Bruce Morrison » The Atlantic World, 1492–1800

The Atlantic World, 1492–1800

Europeans explore and colonize the Americas, disrupting native civilizations, and build the slave trade to support plantations in the New World.


Section 1: Spain Builds an American Empire

Section 2: European Nations Settle North America

Section 3: The Atlantic Slave Trade

Section 4: The Columbian Exchange and Global Trade


Section 1: Spain Builds an American Empire

The voyages of Columbus prompt the Spanish to establish colonies in the Americas.


The Voyages of Columbus


First Encounters

  • Genoese sea captain Christopher Columbus reachesAmericas(1492)
  • Thinks he is inEast Indies, calls natives “los indios”—Indians
  • Actually lands on an island, probably in theBahamas
  • Unable to find gold, he claims many islands forSpain
  • In 1493, he sets out for theAmericasagain with a large fleet
  • Spainaims to set up colonies—lands controlled by a foreign nation


Other Explorers Take to the Seas

  • Pedro Álvares Cabral claimsBrazilfor Portugal (1500)
  • Amerigo Vespucciidentifies South America as new continent (1501)
  • In 1507, German mapmaker names the continentAmerica
  • Vasco Núñez deBalboareaches the Pacific Ocean
  • FerdinandMagellanleaves to sail around the world (1519)
  • Magellan is killed, but some of his men return toSpainin 1522


Spanish Conquests in Mexico



  • In 1519, HernandoCortés—Spanish adventurer—lands inMexico
  • He and others become known asconquistadors—Spanish conquerors


Cortés Conquers the Aztecs

  • Cortés and 600 men reach Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán
  • By 1521, they conquer Aztec empire
  • Conquest aided by superior weapons, Native American allies
  • European diseases wipe out large numbers of Aztecs


Spanish Conquests in Peru


Another Conquistador

  • Spanish conqueror FranciscoPizarroleads force to Peru in 1532


Pizarro Subdues the Inca

  • Pizarro killsAtahualpa—Inca ruler—and defeats the Inca


Spain’s Pattern of Conquest

  • Spanish men and Native American women have children
  • Result is largemestizo—mixed Spanish and native—population
  • Encomienda system—Spanish force Native Americans to work for them


The Portuguese in Brazil

  • In 1530s, Portuguese settle inBrazil, begin growing sugar


Spain’s Influence Expands


Growth of Spanish Power

  • Conquests inAmericasbring great wealth to Spain
  • Spainenlarges its navy to protect ships carrying treasure


Conquistadors Push North

  • JuanPonce de Leónclaims Florida for Spain (1513)
  • In 1540s, FranciscoCoronadoexplores Southwest, finds little gold
  • Catholic priests set up missions in Southwest
  • In early 1600s, Spanish establish capital ofSanta Fe


Opposition to Spanish Rule


Protests Against Mistreatment

  • Catholic priests protest mistreatment of Native Americans


African Slavery and Native Resistance

  • Spainabolishes encomienda system (1542)
  • Need for workers in mines and on farms met with enslaved Africans
  • Some Native Americans resist Spanish conquerors
  • In 1680, Popé leads rebellion against Spanish in modernNew Mexico
  • Spanish driven out, but return 12 years later to stay


Section 2: European Nations Settle North America

Several European nations fight for control of North America, and England emerges victorious.


Competing Claims in North America


Other European Claims in North America

  • French, English, Dutch start colonies inNorth America


Explorers Establish New France

  • Samuel deChamplainfounds Quebec
  • New France—French colony inNorth America
  • New France includes Great Lakes andMississippi Rivervalley


A Trading Empire

  • New Franceis very large but has few inhabitants
  • Main activity of the colony is the fur trade


The English Arrive in North America


The First English Colony

  • King James permits investors to start North American colony
  • In 1607, colonists foundJamestown—English settlement inVirginia


The Settlement at Jamestown

  • Early years very difficult; many die, but settlement takes hold


Puritans Create a “New England”

  • Pilgrims—group persecuted for religion—foundPlymouth in 1620
  • Puritans—group seeking religious freedom—settle inMassachusetts
  • Many families inMassachusettscolony, which begins to grow



The Dutch Found New Netherland

  • In 1609, Henry Hudson explores waterways for Dutch
  • Dutch claim land, foundNew Netherland—nowAlbany and New York City
  • Dutch focus on fur trade; welcome settlers from other lands


