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 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.

Battles of Panipat

Battles of Panipat
Battles of Panipat

There were three battles fought at Panipat, located 70 miles northwest of Delhi, the strategically important city in northern India and capital of many dynasties. The first one was in 1526 between Ibrahim Lodi, Afghan ruler of the Kingdom of Delhi, and Babur from Ferghana in Central Asia via Afghanistan.

The second battle was fought between Akbar’s (grandson of Babur) forces and those of the grandson of Sher Shah (who had driven Humayun, son of Babur, from India). The third battle took place in 1761 when the Afghans under Ahmad Shah defeated the Maratha Confederacy.

First Battle of Panipat

A fugitive from his birthplace Ferghana, Babur led an army variously cited as 12,000 or 25,000 men from Afghanistan into India and met Ibrahim, ruler of the Lodi dynasty (originally from Afghanistan) that ruled north-central India.

Ibrahim headed a much larger army reputedly 100,000 strong with either 100 or 1,000 elephants. At Panipat, Babur prepared for battle by lashing together 700 carts with leather thongs to form a barricade and placing his matchlock men behind them.

Just as Ibrahim’s charging troops were stopped at the barricade and mowed down by the gunfire of Babur’s men, they were set upon on both flanks by arrows from Babur’s cavalry. In the ensuing rout, 20,000 of Ibrahim’s men died, he among them. Babur ordered Ibrahim buried where he fell; his tomb still stands at the site.

That afternoon Babur sent his eldest son, Humayun, to the Lodi capital at Agra to secure its treasures while he marched to Delhi, where he proclaimed himself emperor, founding the Mughal (Mogul, Moghul) dynasty in India.

Second Battle of Panipat

Akbar died in 1530 soon after establishing the Mughal Empire in northern India. His son and successor was Humayun, whose heavy drinking and opium eating habits rendered him unfit to rule. Driven out of India by an able general of Afghan origin, Sher Shah, he found refuge in Persia.

It was only after Sher Shah’s death and with his descendants fighting among one another for the succession that Humayun was able to return to India in 1555, with Persian aid, to restore his fortunes. He died a year later.

On November 5, 1556, Akbar, Humayun’s 13-year-old son, and his mentor, Bairan Khan, met the forces of Hemu, a powerful Hindu general, at the second Battle of Panipat. Hemu was injured, captured, and executed. With that victory Akbar entered Delhi. This battle resurrected the fortune of the Mughals in India.

Third Battle of Panipat

Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707) was a devout Muslim and persecutor of Hindus. Hindus of the Deccan rallied around a charismatic leader named Shivaji who was proclaimed king of the Marathas in 1674.

His movement continued to gain momentum after his death in 1680, reaching its zenith in the mid-18th century when the Marathas Confederacy controlled lands extending from Hyderabad in the south to Punjab in the north. But the quest for a restored Hindu empire in India came to an end in 1761 when the Marathas were badly defeated by Afghan forces under Shah Durani at the Third Battle of Panipat.

Although the Afghans retreated from India, the Maratha Confederacy never recovered. The British East India Company was the beneficiary and gradually supplanted the by-now-defunct Mughal Empire and the warring Indian factions.

Ottoman-Safavid Wars

Ottoman-Safavid Wars
Ottoman-Safavid Wars

The protracted conflict between the Ottomans and the Safavids was based on territorial and religious differences. Both great empires sought to control vast territories in present-day Iraq, along the Caspian and their mutual borders.

As Sunni Muslims, the Ottoman Empire also disagreed with the Shi’i Safavids over basic religious tenets and practices, similar to the disputes between various Catholic and Protestant powers in Europe.

In 1514, the Ottoman sultan Selim I, father of Suleiman I the Magnificent, declared a holy war against the Safavids, whom he considered heretics. Armed with cannons, the Ottoman army defeated Shah Isma’il, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, and occupied much of northern Persia (present-day Iran).

Suleiman continued the fight against Shah Tahmasp I (reigned 1524–76), but Tahmasp retaliated with a policy of “scorched earth,” making it impossible for the Ottoman forces to live off the land, as was usual for invading armies at the time. Tahmasp also struck an alliance of convenience with the Habsburgs, a major enemy of the Ottomans.

The Ottomans succeeded in taking Tabriz in northern Persia, but, stretched beyond his limits, Suleiman reluctantly signed a treaty with the Safavids in 1555. The Safavids managed to retain control over northern Persia and territory along the Caspian Sea but lost Iraq to the Ottomans. Following Suleiman’s death, Shah Abbas I managed to regain temporary control over Baghdad and Basra in Iraq, but after Abbas died, the Ottomans retook the territories.

