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  • In the 15th century, these are  approximately the known lands in Europe.  

  • To the east are the Indies, from where spices  and silk come.

  • In Europe, the trade of these luxury products is controlled by the powerful  Republics of Genoa and Venice.

  • But in 1453, the Ottomans seize Constantinople and bring  down the Byzantine Empire.

  • By extending their influence over the Mediterranean, they put an  end to the golden age of the Italian republics

  • In the west, Portugal dreams of openingnew trade route to the Indies

  • and seizing the monopoly on the spice trade.

  • They take advantage of the development of the caravel,

  • a more robust ship capable of handling the oceans, to send explorations to Africa.

  • In 1484, Christopher Columbus, a Genoese navigator living  in Lisbon,

  • proposes to the Portuguese king to try to reach Asia by sailing west.

  • According to his calculations, Cathay and Cipango, currently China and Japan, are close enough for the crossing to be feasible.

  • But the king rejects the project.

  • Confident, Christopher Columbus  tries his luck with the rival queen of Castile, but in vain.

  • Two years later, while Portugal reaches the Cape of Good Hope,

  • the Spanish monarchy completes the Reconquista by seizing  Granada.

  • Nothing seems to stop its ambitions. It must now catch up with Portugal in its race towards the Indies.

  • The Queen of Castile and the King of Aragon authorize and finance  the expedition of Christopher Columbus.

  • On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus leaves  Palos with three ships and 90 men.

  • After a short stopover in the Canary Islands, they head  west and sail for 36 days into the unknown.  

  • The crew finally see an island, Columbus lands and  meets with the local Taino people.

  • Convinced he has reached the Indies, Christopher Columbus  names them Indians.

  • After a few exchanges, he leaves and explores the surrounding islands.

  • Thinking he is in Asia, he looks for the kingdom of the Great Khan mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo.

  • On an island called Quisqueya, which he renames "La Hispaniola", he builds the fort of the Nativity,

  • leaves 39 men behind and returns with 7 Tainos, gold, pearls, and parrots  as proof of the success of his expedition.  

  • Welcomed as a hero, he returns to the Nativity  a few months later, this time with 1,500 men,  

  • to found a permanent colony of which he would be  the governor.

  • But he finds the 39 men left behind dead.

  • He then founds La Isabela  in honor of the Queen of Castile and continues his explorations.

  • During this time, the Spanish monarchy and Portugal,

  • to avoid conflicts around the newly conquered territories, agree to draw a meridian.

  • The lands to the east can be claimed by Portugal,

  • those to the west by the Spanish monarchy.

  • England in turn begins to search for a new  maritime route to India.

  • An expedition is sent further north and reaches a land that is  unknown to them.

  • Vasco De Gama, for Portugal, crosses the Cape of Good Hope, enters the  Indian Ocean

  • and reaches India on May 20, 1498.

  • A second Portuguese expedition leaves for India, but as it moves away from the coast to take advantage of the sea currents,

  • the expedition reaches a new land located east of the meridian of Tordesillas.

  • There, an exotic wood grows from which can be obtained a red dye like an ember, orBrasain Portuguese.

  • This will later give the name of Brazil to their new colony.

  • While the Spanish colonists discover products  unknown in Europe

  • such as potatoes, tomatoes, tobacco, and cocoa,

  • ships loaded with goldemeralds, and pearls return to Spain,

  • which motivates the departure of many colonists to the new Spanish lands.

  • They bring with them domestic animals, and seeds,

  • but also diseases that were previously unknown to the indigenous populations, who are therefore not immune.

  • These diseases spread throughout the continent faster than the colonists and decimate the populations.

  • In 1506, after a fourth trip, Christopher Columbus dies.

  • A few months later, the word America appears on  a map in honor of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci.

  • The continent would henceforth be called America.

  • In the Spanish territories, colonists impose forced labor on the local populations.

  • But the Spanish monarchy, influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, opposes this mistreatment

  • and tries via new laws to increase its control over the new territories and to improve the condition of the natives.

