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American History 1--HIST 2111 (OER): Chapter 1: The New World

American Yawp Chapter Summary

Europeans called the Americas “The New World.” But for the millions of Native Americans they encountered, it was anything but. Humans have lived here for over ten thousand years. Dynamic and diverse, they spoke hundreds of languages and created thousands of distinct cultures. Native Americans built settled communities and followed seasonal migration patterns, maintained peace through alliances and warred with their neighbors, and developed self-sufficient economies and maintained vast trade networks. Native Americans cultivated distinct art forms and spiritual values. Kinship ties knit their communities together. But the arrival of Europeans and the resulting global exchange of people, animals, plants, and microbes—what scholars benignly call the Columbian Exchange—bridged more than ten thousand years of geographic separation, inaugurated centuries of violence, unleashed the greatest biological terror the world had ever seen, and revolutionized the history of the world. It began one of the most consequential developments in all of human history and the first chapter in the long American Yawp.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. Where do most scholars believe that Native Americans came from? How did they get to the Americas?
  2. Compare and contrast Native American peoples that lived in the present-day United States prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1492.
  3. Describe the Aztec, Mayan and Inca Empires. Why might one make the case that they were more advanced than Spain before 1492?
  4. Discuss the motivations for European exploration as well as the political and technological changes in the fifteenth and sixteenth century Portugal and Spain that made exploration possible.
  5. Why did Columbus set sail going west across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492? What did he find on his voyages of exploration and did it match his expectations?
  6. What was the Columbian Exchange? Why was disease transmission as well as the discovery of new plants and animals so essential to Spanish conquest and settlement in the Americas?
  7. How did the Spanish treat the land and labor of Native American tribes that they conquered? What sorts of exploitations and abuses did Bartolome de Las Casas document?
  8. After conquering Native peoples, some Spanish men intermarried with Native women. How did this lead to new racial categories and hierarchies in Spanish colonies?
  9. Which groups of people were at the top, in the middle and on the bottom of the social hierarchy in the Spanish colonies? What did this hierarchy reflect?
  10. What areas of the present-day United States did the Spanish explore and settle in the  sixteenth century? What Spanish explorers were involved in this and what were the results?

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Student Learning Outcome:

  • Students will demonstrate their ability to read, analyze, and comprehend college level written texts.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of diversity among cultures.

Course Objective:

  • Students will be able to understand the diversity of the Native American cultures prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
  • Students will be able to explain the causes & consequences of exploration & colonization including issues of trade, cultural diversity, & the origins of the American Revolution.
  • Students will be able to understand the consequences of the cultural collision among Europeans & Indian Nations, from New England to New Spain, from the initial colonial encounter through the policy of removal.
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