca escaped from Cuzco and in early 1536 led a mass uprising against the Spanish, laying siege to Cuzco with some 100,000 troops. The siege faltered as the rainy season began and his army began drifting away.

Manco Inca retreated into the jungle fastnesses of Vilcacamba, where a rump Inca state resisted Spanish incursions until its selesai destruction in 1572. Soon after Manco Inca lifted the siege of Cuzco in early 1537, Almagro’s expedition returned from Chile, exhausted and empty-handed. Open civil war soon erupted between the Almagro and Pizarro factions.

Almagro was defeated in the Battle of Las Salinas near Cuzco in 1538, after which Hernándo Pizarro executed him, but the war raged on under Almagro’s son, also named Diego de Almagro. In 1541, the Almagrists killed Francisco Pizarro, while a year later Pizarro loyalists under the king’s newly appointed governor Cristóbal Vaca de Castro defeated and killed Almagro the younger.

That same year of 1542 the Crown issued its New Laws, designed to limit the abuses of the encomienda system and prevent the encomenderos from becoming an independent aristocracy beyond royal control. Bridling against these new restrictions on their authority, many encomenderos gravitated toward Gonzalo Pizarro, who violently opposed the New Laws.

After killing the king’s viceroy Blasco Núñez de la Vela in 1546, Gonzalo Pizarro effectively ruled Peru until royalist forces captured, tried, and executed him in 1549. The new viceroy, Pedro de la Gasca, effectively staunched further major challenges to royal authority.

Meanwhile, enormous deposits of silver were discovered in Potosí in 1545, which soon became one of colonial Peru’s main economic pillars. By this time, most Indians had acceded to Spanish authority, though numerous pockets of resistance endured through the 1550s and 1560s, most notably the rump state of Vilcabamba.

In 1572, the new viceroy Francisco de Toledo finally found and crushed Vilcabamba. On September 24 of that year, in the central square of Cuzco, Toledo oversaw the execution of the last Inca, Tupac Amaru.

His execution effectively ended this first phase of organized armed resistance against Spanish domination, though more covert forms of resistance continued for nearly 300 years, while a new round of rebellions, inspired by the first and led by Tupac Amaru II, erupted in the 1780s.

It is not known how many Indians died during the 40 years between the executions of the Incas Atahualpa and Tupac Amaru, though the most conservative estimates range from 3 to 5 million, from a preconquest population of around 7 to 9 million.

As elsewhere, the combination of warfare, atrocity, forced labor, enslavement, and disease caused a precipitous demographic decline, from which populations did not begin to recover until well into the 18th century. As the conquests of the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America that preceded it, the conquest of Peru represents one of the most horrifically violent and destructive episodes in the history of the world.

Viceroyalty of Peru

The largest and second most important political jurisdiction in Spain’s American empire after the Viceroyalty of New Spain, the Viceroyalty of Peru came into being in 1542 during the civil wars that wracked the Andes during the conquest of Peru.
Viceroyalty of Peru

Originally comprising all of South America west of the demarcation line established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, the viceroyalty extended from Panama in the north to Patagonia in the south, and from the Pacific Ocean eastward to a longitudinal meridian at roughly 44 degrees west, excluding parts of northern South America (contemporary Venezuela), which were under the jurisdiction of New Spain. In the late colonial period the Crown carved two new viceroyalties out of the Viceroyalty of Peru: New Granada (1739) and Río de la Plata (1777).

Following the civil wars of the period of conquest, and the major reforms of Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in the 1570s, Peru emerged as a major source of silver bullion, especially from the “mountain of silver” at Potosí.

As elsewhere in the Americas, Spain imposed across the Peruvian Andes a rigid castelike race-class hierarchy in which subordinate Indians, toiling under a modified version of the preconquest mita labor system, provided labor and tribute to Spanish civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and to native kurakas, or community chieftains, who occupied an ambiguous middle ground between the Spanish elite and the masses of Indian laborers.

The violence of conquest and its aftermath prompted a millenarian nativist backlash in the 1560s: the Taki Onqoy movement. Aiming to expel the despised invaders and reestablish a pan-Andean indigenous state, this popular rebellion reproduced many of the divisions and fractures of preconquest indigenous society and was crushed by the 1570s. Popular memories of Taki Onqoy endured throughout the colonial period, however, reerupting in a different form in the major Andean rebellions of the 1780s.