The subsequent 1639 peace treaty between the two rival empires established borders that are almost identical to those shared by present-day Iraq and Iran. The two great powers remained enemies but no further warfare broke out.

Over the course of their rivalry, both empires achieved major military victories and suffered military defeats, but neither was able to defeat decisively the other. Their futile warfare undermined the economic and military power of both and was a major factor in their long declines.

Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a centralized absolute regime ruled from the top by the sultan. As in other nomadic and Islamic empires, the Ottomans never developed a legal procedure for accession and this was to be a source of instability and weakness.

The first sultans were among the most able sons of the sultans, and rival brothers were sometimes executed. By the 1600s, the oldest male members of the family were selected as sultans. Thus the sultanate passed among brothers or nephews and other possible heirs were kept under “house arrest” in various palaces.

The Ottoman Empire was a Sunni Islamic state, and although the sultans ultimately took the title of caliph, the Sheikh al Islam was the major religious authority of the state. In keeping with Islamic practice, there was no separation of religious and secular law in the early Ottoman Empire and the Shari’a was recognized as the law of the empire.

The Sheikh al Islam issued fatwas, legal opinions based on Islamic law, on matters ranging from the theological to the practical. Qadis, or Muslim judges, served in the provinces and local towns and muftis were appointed to give legal pronouncements if asked by the qadi.

Religious education was conducted in madrassas throughout the empire and the office of the waqf (pl. awqaf) oversaw religious endowments, many of which had been given by devout Muslims as zakat, or alms. Waqf endowments included hospitals, schools, retirement homes, public fountains, and soup kitchens.

Power Hierarchy

Politically, the vizier was the second-most powerful figure after the sultan. During the 18th century, when the sultans were weak or inept, the viziers, particularly the able and honest Koprülü family, managed the vast bureaucracy and government.

Early sultans governed through the imperial divan, or council, but ultimately the vizier oversaw the divan. A huge number of bureaucrats including scribes, translators, and clerks administered the day-to-day operation of the far-flung empire.

The sultans appointed valis, or governors, to rule over each province. To prevent governors from becoming too powerful, their terms in office were usually short; two years was the average. The constant administrative changes often led to inefficiency and corruption.

As a rule of thumb, the Ottomans exercised more direct authority in the provinces closest to the center of power in Istanbul; remote provinces, far from the center of power, enjoyed considerable autonomy and local families or officials often were the real sources of power.

Because remote regions such as Kuwait and Yemen often only gave an annual tribute to the Ottomans, it was sometimes unclear whether they were actually part of the empire. Unless protracted revolts broke out or people refused to pay taxes, the Ottomans generally interfered little in the daily lives of their subjects.

Militarily, the Janissaries composed the elite forces. They were conscripted through the devshirme system whereby young Christian boys from the Balkans were taken as slaves, converted to Islam, and trained as professional soldiers or administrators whose sole loyalty was to the state.

As the sultans became weaker, the Janissary corps became politically powerful and on occasion overthrew sultans to replace them with individuals of their own choice. The cavalry or sipahis, free-born Muslims, were given land as payment. Ownership of such land grants was sometimes hereditary. There were also a large number of conscripted foot soldiers.


The collection of taxes was a perennial duduk perkara and the Ottomans developed a system of tax farming, or iltizam, in which multazim, tax collectors, were hired to collect taxes throughout the empire.

This system led to considerable abuses, and often unfair tax burdens were placed on the poorest peasants, who lacked the resources or power to avoid payment or to buy off the tax collector. Peasant farmers were often informally tied to the land, much of which was owned by old feudal families who retained their wealth under the Ottomans.

Religious minorities, Christians, Jews, and Armenians, lived under the millet system. They paid an additional tax but maintained their own schools, controlled their local communities, and settled legal disputes among their members.

The Ottoman Empire was remarkably tolerant of minorities, who enjoyed considerable upward mobility and economic freedom. Members of ethnic and religious minorities could and did rise to high positions, including that of vizier or physician to the sultan. Only the position of sultan was reserved for members of the House of Osman.

Agreements of capitulation were signed with foreign powers such as the French. Under the capitulations foreign merchants and others were granted rights to conduct business within the empire and were exempt from Ottoman taxation and laws. When the empire was strong, the capitulations were not a problem, but as the empire declined, the millet system and capitulations became sources of foreign economic and political interference.

