University of Mississippi Interpreting Historical Documents Discussion


What kinds of things did early European Explorers emphasize about the non- European world for their readers back home? What do these kinds of details say about their intended audience? What did they reveal about the world views and biases of their authors? Discuss and analyze how the documents in question treat the topic.

1 attachmentsSlide 1 of 1attachment_1attachment_1

Unformatted Attachment Preview

15.1 Christopher Columbus, “Letter from the First
In 1492, the rulers of Spain, Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II provided the financing,
ships, and sailors for the initial voyage of Christopher Columbus (c. 1451-1506). They
hoped that Columbus would discover a new trade route from Europe to Asia and the Far
East, which would provide Spain with increased wealth and military advantages, as well as
the opportunity to spread Christianity. Instead of discovering a trade route to Asia, however,
Columbus’s ships landed on the islands of the Bahamas, in the Caribbean, which he named
“San Salvador,” meaning “Holy Savior.” Upon returning to Europe after his first voyage,
Columbus wrote a letter to his employers justifying his exploits in the New World in order to
gather additional financing and ships, support for future exploration, and push for Spanish
conquest of this new territory. Furthermore, this letter offers a European perspective of the
natives’ religion, culture, and society that highlights the prejudices Europeans brought with
them as they began to travel the globe.
A Letter addressed to the noble Lord Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer to their most invincible
Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Spain, by Christopher Columbus, to
whom our age is greatly indebted, treating of the islands of India recently discovered
beyond the Ganges, to explore which he had been sent eight months before under the
auspices and at the expense of their said Majesties.
Knowing that it will afford you pleasure to learn that I have brought my undertaking to a
successful termination, I have decided upon writing you this letter to acquaint you with all
the events which have occurred in my voyage, and the discoveries which have resulted
from it. Thirty-three days after my departure from Cadiz I reached the Indian sea, where I
discovered many islands, thickly peopled, of which I took possession without resistance in
the name of our most illustrious Monarchs, by public proclamation and with unfurled
banners. To the first of these islands, which is called by the Indians Guanahani, I gave the
name of the blessed Saviour [San Salvador], relying upon whose protection I had reached
this as well as the other islands; to each of these I also gave a name. In the meantime I had
learned from some Indians whom I had seized, that that country was certainly an island:
and therefore I sailed towards the east, coasting to the distance of three hundred and
twenty-two miles, which brought us to the extremity of it; from this point I saw lying
eastwards another island, fifty-four miles distant from Juana [Puerto Rico], to which I gave
the name of Española [Hispaniola, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic]: I went thither,
and steered my course eastward as I had done at Juana, even to the distance of five
hundred and sixty-four miles along the north coast. This said island of Juana is exceedingly
fertile, as indeed are all the others; it is surrounded with many bays, spacious, very secure,
and surpassing any that I have ever seen; numerous large and healthful rivers intersect it,
and it also contains many very lofty mountains. All these islands are very beautiful, and
distinguished by a diversity of scenery; they are filled with a great variety of trees of
immense height, and which I believe to retain their foliage in all seasons; for when I saw
them they were as verdant and luxuriant as they usually are in Spain in the month of May—
some of them were blossoming, some bearing fruit, and all flourishing in the greatest
perfection, according to their respective stages of growth, and the nature and quality of
each: yet the islands are not so thickly wooded as to be impass- able. The nightingale and
various birds were singing in countless numbers, and that in November, the month in which
I arrived there. There are besides in the same island of Juana seven or eight kinds of palm
trees, which, like all the other trees, herbs, and fruits, considerably surpass ours in height
and beauty. The pines also are very handsome, and there are very extensive fields and
meadows, a variety of birds, different kinds of honey, and many sorts of metals, but no iron.
In that island also which I have before said we named Española, there are mountains of
very great size and beauty, vast plains, groves, and very fruitful fields, admirably adapted
for tillage, pasture, and habitation. The inhabitants of both sexes in this island, and in all the
others which I have seen, or of which I have received information, go always naked as they
were born, with the exception of some of the women, who use the covering of a leaf, or
small bough, or an apron of cotton which they prepare for that purpose. None of them are
possessed of any iron, neither have they weapons, being unacquainted with, and indeed
incompetent to use them, not from any deformity of body (for they are well formed), but
because they are timid and full of fear.