  • The Catholic Church also sends missionaries to  evangelize the local populations.

  • From the Spanish colonies, conquerors called conquistadors explore everywhere.

  • To the north, they discover a land they name Florida. To the south, an expedition goes inland and discovers a sea on the other side.

  • Finally in 1518, an expedition goes north along the coast, passes a peninsula and meets representatives sent by an emperor.

  • The governor then decides to send a mission there.

  • The conquistador Hernán Cortès leaves Cuba  in 1519.

  • On his way, he recovers a Spanish shipwrecked man who survived eight years in Mayan country,

  • and then he obtains a mistress after a confrontation. Both will assist him as interpreters.

  • Once on dry land, he understands that he is in the Aztec empire,

  • whose capital Tenochtitlan controls the surrounding regions.

  • Impressed by the firearms and horses they have never seen before, some of the people choose to join the Spanish crown.

  • Cortes is guided to Tenochtitlan where the emperor welcomes him peacefully.

  • At the same time, to the south of the continent, Ferdinand Magellan, who is also trying to reach the Indies to the west,

  • passes through a strait that will one day bear his name and enters a new ocean that is unknown to him.

  • In Tenochtitlan, a war breaks out between the Aztecs and Cortés who had been chased out of the capital.

  • He allies with the rebels and enemies of Tenochtitlan, then besieges the city and cuts off its drinking water supply.

  • But the inhabitants suffer above all from smallpox  which decimates the city.

  • After 75 days of siege, Tenochtitlan collapses and Cortes becomes the governor of New Spain.

  • Despite strong resistance, the Spaniards continue  to extend their control in Central America.

  • Spain, which is indebted to German bankers, authorizes  them in return to found a colony in an area where  

  • houses are built on stilts and which is then  named Little Venice or Venezuela.

  • To the south, an expedition goes inland and rumors circulate  about a certain "Piru" kingdom.

  • The navigator Francisco Pizarro then leaves to search for it.

  • He lands and learns that he is in the Inca empire which is in a full war of succession.

  • After several contacts by intermediate embassies, a meeting is organized in Cajamarca with the emperor Atahualpa.

  • But the meeting degenerates and Pizarro arrests the emperor.

  • 9 months later, in spite of the enormous gold and silver ransom received for his liberation,

  • Pizarro executes Atahualpa and then seizes Cusco, the capital of the empire.

  • While strong rivalries appear between the  colonists who want to monopolize the Inca wealth,  

  • in the north of Tomebamba, a pocket of  Inca resistance is organized around the general Rumiñahui.

  • But finding himself in a difficult situation, he decides to burn Quito and to hide all the Inca wealth.

  • Captured and tortured, he does not reveal the location of this treasure which, if it exists, has never been found.

  • Further south, Pizarro founds a capital, the City of Kingswhich later will become Lima.

  • In 1536 in Cuzco, the Incas rebel and take the city.

  • Almagro, Pizarro's ally, who returns from unsuccessful conquests in the south, takes the city and proclaims himself governor of Cuzco.

  • A war breaks out between Pizarro and Almagro.

  • Taking advantage of the chaos, the Incas found the kingdom of Vilcabamba which will resist the Spaniards for 36 years.

  • Further south, a group of populations called the Mapuches,

  • also firmly resist the Spanish intrusions.

  • In the north, Spain continues to enlarge its  territory considerably.

  • The priest Bartolomé de Las Casas denounces the cruel treatments  imposed on the natives.

  • Spain, in 1542, passes new laws in order to return freedom to the slaves by abolishing the encomienda,

  • and by affirming equality of the rights of the natives.

  • In Peru, these laws are very badly received by the colonists.

  • The viceroy tries to make them apply, but a revolt breaks out and he is beheaded.

  • Spain finally manages to regain control of the  region and suspends the conquests in America,

  • although many populations still  resist Spanish colonization.

  • In Europe, new powers are interested in the riches  of America.

  • France, which does not recognize the treaty of Tordesillas, sends expeditions to Brazil.