Life as A Sultan

The sultan and his household ruled from the Topkapi in Istanbul. Topkapi was a sprawling complex of vast audience halls, throne rooms, living quarters for the harem, pleasure gardens and fountains, and a kitchen large enough to provide daily meals for 2,000 people.

The harem included the sultan’s wives, concubines, eunuchs, and the queen mother or Valide Sultan. Early sultans, like their counterparts in Europe and Asia, often married the daughters or sisters of defeated foes or wed to cement political and military alliances.

By the 16th century, sultans generally did not marry and Suleiman I the Magnificent’s marriage to his beloved Hurrem (Roxelana) was highly unusual. Women of the harem, particularly the Valide Sultan, exerted considerable political power during the 18th century.

They often conspired for their favorite sons to become the sultan. Although early sultans received firsthand training leading military forces and administering Ottoman provinces, by the 17th century royal princes were educated totally within the palace.

Their lack of outside experience and isolation within the harem made them poorly equipped to rule. Seventeenth-century sultans were often spoiled and self-indulgent with little or no awareness of the problems or corruption within ruling circles.

Ottoman Turkish was the language of the ruling elite and government. But as the language of the Qur’an, Arabic enjoyed a special place and was spoken as the first language by the Arabs who composed the majority of the population.

The Ottomans eagerly assimilated the artistic forms and cultures of those they ruled and often synthesized a wide variety of artistic forms into new, vibrant ones. A lavish court life with patronage of the arts evolved. As with most nomadic societies the Ottomans had a rich tradition of textiles and Ottoman artisans were known for their luxurious textiles, carpets, enameled tile work, and armor.

Ottoman Expansion

Following the collapse of Timurlane’s empire, Sultans Mehmed I (r. 1413–21) and Murad II (r. 1421–51) began the process of the reconquest and consolidation of the Ottoman Empire.

Mehmed enjoyed the support of the old Ottoman ghazi fighters and used that military support as the foundation for reestablishing Ottoman control over much of Anatolia and parts of the Balkans. He was contemplating an attack on Constantinople, the famed Byzantine capital, when he died.

His young son Murad failed in his attempts to take Constantinople but through force and clever diplomacy succeeded in establishing Ottoman control over western Anatolia; he also established an Ottoman navy based at Gallipoli while securing an uneasy peace with King Ladislaus of Lithuania and Poland in 1444. He then abdicated to lead a life of spiritual contemplation.

His son, Mehmed II, had been well trained for the sultanate and promptly began careful preparations to take Constantinople. In 1453, after a protracted siege, the city fell to the Ottoman forces and Mehmed entered the city as the new ruler.

Known as Istanbul to the Turks, the city became the new Ottoman capital and a vibrant center for trade and culture. Mehmed II the Conqueror expanded Ottoman control into the Balkans and launched attacks against the Venetians as well as into the Crimea and Iran.

By 1468, he had broken the obdurate Karaman opposition around Bursa and moved into the Black Sea region as well. In 1475, the Tartar khans in the Crimea bowed to Ottoman control.

The Ottomans now controlled territory from the Balkans to the vital Dardanelles Straits to the Crimea and the Black Sea and the Anatolian coast along the Mediterranean. At the time of Mehmed’s death, Ottoman forces were poised to attack Otranto in southern Italy, but with the succession of a new sultan they were called home in 1481, and the attack was never resumed.

Mehmed’s two sons, Jem and Bayezid, struggled over succession to the throne but key military forces supported Bayezid, who outmaneuvered his brother for the sultanate. Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) continued raids into Hungary and along the Black Sea while attacking Venice in 1499.

Following a peace in 1503, the Ottoman navy emerged as the dominant force in the eastern Mediterranean. Bayezid also entered into a protracted and ultimately futile series of conflicts with the rival Safavid dynasty in Iran.

In 1512, as the Safavids threatened Ottoman territories, the ailing Bayezid turned over the throne to his able son Selim. Known as “the Grim,” Selim I (r. 1566–74) had extensive military experience and moved quickly against the Safavids under Shah Ismail, who scorched the earth as he retreated from eastern Anatolia around Lake Van.

Selim then turned his army against the Mamluks in Syria and Egypt. Previous Ottoman attacks on the Mamluks had failed, but by the early 16th century, the Mamluks had been seriously weakened by the perpetual rivalries among their leaders and the loss of lucrative trade to the Portuguese navy and merchants, who had established maritime trading posts in key African and Asian ports.