They carry however, in lieu of arms, canes dried in the sun, on the ends of which they fix
heads of dried wood sharpened to a point, and even these they dare not use habitually; for
it has often occurred when I have sent two or three of my men to any of the villages to
speak with the natives, that they have come out in a disorderly troop, and have fled in such
haste at the approach of our men, that the fathers forsook their children and the children
their fathers. This timidity did not arise from any loss or injury
that they had received from us; for, on the contrary, I gave to all I approached whatever
articles I had about me, such as cloth and many other things, taking nothing of theirs in
return: but they are naturally timid and fearful. As soon however, as they see that they are
safe, and have laid aside all fear, they are very simple and honest, and exceedingly liberal
with all they have; none of them refusing any thing he may possess when he is asked for it,
but on the contrary inviting us to ask them. They exhibit great love towards all others in
preference to themselves: they also give objects of great value for trifles, and content
themselves with very little or nothing in return.
I however forbad that these trifles and articles of no value (such as pieces of dishes, plates,
and glass, keys, and leather straps) should be given to them, although if they could obtain
them, they imagined themselves to be possessed of the most beautiful trinkets in the world.
It even happened that a sailor received for a leather strap as much gold as was worth three
golden nobles, and for things of more trifling value offered by our men, especially newly
coined blancas, or any gold coins, the Indians would give whatever the seller required: as,
for instance, an ounce and a half or two ounces of gold, or thirty or forty pounds of cotton,
with which commodity they were already acquainted. Thus they bartered, like idiots, cotton
and gold for fragments of bows, glasses, bottles, and jars; which I forbade as being unjust,
and myself gave them many beautiful and acceptable articles which I had brought with me,
taking nothing from them in return; I did this in order that I might the more easily conciliate
them, that they might be led to become Christians, and be inclined to entertain a regard for
the king and queen, our princes and all Spaniards, and that I might induce them to take an
interest in seeking out, and collecting, and delivering to us such things as they possessed in
abundance, but which we greatly needed.
They practise no kind of idolatry, but have a firm belief that all strength and power, and
indeed all good things, are in heaven, and that I had descended from thence with these
ships and sailors, and under this impression was I received after they had thrown aside their
fears. Nor are they slow or stupid, but of very clear understanding; and those men who have
crossed to the neighbouring islands give an admirable description of everything they
observed; but they never saw any people clothed, nor any ships like ours.
In all these islands there is no difference of physiognomy, of manners, or of language, but
they all clearly understand each other, a circumstance very propitious for the realization of
what I conceive to be the principal wish of our most serene King, namely, the conversion of
these people to the holy faith of Christ, to which indeed, as far as I can judge, they are very
favourable and well-disposed. There was one large town in Española of which especially I
took possession, situated in a remarkably favourable spot, and in every way convenient for
the purposes of gain and commerce. To this town I gave the name of Navidad del Señor,
and ordered a fortress to be built there, which must by this time be completed, in which I left
as many men as I thought necessary, with all sorts of arms, and enough provisions for more
than a year. I also left them one caravel, and skilful workmen both in shipbuilding and other
arts, and engaged the favor and friendship of the king of the island in their behalf, to a
degree that would not be believed, for these people are so amiable and friendly that even
the king took a pride in calling me his brother. But supposing their feelings should become
changed, and they should wish to injure those who have remained in the fortress, they
could not do so, for they have no arms, they go naked, and are moreover too cowardly; so
that those who hold the said fortress, can easily keep the whole island in check, without any
pressing danger to themselves, provided they do not transgress the directions and
regulations which I have given them.