As elsewhere in the Americas, demographic declines in colonial Peru were very steep, though on the whole of a lesser magnitude than those in New Spain (though, as elsewhere, the numbers will never be known with any degree of precision). From an estimated population of 9 million in 1520 for the Andes as a whole, the number of surviving Indians is estimated to have dropped to 1.3 million by 1570, and 600,000 by 1630.

Following a major series of epidemics in 1718–20, the population hovered at around this number to the mid-1700s, climbing gradually thereafter. In a characteristic pattern, highland dwellers on the whole experienced a lesser population decline than inhabitants of the more disease-prone lowland valleys of the Pacific Coast.

Despite the ravages of warfare, forced labor, forced conversion, disease, and the violence of colonial rule, Peru’s indigenous peoples and communities displayed a remarkable resilience, retaining many features of their preconquest cultures and lifestyles.

Despite prodigious efforts, Spanish authorities were never able to extirpate the religious beliefs and practices of Peru’s Indian peoples, while Quechua, Aymara, and related tongues remained the dominant languages among the vast majority.

Centuries-old traditions of planting, harvesting, cooking, eating, herding, weaving, and, in general, conceiving of and acting in the world endured through nearly three centuries of Spanish colonial rule and after, as remains plainly apparent to the present day. The English-language historiography on colonial Peru, like that for colonial Mexico, is exceptionally rich.

Pernambuco (Recife, Brazil)

Pernambuco
Pernambuco

Pernambuco is a state in the northeastern part of Brazil and is the closest South American land to Europe. This area of about 38,585 square miles with a population close to 8 million in the late 20th century was the first area of South America occupied by the Portuguese.

Its geography consists of a coastal plain and a dry semiarid plateau. Pernambuco was originally a captaincy or province. For centuries, Brazil’s main exports were the sugar and cotton of this province, making the area important in Brazilian politics.

The name Pernambuco derives from a tree valued for its lumber, brazilwood, and the red dye it produces. The Native Americans of the area prized the red dye and made their weapons from the tree. The Brazil tree is now endangered, although its wood is still used to make violin bows.

The first European settlers from Portugal called the area Nova Lusitania, meaning “New Portugal,” and a capital was established called Olinda. It was a prosperous area, despite a high incidence of malaria.

The production of sugar and cotton required large numbers of slaves from Portuguese colonies in Africa to supplement the Native American laborers. The prosperity of Recife caused English adventurers to capture and plunder it in 1595.

Throughout the history of the area, landowners have formed an oligarchy that has maintained its own armies and strictly controlled the lives of those who work their lands. Education of the people was never a priority and transportation developed for the convenience of the landowners, not the people at large. Resentment of this toward the Portuguese-born officials grew in this area among the wealthy.

In 1630, the forces of the Dutch West India Company captured Pernambuco and other Portuguese colonies. They moved the capital to Recife on the coast of Pernambuco at the mouth of two rivers. This low-lying area reminded the Dutch of their homeland.

Canals and bridges were built and Recife became known as the Venice of South America. By 1640, Pernambuco sent 24,000 tons of sugar to Amsterdam. The Dutch prince Maurice of Nassau traveled to the area to govern it. Under the Dutch regime many mercantile buildings and homes were build in Recife in the Dutch style.

During the period of Dutch control, the first synagogue in the Americas was built in Recife, Pernambuco. At one time during this period, the Jewish population in Recife was larger than the Jewish community in Amsterdam, Holland. The Jewish presence in Pernambuco disappeared when the Spanish Inquisition of the Catholic Church came to the area with the return of Portuguese power.

Many Jews from Recife fled to New York City, then New Amsterdam. Others fled to the interior of Brazil, where they practiced their religion in secret. In 2000, the Jewish population of Recife sponsored an excavation to uncover the remains of the first synagogue built in the Americas in Recife.

The Dutch remained in power only until 1649. The Dutch forces were ousted not by the armies of the Portuguese monarchy, but by the local peoples themselves. The Mascate War took place in 1710 between the business class of Recife and the wealthy owners of the sugar mills around Olinda.

Later Pernambuco was the location of a revolution, which briefly set up a Republic of Pernambuco in the 19th century. Though the republic lasted only two months, the flag of the republic remains the state’s flag.