In 1516, Selim defeated the Mamluks in northern Syria near the city of Aleppo; he appointed Ottoman governors to administer the northern regions close to Anatolia but local leaders remained powerful in southern Syria. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus were the main power bases in Syria.

The last Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, who had been living under Mamluk protection, was captured and taken to Istanbul. He died in 1543, thereby formally ending the Abbasid line of the caliphate. Selim also confronted the Mamluks outside Cairo. After a short struggle, Cairo fell and in 1517 all of Egypt came under Ottoman control.

However the Ottomans retained the Mamluks as titular rules of Egypt under Ottoman suzerainty. The Ottoman sultan now controlled territory from the Balkans to the Nile including the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The sultans adopted the title caliph but it held little real meaning. However, the Ottomans believed themselves to be the protectors of the Islamic world and of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Hijaz in Arabia.

When Selim died, his only son, Suleiman, inherited an empire at the peak of its power and wealth. Suleiman ruled for 46 years and continued his forebears’ traditions of military conquest. After taking the island of Rhodes from the Knights of St. John, who escaped to the island of Malta, and the city of Belgrade, Suleiman moved to confront his major enemy, the Habsburg dynasty of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire.

To counter Habsburg power, Suleiman entered into alliances with the French rulers, who viewed the Habsburgs as impediments to their territorial ambitions. Similarly, the Venetians wavered back and forth between alliances with the Habsburgs to counter Ottoman expansion and with the Ottomans to counter Austrian power.

At the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Suleiman won a major victory that was followed by Ottoman forces’ occupying the cities of Buda and Pest in Hungary. The Ottomans also fought Russia over territories in the Balkans and Black Sea.

In 1529, Suleiman led the Ottoman army deep into Austrian territory and laid siege to Vienna. However, he failed to take the city before winter and as Ottoman troops refused to fight during winter months, he was forced to retreat without taking the city.

The Ottomans took Baghdad in 1554 and again in 1639 from their Safavid rivals. Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) was largely controlled from Mosul in the north and by various Mazelike in the south. Suleiman died in 1655 while on yet another campaign into Hungary.

Although the Ottoman Empire was the major land power of the age, it was also a major naval power. In 1533 Khair ad Din (c. 1475–1546) became admiral in chief of the Ottoman navy. Khair ad Din and his brothers had been notorious privateers in the Mediterranean and entered into the Ottoman service in the early 16th century.

Known as Barbarossa, “Red Beard,” Khair ad Din defeated the Austria fleet of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, at the Battle of Preveza in 1538, thereby establishing Ottoman ascendancy throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

North Africa

Algiers and Tunis in North Africa were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and thousands of loyal Ottomans were settled in Algiers as further protection against Spanish incursions.

Although the Spanish were able to establish outposts along the northern Moroccan coast, the Moroccan Sa’did dynasty used gunpowder armaments to repel both Ottoman and Spanish attacks; thus Morocco never became part of the Ottoman Empire. When Khair ad Din died, his son Hasan Pasha was made bey, or ruler, of Algiers.

In North Africa, the Ottomans exercised loose control over the territories through appointed pashas, Janissary forces, and local beys and deys, who frequently competed with one another for actual political power.

In Tunis during the early 18th century, an Ottoman cavalryman established the Husaynid dynasty, which, although it paid lip service to Ottoman suzerainty, was largely independent. It lasted into the mid-20th century, when Tunisia became an independent nation.

Although the Ottoman navy failed to take Malta, it was ascendant throughout most of the Mediterranean in the 16th century. However, in 1571 unified Christian European forces were victorious over the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto.

Based in Egypt and in Basra in present-day Iraq, Ottoman ships extended their reach to Yemen and Aden in the southern Arabian Peninsula and even raided along the Indian coast. Suleiman’s son Selim II (reigned 1566–74) conquered Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean and his successor Murad III (reigned 1574–95) continued Ottoman territorial gains until 1683.

At its fullest extent in 1683, Ottoman territory included all of the Balkans and much of Hungary in Europe, the entire Black Sea coast and Crimea in the north; the western shores of the Caspian Sea in the east; the eastern Mediterranean coast and islands, the Arab provinces of greater Syria (present-day nations and territory of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan), Iraq, and most of Arabia including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; and in the west Egypt and North Africa (present-day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria) to the borders of Morocco. During the 18th century, a series of weak sultans contributed to a decline of Ottoman strength and to the gradual end to their military victories.

