Chapter 2 Study Guide: European Exploration of the Americas (1492-1700)
This chapter discusses the competition among European countries for control of the Americas from 1492-1700. It also
describes the conquest of many Native American groups, the culture of Spanish colonies, and the origins of slavery in
Section 1: Spain Claims an Empire
Spain and Portugal argue over the Line of Demarcation. The Treaty of Tordesillas decides Portugal gets most of
eastern South America – present day Brazil. Spain becomes the most powerful country.
European countries had 3 main goals during the age of exploration: (Gold, Glory, and God)
1. Spread Christianity beyond Europe (Missionaries were sent to convert Natives.)
2. Wanted to expand their empires
3. Wanted to become rich
Mercantilism is an economic system, which describes how Europeans enriched their treasuries. Colonies helped
them to do this. The colonies’ provided good or markets for the country. They tried to ensure that their imports
did not exceed their exports and there was a favorable balance of trade.
After Columbus’s first voyage there were many explorers to follow.
Amerigo Vespucci – an Italian, who realized that he did not reach Asia but a new continent and had it
named after him by a German mapmaker – America.
Vasco Nunez de Balboa – a Spaniard claimed the Pacific Ocean for Spain.
Ferdinand Magellan – a Portuguese sailor, is credited as the first to sail around the world in 1522.
2 Famous Spanish Conquistadors:
Hernando Cortes – conquers Aztec empire in Mexico. Defeats Aztec emperor Montezuma in 1519.
Francisco Pizarro – conquers Incas in Peru and defeats Incan emperor Atahualpa in 1531.
4 Reasons for Spanish Victories:
1. Spread of European diseases kills million of Native Americans
2. Spanish excellent soldiers and have superior weapons
3. Spain made alliances with Native Americans who were enemies of Aztecs and Incas
4. Spanish conquistadors acted brutally toward the Native Americans under their control
Spain then began to explore other parts of North and South America.
Hernando de Soto set out for Florida.
Francisco de Coronado traveled through South Western USA.
Section 2: European Competition in North America
Europeans searching for a water route through North America to Asia – The Northwest Passage. Many
expeditions but all failed. John Cabot, Jacquire Cartier and Giovanni Verrazano did not find a Northwest
Passage; they found land around present day Canada.
French and English lay claims to land in Americas and angers Spain. Spain responds to the competition and
clashes with England.
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 has two important effects:
1. England remains independent and Protestant.
2. Spain’s image suffers. The world saw that Spain could be beaten and other nations joined England in
France and the Netherlands seek wealth through the fur trade in North America.
Samuel de Champlain – explored the St. Lawrence River and started a fur trading post at Quebec. This
colony was called New France.
Dutch built colony New Netherland located along Hudson River. In 1626 Dutch bought Manhattan Island
from Native Americans and founded colony New Amsterdam.
Section 3: The Spanish and Native Americans
The Church and plantations are central features of Spanish colonial society.
In New Mexico and California the church built missions and the goal of the missions was to convert Native
Americans to Christianity. The mission also increased Spanish control over the land.
Sugar plantations develop in the Americas and were large and raised much money for Spain. They forced Native
Americans to work on the sugar plantations. These crops were exported to Europe. The plantations required
many workers, Spaniards treated Native Americans terribly.
Columbian Exchange – is the movement of living things between hemispheres. One result of the Columbian
Exchange was the transfer of germs from Europe to the Americas. Native Americans had no immunity to them.
But there were positive changes like the adaptation and domestication of plants and animals.
Section 4: Beginnings of Slavery in the Americas
Slavery arises in the colonies with the increasing demand for workers.
The voyage from Africa to America is known as the middle passage. Some colonies establish slave codes to
By the 1600’s slavery (the practice of holding a person in bondage for labor) was firmly established in the
Americas. When the Spaniards and Portuguese founded their colonies in the Americas they brought with them
the plantation system. They tried to enslave the Native Americans to work in mines and fields but they quickly
died from overworking and disease. In some cases Native Americans rebelled with help from local allies. They
looked for other sources of labor. They finally enslaved Africans for labor.
4 Basic Reasons Why Europeans Enslaved Africans:
1. Africans are immune to most European diseases.
2. Africans had no friends or family in the America to help them resist or escape enslavement.
3. Africans provided a permanent source of cheap labor; even their children could be held in bondage.
4. Many Africans were farmers back in Africa.
Slavery began in the Americas to provide a labor force.
The voyage from Africa to the Americas was called the Middle Passage. It was the leg of the triangular trade
route. The triangular trade route refers to the movement of trade ships between Europe, Africa, and the