William Penn - Colonial Leader

William Penn, a Quaker, founded the English colony of Pennsylvania in 1681. He envisioned his colony as a “holy experiment” where people of different faiths could live in harmony.
William Penn - Colonial Leader

Born in England, William Penn grew up in wealth and privilege. His father, Admiral William Penn, afforded him a university education, several large estates, and important connections to England’s elite. In 1667, Penn became a member of the Society of Friends, a religion founded 20 years earlier by George Fox.

The Friends, called Quakers by their detractors, abandoned formal religious services and sought the “Inner Light” by which God revealed himself to each individual. The Quakers suffered persecution in England, but after his conversion, Penn began to use his wealth and influence to advocate the tolerance of all Protestants in England.

In 1676, Penn looked to America to put his ideas of religious liberty into action when he and several other Quakers became trustees of West New Jersey. However, problems with the charter and the large number of trustees thwarted Penn’s hopes to create a religious refuge. Accordingly, Penn petitioned King Charles II for a land grant of his own.

To cancel the debt of £16,000 that he owed to Penn’s father, the king granted Penn 45,000 square miles of land west of the Delaware River, to be named Pennsylvania (Penn’s Woods). According to the 1681 charter, Penn was made sole proprietor, meaning he could organize Pennsylvania as he wanted so long as it did not violate English law.

Penn dispatched the first settlers in October 1681. This party asserted Penn’s authority over the European colonists and Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indians already living in the region. They also established the colony’s capital of Philadelphia. Penn arrived in late 1682.

From the start, Penn encouraged a variety of Protestants and Europeans to settle in the colony. At his behest, the nascent Pennsylvania legislature in December 1682 issued a law granting full rights of citizenship to all freemen who declared “Jesus Christ to be the son of God” and “saviour of the world.”

Penn also insisted that his colony have no tax-supported religious establishment, not even for Quakers. This and the economic opportunities available in Pennsylvania caused the population to reach 11,000 in 1690.

Despite Penn’s success at religious toleration, his tenure as proprietor was unsteady. He returned to England in 1684, leaving behind incapable governors, and in 1693, a schism led by George Keith divided the colony’s Quakers. The Crown suspended his charter from 1692 to 1695 “by reason of the great neglects and miscarriages” caused by Penn’s absence.

Penn returned in 1699 but found his colonists contentious and uninterested in paying him quitrents on their lands. Frustrated, Penn left two years later but not before issuing the Charter of Privileges, which granted the colonists considerable latitude in crafting their own laws.

The unprofitability of Pennsylvania and Penn’s penchant for extravagance landed him in debtor’s prison in 1707. In 1712, he suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving his wife, Hannah Callowhill, to manage the colony in his stead. After Penn’s death in 1718, the proprietorship passed to his sons.

Peasants’ War

The Peasants’ War in Germany was a series of conflicts among the various princes in Germany and those who worked under them during a time of both economic and religious change in Germany. The best known and documented conflict surrounds Thomas Müntzer and the revolt in the region of Thuringia in Germany.
Peasants’ War

The early 1500s was a time of many changes in Germany. In general, the economy was good, and the peasant farmers were able to provide for themselves and their families reasonably well. There was little central authority in Germany, and each region was ruled by a prince, who had varying amounts of authority and power.

This power was tested in small rebellions by the peasants and townspeople, often with negotiated settlements rather than wholesale slaughter as a result. Peasants were the lowest members of society and had few rights.

Generally they worked mines or farmed land and raised livestock belonging to a prince or nobleman, could not marry without permission, did not own any land, and were taxed heavily. At much the same level were plebeians, or commoners, townsmen who worked for craftsmen or merchants at subsistence levels or were unemployed.

Various religious movements were also having influence on the peasants. Since the time of the bubonic plague with all of the attendant death, there was a rising expectation of the end times prophesied in the book of Revelation in the Bible.

Throughout the previous century, small movements and figures rose, prophesying that Christ’s return was imminent. A very different religious movement, the Reformation, began in 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, when the young monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door.

In his early writings, Luther spoke moderately to both prince and peasant, but many peasants took encouragement from his challenge to the centralized authority of the Roman Catholic Church, advocating a strong role for the local congregation. Their hope was that the local town or trade association would also be strengthened, especially over against the princes.

At the same time, the Reformation heightened the end-time expectations. In 1522, Luther himself had to come out of hiding at Wartburg at great personal risk to deal with the three Zwickau prophets: Thomas Dreschel, Mark Thomas Stübner, and Nicolas Storch.