Ottoman Decline

The long decline of the Ottoman Empire was caused by a variety of internal and external factors. During the 17th century, a series of inept sultans failed to provide dynamic military and political leadership of their able predecessors. Corruption and inefficiency grew with few if any attempts at necessary reforms.

The cultural and political life of the empire began to ossify. Externally, European rivals grew in political, military, and economic power. New Portuguese-controlled sea routes to India were formidable competition to the overland trade routes controlled by Muslim states, especially the Ottoman Empire.

The increase of trade over sea routes developed during the age of exploration by European powers, thereby contributed to the emergence of Europe as the dominant world force by the 19th century. The discovery of vast amounts of gold and silver in the Western Hemisphere also increased the revenues flowing into European treasuries.

This new wealth enabled European rulers to mount increasingly well-armed military forces. Silver flooded into Ottoman territories and caused a drop in the value of Ottoman exchange as well as major inflation. As Ottoman conquests ceased, the treasury was no longer replenished with booty and goods from defeated foes.

The Ottomans also gradually lost the military technological edge they had previously held. In addition, protracted wars with the rival Safavid Empire in the east sapped vital economic and military reserves.

A series of weak, inept sultans increased the political weakness of the empire and made it difficult for it to respond with dynamic reforms or responses to the internal and external challenges. Sultan Ibrahim (reigned 1640–48) was so quixotic and self-indulgent that the Janissaries and Sheikh al Islam deposed him in favor of his young son, Mehmed IV (reigned 1648–87).

To preserve the throne for her son, Mehmed’s mother interfered and secured the appointment of the able and efficient Mehmed Koprülü as vizier. During this era, the Koprülüs were largely responsible for running the government and for initiating some reforms that helped to preserve the empire.

The so-called long war between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans from 1593 to 1606 was an early indication of Ottoman military decline. The Ottomans retained most of their holdings in the Balkans, in spite of local revolts, but the Ottoman sultan was forced to recognize the Habsburg ruler as a fellow emperor.

The Ottoman military decline was marked by the loss to the so-called Holy League of Austria, Poland, and Venice during the Balkan Wars of 1683–97. The Ottomans again laid siege to Vienna in 1683 and for a short time it appeared the city might surrender.

Then Polish forces came to the rescue and defeated the attacking Ottoman army. This marked the last attempt by the Ottomans to take the city. Subsequently, the Habsburgs pushed the Ottomans south of the Danube and Venice took portions of Greece and the Adriatic coast, while the Russians attacked in the Crimea.

The defeated Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 whereby all of Hungary, including Transylvania in present-day Romania and the northern Balkan territories of Croatia and Slovenia, were ceded to Austria. Large portions of the Dalmatian coast were taken by Venice but regained by the Ottomans in 1718.

Although the Ottoman Empire was severely weakened by the mid-18th century, its decline lasted longer than the entire histories of most world empires and the empire would not finally collapse until the 20th century.



Osaka is situated on both banks of the Yodo River and along the eastern shoreline of Osaka bay. Osaka’s old name was Naniwa. According to legend it was founded by Jimu, the first legendary emperor of Japan, who landed in Osaka bay in 660 b.c.e. In 313 c.e., Emperor Nintoku made Osaka his capital.

Various other emperors in subsequent times, such as Kotoku in 645 and Shomu in 724, also resided in Osaka. However, the city of Osaka gained prominence in the 16th century when it became a popular Buddhist religious center.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the castle of Osaka on the site of the great Buddhist monastery and made it his headquarters as he dominated Japan in the late 16th century. Osaka also rose to economic prominence as the city, along with Kobe and Yokohama, became the main trading links with Korea and China. Osaka became even more important under the Tokugawa Shogunate and was established as the commercial capital of Japan.

Christianity was first preached in Osaka by Father Gaspar Vilela in 1559. By 1564, five churches were erected in Osaka City and its periphery. Between 1577 and 1579, the number of Christians in Osaka were estimated at between 9,000 and 10,000, which grew to an estimated 25,000 by 1582.

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
On April 20, 1598, Spanish captain-general Don Juan de Oñate approached the Rio Grande, then known as the Río del Norte, the River of the North. Oñate led an expedition that represented the first determined attempt by Spain to colonize the region explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado more than 50 years before, in 1540–42.

Oñate led a large expedition consisting of more than 100 families, almost 300 single men, numerous wagons, and 7,000 cattle. An advance detachment was led by Oñate’s nephew, Captain Vicente de Zaldívar. Unlike many other explorers who were peninsulares, those who were born in Spain, Oñate himself was a criollo, a Spaniard born in the New World.

