When the New World was discovered, Native American peoples had spread throughout North and South America. Often they were hunter/gatherers, but they had established various civilizations. The Europeans considered themselves far superior to these natives, and European arrival invariably led to native peoples being subjected to European rule. The Europeans brought superior weapons such as fire-arms, and diseases, which took an appalling toll on native peoples.
Native peoples were often unable to assimilate themselves to European culture, and fell into ongoing conflict with the Europeans, resulting in the decimation of native tribes or their relegation to lands beyond a widening sphere of European control. Native Americans’ most lasting contributions were two food crops that reshaped of European farming: corn and potatoes. At the time they settled the New World, Europeans were feeling the effects of the Renaissance and the Reformation.
Spain had emerged from centuries of division to become a united country. Portugal was trying to emerge as a sea power and a mercantile power, taking advantage of the slave trade. England was breaking free of continental control and experiencing the remarkable flowering of the Tudor-Stuart period. Open realizing the vast extent of the New World, the Europeans rushed to establish colonial settlements. These colonies reflected the cultures from which they were sent.
The Portugese colonies in Brazil were marked by the depredations of slavery. Spanish colonies reveled in the wealth they found in many parts of the New World. English colonists carried their traditions of self-government and sturdy habits to their new colonies. The result has been the Europeanization of the New World. From Mexico south, the region is Latin America, reflecting the pervasive influence of Spanish and Portugese control throughout central and South America.
The United States and Canada remain more English in their orientation, and America has become the ultimate cultural imperialists. Although the Europeans discovered the New World while trying to reach Asia, Asia remained largely unaffected by the discovery and settlement of the New World. The Chinese had apparently sailed to the Americas several centuries earlier, but had found nothing that they felt warranted continued contact. The Japanese were about to enter their two-centuries-long isolation.
The various peoples of southeast Asia, whose spices had been one of the key goals of the Europeans, remained oblivious to what went on in the New World. It would be the mid-nineteenth century before large scale emigration to the Americas would increase contact, and this would be followed by American laws excluding Asians. Because of the very limited contact that the Asians had with the Americas during the period of European exploration and settlement, Asia had very little direct influence on the Americas.
Its indirect influence shows in the fact that the native Americans were called as Columbus dubbed them, Indians. At the time Europeans were settling the New World, sub-Saharan Africa was divided into various kingdoms. Wars among these were common, as was the practice of seizing enemy tribal peoples and selling them as slavery. As Europeans found that Native Americans did not survive well in slavery, they quickly found advantages to importing slaves from Africa, and a flourishing trade in humans began which would last until the nineteenth century.
Slaves in America often worked long hours under conditions in which death was commonplace, prompting a need for the continual importation of more slaves. The result of this importation has been the profound legacy of racism that continues to wrack communities from the United States throughout Latin America. SOURCE: “The Age of Exploration. ” (Undated). HistoryTeacher. net. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from <http://www. historyteacher. net/APEuroCourse/WebLinks/WebLinks-AgeOfExploration. html>. Internet.
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Topic: Cultures of the new world
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