The three men were agitating the citizens of Wittenberg with their Anabaptist leanings and prophetic visions. Luther succeeded in having them sent out of the city, but that would not be the last time he would have to deal with them.

Conflict between peasant and prince was not unusual. In the early 1520s, there were riots of peasants and other classes in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. Causes were many—for example, in the summer of 1524 revolt broke out in Stühlingen in southern Germany over the countess’s command to gather snail shells on which to wind her yarn.

But the major spark that set off significant battles came in 1524 when Thomas Müntzer returned from Zwickau and Bohemia and began his preaching in the Thuringian city of Allstedt in central Germany.

Müntzer, a former Roman Catholic priest who had wrestled with his faith, had become Lutheran soon after the Reformation began in 1517. In 1520, he ended up in Zwickau and there met Niklas Storch, a weaver with apocalyptic expectations of Christ’s imminent return. Persuaded by Storch’s convictions, Müntzer soon became the preacher in a church attended by many of Storch’s coworkers.

Storch had been proclaiming that the end times were near, that the righteous would soon begin to rise up against the unrighteous (seen as those in authority) and commence the last days prophesied in the book of Revelation.

Müntzer, as a priest and educated man, was able to fill out Storch’s theme. While popular with the masses, such preaching caused the leading townspeople to clamp down on the church, ending with a revolt of the plebeian weavers and others, and Müntzer and Storch’s ejection from the city in 1521.

While Storch, Stübner, and Dreschel went to Wittenberg, Müntzer went on to nearby Prague until he was also expelled from the city. After two years of wandering and preaching, he ended up in Allstedt and there became a popular preacher amongst the peasants and others.

Müntzer’s preaching began to alarm those in authority. In July 1524, Duke John, a prince of Saxony, traveled to Allstedt and ordered Müntzer to preach a sermon. Müntzer, eager to have the opportunity to persuade a prince, thundered against the evil and ungodly, saying, “So don’t let them live any longer the evildoers who turn us away from God.

For a godless man has no right to live if he hinders the godly.” When Luther heard of this, he wrote an attack against Müntzer addressed to the princes. Müntzer responded with two tracts addressed to the people, the latter of which was called The most amply called-for defense answer to the unspiritual soft-living flesh at Wittenberg.

This was a clear call to social revolution and prepared the way for what was to come. The patient Duke John summoned Müntzer to Weimar, telling him to cease his preaching and not leave Allstedt. Müntzer’s response was to leave Allstedt, eventually ending up in the nearby city of Mühlhausen.

In Mühlhausen, a man named Heinrich Pfeiffer had been agitating the poorer citizens to take control of the city. Joined by Müntzer and eventually Storch, the agitation increased to a fever pitch. In March 1525, Müntzer began proclaiming that the new league of peasants should march out to war against the godless.

In response, bands of peasants began sacking convents and monasteries, but there was no organized effort until May 1525, when the peasants had organized themselves into an army of approximately 8,000. By that time, at the request of Duke John, a nearby prince, Philip of Hesse, had arrived with a small army to deal with the problems in Thuringia.

Müntzer marched out to aid the peasants with a band of 300 men and on May 15, the army of Philip of Hesse attacked and quickly routed the peasant army, eventually killing nearly 5,000 of the peasants. For his part in it, Müntzer was tortured and beheaded along with Pfeiffer (Storch escaped but was soon captured and killed).

This was not the end of the Peasants’ War. There were no other battles so significant, but it is estimated that some 100,000 peasants and plebeians were killed in the next several years as the various revolts were put down by the princes. The religious overtones were significant in the Peasants’ War.

They were not the principal cause, but rather the match that ignited the fires of the war. The peasants and plebeians were caught in a time of significant transition. As noted earlier, the peasant class was actually rising in economic stature but was still living in significant poverty in comparison to the middle and upper classes of Germany.

The Reformation gave a broader vision for the equality of the people before God, but it was only the more radical elements that proclaimed a classless society. Luther, himself an advocate of the common people, still perceived the various occupations as God-given and did not advocate a classless society.

In the simpulan analysis, the Peasants’ War was one of many such struggles that are endemic to a society in transition. There is a certain irony that the princes who were most moderate toward their people ended up having to put down more ruthlessly the uprising, but the very moderate stance they took encouraged the hope of those promoting revolution.