Oñate was born to Cristóbal de Oñate and Catalina de Salazar in about 1550. He made an important marriage, which certainly aided his rise to power and influence. His wife was a descendant of both the conquistador Hernán Cortés and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. Oñate and his wife had a son and a daughter together.

On September 21, 1595, Oñate was awarded a contract by King Philip II of Spain to explore the region north to the Rio Grande and settle what became New Mexico, but numerous delays forced his departure to be held back until 1598. The cost of the expedition was entirely Oñate’s, with the king’s receiving a percentage of the wealth expected to be generated by the new colony.

So on April 30, 1598, Oñate in a formal ceremony took possession of the region in the name of King Philip II. The most important part of Oñate’s expedition was the military contingent, probably led by Capitan Zaldívar, since he held the position of sergeant-major of the Oñate forces.

The main weapon of the Spanish soldiers was the matchlock musket. Crossbows like the ones used by the Spanish in Cortés’s conquest of Mexico in 1519–21 were still in use by the Spanish but were apparently left behind in Mexico City when Oñate embarked on his march north.

However, in the heat of Mexico and the Southwest United States, many Spaniards wore cotton padded armor adopted from the Aztecs (Mexica), which gave good protection against the arrows the hostile Indians used against them. Curiously enough, Spanish troops carried heart-shaped shields called adargas well into the 18th century. Sidearms were long Spanish rapiers and for the cavalry, a pair of matchlock pistols.

Coronado had experienced some fierce fighting with the Pueblo Indian tribes of the Rio Grande valley, and Oñate was fully conscious that his entrance could be marked by combat with the native inhabitants.

Therefore, he followed strict military discipline throughout his expedition. After they reached the North Pass on the River (El Paso del Norte), they faced a trip of some 60 miles through a region so arid and hot that ever after the Spanish would call it El Jornado del Muerte (Route of Death).

Once among the Pueblo Indians Oñate used the feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24 to stage a sham battle with the intention of intimidating them with his Spanish cavalry and infantry.

New Mexico Established

Apparently, Oñate’s show of force worked, because on July 28, without interference, he established New Mexico’s first capital at the pueblo of San Juan de los Caballeros of the Tewa tribe, which he named in honor of the men who had ridden north with Coronado years before.

Ultimately Oñate began the construction of San Gabriel as a more permanent capital, perhaps feeling uneasy about the dangers of a surprise attack at night if he remained in the Tewa village.

Although Christianization of the Indians was always noted as a reason for Spanish expeditions, the vast treasures that Cortés had found in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru guaranteed that the search for gold and silver would always be a paramount reason for any expedition, and Oñate’s was no different.

He was determined, however, to keep all exploration and mineral discovery under his own personal control and carried out severe punishments against those who disregarded his orders. With the nearest Spanish forces hundreds of miles to the south, such strict discipline would be the only thing that would keep such an expedition together and safe while surrounded by potentially hostile Indians.

Oñate’s grim emphasis on discipline soon proved to have been justified. In December, Juan de Zaldívar, Vicente’s brother, and some soldiers accepted the hospitality of Chief Zutucapan at the pueblo of Acoma. Once they were settled in their quarters, Zutucapan sprang a trap, and Zaldivar and some 10 Spanish were slaughtered.

In January 1599, Oñate sent Vicente on a punitive expedition against Acoma, his infantry and cavalry supported now by two pieces of Spanish artillery known as culverins. When the Acomans refused to submit, Zaldivar attacked. Although he was heavily outnumbered, his artillery slaughtered the Acomans. Captives were taken before Oñate, whose punishment was severe.

With the danger from hostile Indians behind him, Oñate spent more time in an illusory search for gold and silver mines. In December 1600, he embarked on a long expedition.

His search for riches took his attention from the settlement of the colony and many people who were disillusioned with his rule returned to Mexico, then called New Spain. Although his search for gold and silver proved fruitless, he became the first Spaniard since Coronado to explore as far north as Kansas to the settlement that Coronado knew as Quivera.

At some point, his love of exploration eclipsed his lust for gold. Even as disgruntled former colonists were spreading rumors of vice and brutality against him, Oñate undertook a tamat journey of exploration as far as the Gulf of California.

Although ordered back by the new king, Philip III, in 1607 to face charges, Oñate remained until Sante Fe was built. When in 1608 a new governor was sent to replace Oñate, he finally returned to Mexico City.

