HST 141                                                                                                                                                                      Dr. Kerns


The Unfinished Nation: Chapter 1 The Meeting of Cultures


Chapter 1 Main Themes:


  1. The colonization of the Americas represented a collision of European and Native American cultures that had been developing along completely different lines for thousands of years.


  1. A variety of ambitions and impulses moved individuals and nations to colonize the New World, including long-standing demographic and economic changes, religious tensions wrought by the Protestant Reformation, and international rivalries among the European powers.


  1. The collision of cultures in North America yielded many biological and cultural exchanges that remade both the Old and New Worlds.


  1. The varied motives of the colonizers and their experiences prior to immigrating worked to shape their attitudes toward Native American cultures and helped determine the sociopolitical arrangements in the new colonies.


  1. Other than in New Mexico and what would become the American Southwest, North American native peoples were relatively unaffected by European colonization until the arrival of the English, French, and Dutch in the seventeenth century.



A thorough study of Chapter 1 should enable the student to understand:


  • The history of Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans to the New World.


  • The varied societies, populations, and cultures of Native Americans at the time of Christopher Columbus.


  • The economic, demographic, and political changes in Western Europe that spurred colonization of new lands.


  • The rise of the Spanish Empire, from Christopher Columbus to the age of "conquistadores."


  • The evolution of the Spanish Empire's treatment of Native American peoples.


  • The biological and cultural exchanges between the New and Old Worlds, including the diseases and crops brought from Europe.


  • The African cultures from which black slaves were taken, and the early development of the African slave trade.


  • The economic and religious motives propelling English colonization of the New World.


  • The early experience of the French and Dutch in North America.


  • The first efforts of the English to establish a colony in the New World, the lessons they took from their experience in Ireland, and the reasons for their early failures.




Capitalism   An economic system based on the investment of resources (money, capital) in various enterprises in the hope of making a profit.


Conquistadores   Spanish for "conqueror." Conquistadores, such as Hernando Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, led military expeditions in the New World in order to claim lands and resources for Spain and to subjugate the Native American empires they encountered on their way.


Coureurs de Bois   Adventurous French trappers and fur traders who penetrated far into the North American wilderness and developed an extensive trade that became one of the underpinnings of the French colonial economy.


Demography   The statistical study of human populations, especially with reference to size, density, distribution, and vital statistics such as sex or family size. Using computers to store, sort, and retrieve the considerable data available to them, historians have conducted complex demographic studies and shed new light on social life in early America.


Encomiendas   The Spanish right to exact tribute and labor from Native Americans on large tracts of land, granted by Don Juan de Onate to favored Spaniards in what would become the American Southwest.


Feudalism   A political, social, and economic system that existed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Based on the ownership of land and the obligations of tenant to lord, feudalism tended to fragment power and authority. By the end of the fifteenth century, it was being replaced by centralized governments in nation-states, but aspects of the feudal system remained in parts of Europe for centuries.


High Church   The party within the Church of England that retained many of the Catholic ceremonies and practices that the Puritans opposed and wished to purge from the church.


Mercantilism   Economic philosophy popular in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe which argued that one person or nation could grow rich only at the expense of another, and that a nation's economic health depended, therefore, on a "favorable balance of trade" (selling as much as possible to foreign lands while buying as little as possible from them.)


Mestizos   People of mixed Spanish and Native-American blood, who came to numerically dominate the colonies of the Spanish Empire.