Colonizing the Caribbean

  • European nations also start colonies inCaribbean
  • Large cotton, sugar plantations worked by enslaved Africans


The Struggle for North America


The English Oust the Dutch

  • New Netherlandsplits northern, southern English colonies
  • In 1664, English force Dutch colonists to surrender control
  • By 1750, about 1.2 million English settlers in 13 colonies


England Battles France

  • English settlers, pushing west, collide with French possessions
  • French and Indian War—part of Seven Years’ War—begins (1754)
  • In 1763,Franceloses to Britain, gives up its American colonies


Native Americans Respond


A Strained Relationship

  • French and Dutch fur traders get along well with Native Americans
  • English settlers and Native Americans disagree over land, religion


Settlers and Native Americans Battle

  • Hostility often breaks out into war
  • Native American ruler Metacom launches attacks on colonists in 1675


Natives Fall to Disease

  • Wars are less deadly to Native Americans than European diseases
  • Colonists use enslaved Africans to work in place of Native Americans


Section 3: The Atlantic Slave Trade

To meet their growing labor needs, Europeans enslave millions of Africans in the Americas.


The Causes of African Slavery


Slavery in Africa

  • Slavery has existed inAfricafor centuries, but been minor practice
  • Spread of Islam produces more slavery inAfrica
  • In African, Muslim lands, slaves have some rights


The Demand for Africans

  • Need for workers inAmericasraises demand for enslaved Africans
  • Africans withstand diseases, have farming skills, unlikely to escape
  • Atlantic slave trade—forced movement of many Africans toAmericas


Spain and Portugal Lead the Way

  • By 1650, about 300,000 enslaved Africans in Spanish colonies
  • Portugalbrings many more slaves to sugar plantations in Brazil


Slavery Spreads Throughout the Americas


England Dominates the Slave Trade

  • From 1690 to 1807,Englanddominates slave trade
  • About 400,000 enslaved Africans brought to North American colonies


African Cooperation and Resistance

  • Many African rulers capture people to be sold into slavery
  • Later, some rulers protest the trade


A Forced Journey


The Triangular Trade

  • Triangular trade—trade network linking Europe, Africa,Americas
  • One trade route:

- manufactured goods move from Europe to Africa

- people move from Africa to Americas

- sugar, coffee, tobacco move from Americas to Europe


The Middle Passage

  • Voyage of enslaved Africans toAmericasknown as the middle passage
  • As many as 20 percent of Africans die on these journeys


Slavery in the Americas


A Harsh Life

  • InAmericas, captured Africans sold at auction to highest bidder
  • Life is difficult: long work hours; poor food, housing, clothing


Resistance and Rebellion

  • Africans maintain musical, cultural traditions
  • Some resist by breaking tools or working slowly
  • Some run away or take part in revolts


Consequences of the Slave Trade


Results in Africa and the Americas

  • African societies suffer from loss of so many people
  • African families disrupted
  • InAmericas, labor of enslaved people helps build new societies
  • Enslaved Africans affect culture inAmericas
  • Population inAmericaschanges  


Section 4: The Columbian Exchange and Global Trade

The colonization of the Americas introduces new items into Eastern and Western hemispheres.


The Columbian Exchange


The Columbian Exchange

  • Columbian Exchange—global transfer of food, plants, animals
  • Corn, potatoes fromAmericasbecome crops in Eastern Hemisphere
  • New animals, plants introduced by Europeans take hold inAmericas
  • European diseases kill millions of Native Americans


Global Trade


Changing Economies

  • Wealth fromAmericas, growth of trade changes business inEurope


The Rise of Capitalism

  • New economic system—capitalism—based on private property, profit
  • Increase in business leads toinflation—rising prices—inEurope
  • Hauls of gold, silver fromAmericascause high inflation in Spain


Joint-Stock Companies

  • Joint-stock companylets investors share risk, profits of business
  • These companies help fund colonies inAmerica


The Growth of Mercantilism


New Economic Policy

  • Policy ofmercantilismemphasizes national wealth as source of power


Balance of Trade

  • One way for nation to increase wealth: gather gold, silver
  • Favorable balance of trade when nation sells more goods than it buys
  • Colonies provide raw materials that home country uses to make goods


Economic Revolution Changes European Society

  • Economic changes spur growth of towns, rise of merchant class
  • Still, most people are poor and live in rural areas