Omani Empire in East Africa

Ruin of Omani Empire Palace
Ruin of Omani Empire Palace

The Omani empire in East Africa was based on the Swahili coast, which extended from present-day central Somalia to Cape Delgado in southern Mozambique. It included a number of islands and archipelagos in the Indian Ocean.

There were more than 400 urban settlements of varying sizes. The trading networks within the interior extended from 20 to 200 miles. The trade provided a valuable intermediary between the African interior and the vast Indian Ocean trade.

This lucrative trade had been disrupted by the arrival of the Portuguese after 1498. The non-Muslim Portuguese had interfered with the Muslim Swahili trading connections without offering security. Consequently they were attacked by the Turks by the coast and the Jagga and Zimba from the interior.

Treasure hunts for gold and silver and slave-hunting expeditions disrupted the interior trade just as Portuguese opposition to Islam disrupted the Indian Ocean aspect of the trade. In the early 17th century, the cities sought liberation from Portugal and called in the Omanis from southeastern Arabia.

The Omanis were a good fit as they had been trading partners with the Swahili city-states for centuries, were fellow Muslims, and used the Arabic alphabet, as did the Swahili.

They had also been threatened by the Portuguese, who sought to control their strategic position of the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. Thus they were glad to arrive in the 1640s to attack the Portuguese.

Between 1640 and 1730, they conquered all of the Swahili cities from Somalia to the border between Tanganyika and Mozambique. By 1730, Zanzibar had emerged as the most important Swahili city and the Omanis and an Omani governor were established there.

But though the Omanis came as allies and liberators, they remained as conquerors through appointing representatives in each city. Over the next half-century, the Swahili cities grew tired of Omani taxes and there were periodic revolts.

There were temporary overthrows of Omani representatives, but these would be put down. The only city to regain authority was Mombassa under the Mazrui family. They were partially protected in their harbor by Fort St. Jesus, the fortress built by the Portuguese for their military headquarters.

During the 18th century, old trade patterns reemerged under Omani rule due to increased demand for slaves, the availability of capital from places such as India to finance trade, and the willingness of Africans in the interior to take slaves and ivory to the coast.

There were effects of the new emphasis on slaves, which replaced the earlier trade in gold (with Zimbabwe) and copper (from Katanga). The international trade for slaves made Omani sultans rich; it also turned communities against each other. Former African trading partners of the Swahili raided each other (encouraged by Omanis to take persons to sell as slaves).

Some of the smaller Swahili settlements disappeared as they were not defensible against voracious slave traders. Overall, the Swahili city-states did not regain the wealth that they had experienced during the golden era of 1300–1500.

Internally the people began to identify with Omani conquerors. Inside Swahili cities Omani soldiers of fortune expropriated large tracts of land although many were actually ethnic Baluchis. Many upper-class Swahili found it advantageous to intermarry with Omanis and even claim Arab ancestry.

These internal changes plus the participation of wealthy coastal people in the interior slave trade and the owning of slaves from the interior created a chasm between the coast and the interior that persists to this day.

By 1800, the Omani empire in East Africa faced new challenges as the English and French established themselves off East Africa in the Comoros and Madagascar (French), as well as Mauritius and Seychelles (English).

Oda Nobunaga - Japanese General

Ashikaga Shogunate and took control of half of Japan, becoming the virtual dictator in the 1570s. He ended a number of civil wars that had been waged throughout Japan, but his early death ensured renewed fighting.

Oda Nobunaga was born in 1534 in Owari Province in Honshu. His father was a government official who served under the Ashikaga Shogunate and became wealthy.

After his father’s death when he was 17, he grew the family landholdings and made himself lord of Nagoya Castle, which became his first headquarters, where he raised and trained a loyal band of military retainers. Oda began his conquests in 1555. Meeting with success, he decided to lead his men to reunify Japan.

Nobunaga’s first aim was to secure his flanks from attack, and he formed an alliance in 1562 with Matsudaira Motoyasu, who later became Tokugawa Ieyasu, that secured his heartland of Owari, a fertile region of Japan, with Nagoya as an important trading city. Next he moved his army toward Kyoto, the imperial and shogunal capital. Nobunaga used new military technology, including the arquebus and muskets, to great advantage.

In 1568, Nobunaga started to involve himself in Kyoto politics, first by supporting the new shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki. He would later oust him in 1573, thus ending the Ashikaga Shogunate. To protect his position, Nobunaga then built the mighty Azuchi Castle on Lake Biwa.

With the reins of government in his hands, Nobunaga was determined to make important changes. One of his first acts was to remove road tolls, to help increase domestic trade and diminish the wealth and control of the local daimyo (nobles) who collected them.

