The Events of Contact and Conquest in the New World During the 1500s

Categories: Dispatches

In America Firsthand:10th Edition, the authors, David Burner, Anthony Marcus and John M. Giggie, describe the events that developed the New World, these events fell under the Contact and Conquest (1502-1521). The three conquests that occur during the 1500s are Hernando Cortés, Dispatches of the Conquest from the New World, A Nahua Account of the Conquest of Mexico, and lastly, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Destruction of the Indies. The three conquests, describe how the New World came to be.

What were their intentions during these conquests? The conquering of land, The history of Nahua manuscripts, the better treatment of Native Americans, and finally, the right to seize land in the Western Hemisphere.

Hernando Cortés, Dispatches of the Conquest from the New World. When Cortés and his 508 soldiers arrived in the mainland they found an empire inhabited by the Aztecs. The empire was going through a huge dilemma. So, Cortés and his men quickly developed greatly from the center of the largest city during this time, known as Tenochtitlan , or presently known as Mexico City.

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Cortés grew the empires unyielding political structure and their low technological development to the breaking point. When they weren’t able to harmonize the large agricultural wasteland into the empire, the Aztecs turned to more and more ruthless ritualized horror, such as human sacrifice, and militarizations to stay in control. On the border of the empire, Cortés and his men face the first natives. At first they fought, but changed sides quickly, choosing to take their chances with the Spanish invaders 1.

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Next, A Nahua Account of the Conquest of Mexico, which, for hundreds of years became a well-known piece of the “Black Legend” of the treachery from the Spanish conquest where the first archbishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, collected and burned the thousands of Nahua manuscripts. Nevertheless, many Nahua documents survived the fires, and many others were replaced through oral histories that were seized shortly after the conquest by thoughtful Spanish priests and Nahua natives who had been trained in the study of humankind and historical skills. The documents, or codices, remained unread and unacknowledged for hundreds of years in libraries and private collections throughout Mexico, Europe, and the United States. During the 1960s a new age of social and ethnohistorians assembled and produced native voices from the conquest. These narrations, converted into English and Spanish, give us a better understanding of how the two sides accepted what occurred when the people from Europe and the New World first communitcated with one another 1.

The third conquest, Bartolomé de Las Casas, Destruction of the Indies. On the island of Hispaniola, present day Dominican Republic and Haiti; the Spanish created small colonies. In the year 1502, Las Casas journeyed to the New World, to work as an officer for the king. In return Las Casas received an encomienda, which is a property that came with native people who forcefully had to labor for him. Many years later, a sermon moved Las Casas, stated by a Dominican priest, rejecting the way Indians were treated by the Spanish. This caused Las Casas to return the workers back to the governor, and he became a priest. In the end, Las Casas, throughout his long life, dedicated himself into to protecting the Natives against massacres, forced labor, and torture, which were inflicted on them by the Spanish conquerors. So, throughout 1515, Las Casas travelled back to Spain and requested before King Ferdinand for a more considerate treatment of the Natives1.

Lastly, how did the Spanish and all Europeans obtain the right to seize land? It all started at the beginning of the discovery of America, “When Christopher Columbus first set foot on the white sands of Guanahani island” he took control of the land for the king and queen of Spain. Columbus’ actions came from “the international laws of Western Christendom”. Although the ‘discovery’ made by Columbus has taken on “mythological proportions” in most of the Western world, there are very few people that have heard of his act of “possession”, which was constructed on a “religious doctrine” now known in history as the “Doctrine of Discovery”. A document demonstrating the rights of the Natives, “ it is still being used by countries throughout the Americas to deny the rights of indigenous peoples, and to perpetuate colonization throughout the Western Hemisphere”. Throughout the several centuries to come, the view of the “Doctrine of Discovery” was used throughout Europe, including Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Holland. All these countries religious views were Christians 2.

Finally, how did the events of the Contact and Conquest (1502-1521) change the development of the New World? These events formed the New World, for example, Cortés’ conquering land throughout America and keeping control of the Aztecs’ ruthless rituals, to the destruction of thousands of Nahua manuscripts, and how they were restored through oral history, to how Europe treated the Natives through forced labor1 . Also, the history of how the Spanish and all of Europe claimed land through laws called the “Doctrine of Discovery” allowing the Christians the right to steal land from the Native Americans2. These occurrences all shaped the formation of the New World, and how it came to be.

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The Events of Contact and Conquest in the New World During the 1500s. (2022, Jan 28). Retrieved from

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