  • The colony of France Antarctique is founded there. Annoyed by the new competition, the Portuguese destroy the colony in 1560.

  • They then develop colonization by sending expeditions  deep inland in search of mines and slaves.  

  • England also has its eye on America.

  • Irritated by the commercial monopoly that Spain is establishing in the Pacific Ocean,

  • the Queen of England secretly finances an expedition by Francis Drake, who plunders Spanish wealth on the Pacific coast.

  • Further north, Drake founds New Albion in the name of the English crown,

  • before heading west to return to England.

  • At the same time, the Spanish monarchy takes over Portugal.

  • The United Provinces, quickly followed by England,

  • take advantage of this and try to seize the trade routes and the Portuguese colonies.

  • In South America, further inland, a region little explored by the Spaniards and the Portuguese attracts the covetous.

  • For a century, the myth of Eldorado, the city filled with gold, has been widely circulated.

  • This attracts hundreds of European settlers who devastate the region in search of gold, igniting the fury of local populations.

  • This does not prevent the arrival of French, Dutch, and British Protestants

  • who flee Europe in search of lands far from Catholic influences.

  • To the north, the coasts of Newfoundland, rich in fish, are frequented by many fishermen from all over Europe.

  • As early as 1603, France finances new expeditions to explore Acadia and to found a first settlement at Port-Royal.

  • Despite conflicts with the local populations, fishing and fur trading develop.

  • Further southEngland founds Jamestown, its first permanent colony.

  • But while the French accelerate colonization with the creation of Quebec, the English attack Acadia.

  • From then on, the two countries and their respective local allies are constantly fighting over the region.

  • After founding New Amsterdam on an island, the Dutch negotiate with the locals to purchase Manhattan Island

  • in exchange for some goods equivalent to 60 florins, which is currently worth about a few hundred dollars.

  • Also in the south, the Dutch expand their possessions and take over a large part of Brazil.

  • But in 1640, Portugal regains its independence and recovers its territories.

  • The Dutch are expelled and concentrate their efforts in the north of the continent by absorbing New Sweden.

  • At the same time, the British take Jamaica from  the Spaniards to develop the sugar trade.  

  • They also obtain permission to exploit wood on the  coast of New Spain.

  • The growing commercial rivalry between the United Provinces and England provokes a war that turns to the advantage of the British.  

  • At the peace treaty, the United Provinces  cede their North American territories  

  • and recover Suriname, which was occupied by  the British. New Amsterdam becomes New York

  • In the West Indies, mainly the French and the  British take over islands from the Caribs

  • in order to develop large sugar plantations that require a large workforce.

  • European merchants leave for the African coasts where they buy slaves.

  • These are then transported to America to be sold in the mines or on the plantations.

  • Their life expectancy is about 7 years.

  • The ships then return to Europe loaded with precious metals and luxury goods.

  • In the 17th century, this model become so profitable that the slave trade explodes,

  • as does piracy, which flourishes in the Caribbean.

  • Many people are opposed to slavery, notably the Jesuits who found communities throughout America

  • to protect the natives from the colonists.

  • They are evangelized and work for the communities which quickly become rich.

  • But Spain and Portugal will eventually expel them.

  • In the north of the continent, while the  British found Philadelphia,

  • the French, after an expedition, claim Louisiana, and then expand along the rivers to link it to New France.  

  • New France then signs a peace agreement with 39  nations, mainly Iroquois.

  • Fearing that they would be surrounded, the British attack Acadia again and rename it Nova Scotia.

  • The latter, together with Rupert's Land and Newfoundland, are officially annexed in the Treaties of Utrecht

  • which end the War of Spanish Succession. Spain and the United Provinces are weakened,

  • Great Britain is now a great maritime and commercial power.

  • In 1733, it founds Savannah, which stops the Spanish expansion from Florida.

  • From Russia, a Danish captain named Vitus Bering leads mapping expeditions on behalf of the Tsar.

  • After exploring the strait that now bears his name, Bering sights in 1741 the coasts of Alaska

  • and the Aleutian Islands, where he dies.