Azuchi Castle
Azuchi Castle
Another of his targets was the powerful Buddhist Tendai sect, headquartered at Enryakuji. Nobunaga was successful and destroyed most of the Enraykuji monastery. Another Buddhist sect, the Ikko sect, however, proved to be more of a problem.

Nobunaga began to battle them from 1570. After bitterly fought campaigns, he finally prevailed in 1580, capturing their headquarters near Osaka and massacring the rest of the remaining defenders.

Nobunaga was a harsh and vengeful ruler who forced many of his opponents to commit suicide. But he was generous to his supporters and rewarded them with confiscated farms and land previously owned by the temples. Nobunaga was friendly toward Christian missionaries and allowed Jesuits to build a church in Kyoto. His motives included the belief that Christianity would erode the influence of the Buddhist sects.

By 1582, Nobunaga had defeated many of his opponents, had unified much of the country, and had nearly half the provinces of Japan under his rule. On June 21, 1582, Nobunaga was ambushed while at Honnoji, a temple of the Nichiren sect located near Kyoto, by Akechi Mitsuhide, an aggrieved vassal.

Oda Nobunaga began the work of establishing a unified government in Japan after power had slipped away from the declining Ashikaga Shogunate. His career was cut short, but his goals were continued by his greatest general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Obrajes in Colonial Latin America

Obrajes in Colonial Latin America
Obrajes in Colonial Latin America
Obrajes (roughly, workshops) were key enterprises in the developing economies of Spain’s American colonies, principally as sites where wool, cotton, and other fibers were carded, spun, and woven into textiles. While indigenous peoples had woven cloth for millennia, the obraje was an exclusively Spanish imposition.

From modest beginnings in the 1530s, obrajes developed over time into quasi-industrial enterprises, some with several hundred laborers, mostly Indian, under their roofs.

Working conditions were typically harsh, with long hours, poor ventilation, frequent physical abuse, and low or nonexistent pay (Indian labor and tribute were required under encomienda and related institutions). Most obrajes were thus more akin to penal sweatshops than to workshops, as conventionally understood.

The earliest known descriptions of obrajes date to the late 1530s in New Spain (Mexico). By the early 1600s, from 98 to 130 obrajes were scattered across central New Spain, clustering around the urban centers of Puebla, Mexico City, Texcoco, and Tlaxcala.

By 1600, most obrajes averaged around 50 laborers, making the total number of workers engaged in obraje production in New Spain around 6,000, though there was a spectrum from large to small; the latter were often called trapiches.

Scholars have traced the origins of private or non-state-mediated Spanish-Indian labor relations (i.e., non-encomienda, non-repartimiento) to such early colonial period obrajes—labor frequently supplemented by prisoners and convicted criminals.

Captured English sailor Miles Philips was sentenced to work in an obraje in Texcoco around 1570. “We were appointed by the Vice Roy to be carried unto the town of Texcuco ... in which towne there are certaine houses of correction and punishment for ill people called Obraches ... into which place divers Indians are sold for slaves, some for ten years, and some for twelve.”

Philips’s companion, Job Hortop, described his experiences carding wool in Texcoco’s obrajes “among the Indian slaves.” Their descriptions of “Indian slaves” corresponded with Spanish custom and law, in which obraje laborers were frequently called slaves.

The development of obrajes was encouraged by both the Crown and the highest levels of colonial government, with authorities such as New Spain’s first viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, actively promoting sheep herding, wool production, and manufacture of cheap cloth within the colonies.

By the late 1600s, obrajes had become an important pillar of the colonial economy in New Spain and elsewhere, generating textiles and other goods mainly for internal consumption. In the 17th and 18th centuries, opposition to royal support for obrajes by Spain’s textile manufacturers mounted, though it remained insufficient to retard the growth of colonial production and exchange.

Similar developments unfolded in colonial Peru. As in New Spain, obrajes emerged in the decades after the conquest with official encouragement and support, especially around Quito, which by the early 17th century had become South America’s leading textile manufacturer.

Quiteño cloth, prized for its high quality, was produced by both indigenous “community obrajes” that employed ancient techniques for carding, spinning, and weaving wool (some housing upward of 200 full-time workers) and smaller, privately owned obrajes similar to those in New Spain.

Overall, obrajes illuminate key aspects of colonial Latin American history, including land and labor relations, the intersections of Spanish and Indian worlds, and the role of the state in promoting specific types of production and exchange within the colonies.