As far as I have learned, every man throughout these islands is united to but one wife, with
the exception of the kings and princes, who are allowed to have twenty: the women seem to
work more than the men. I could not clearly understand whether the people possess any
private property, for I observed that one man had the charge of distributing various things to
the rest, but especially meat and provisions and the like. I did not find, as some of us had
expected, any cannibals amongst them, but on the contrary men of great deference and
kindness. Neither are they black, like the Ethiopians: their hair is smooth and straight: for
they do not dwell where the rays of the sun strike most vividly, and the sun has intense
power there, the distance from the equinoctial line being, it appears, but six-and-twenty
degrees. On the tops of the mountains the cold is very great, but the effect of this upon the
Indians is lessened by
their being accustomed to the climate, and by their frequently indulging in the use of very
hot meats and drinks.
Finally, to compress into few words the entire summary of my voyage and speedy return,
and of the advantages derivable there from, I promise, that with a little assistance afforded
me by our most invincible sovereigns, I will procure them as much gold as they need, as
great a quantity of spices, of cotton, and of mastic (which is only found in Chios), and as
many men for the service of the navy as their Majesties may require. I promise also rhubarb
and other sorts of drugs, which I am persuaded
the men whom I have left in the aforesaid fortress have found already and will continue to
find; for I myself have tarried nowhere longer than I was compelled to do by the winds,
except in the city of Navidad, while I provided for the building of the fortress, and took the
necessary precautions for the perfect security of the men I left there. Although all I have
related may appear to be wonderful and unheard of, yet the results of my voyage would
have been more astonishing if I had had at my disposal such ships as I required.
But these great and marvellous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to
the holy Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our Sovereigns; for that which the
unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human
exertions, for God is wont to hear the prayers of his servants who love his precepts even to
the performance of apparent impossibilities. Thus it has happened to me in the present
instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never
hitherto attained; for if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of
these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures, and no one has ever
asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as
little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy
kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ, who has granted
us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be
held, and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he
rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto
lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of
the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be
Such are the events which I have briefly described. Farewell.
the 14th of March.
Admiral of the Fleet of the Ocean.
• This section from Christopher Columbus’ journal describes his first meeting with the
native inhabitants of the Americas. Using evidence from the primary source itself
(such as relevant quotations), examine the bias inherent in this text. What do
Columbus’ goals appear to be with respect to the land and its inhabitants? Is there
anything absent or unsaid here?
Chapter 15: : 15.1 Christopher Columbus, “Letter from the First Voyage”
Book Title: Voyages in World History
Printed By: Robert Smith (
© 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning
© 2020 Cengage Learning Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may by reproduced or used in any form or by
any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, or in any other manner – without the written permission of the
copyright holder
15-5 The Columbian Exchange
At the same time that European diseases like smallpox devastated the peoples living in
America, European animals like the horse, cow, and sheep came to the Americas and
flourished. In the other direction plant foods indigenous to the Americas like tomatoes,
potatoes, peanuts, and chili peppers went to Europe. This transfer is referred to as
the Columbian exchangeAll the plants, animals, goods, and diseases that crossed the
Atlantic, and sometimes the Pacific, after 1492..
Of all the European imports, smallpox had the most devastating effect on the Americas.
Only someone suffering an outbreak can transmit smallpox, which is contagious for about a
month: after two weeks of incubation, fever and vomiting strike; the ill person’s skin then
breaks out with the pox, small pustules that dry up after about ten days. Either the victim
dies during those ten days or survives, typically with a pock-marked face and body.
One Nahuatl description captures the extent of the suffering:
Sores erupted on our faces, our breasts, our bellies. . . . The sick were so utterly helpless
that they could only lie on their beds like corpses, unable to move their limbs or even their
heads. . . . If they did move their bodies, they screamed with pain.
Although no plants or animals had an effect as immediate as smallpox, the Columbian
exchange in plants and animals indelibly altered the landscape, diets, and population
histories of both the Americas and Afro-Eurasia. When Columbus landed on Hispaniola, he
immediately realized how different the plants were: “All the trees were as different from ours
as day from night, and so the fruits, the herbage, the rocks, and all things.” He also
remarked on the absence of livestock: “I saw neither sheep nor goats nor any other beast.”
On his second voyage in 1493, Columbus carried cuttings of European plants, including
wheat, melons, sugar cane, and other fruits and vegetables. He also brought pigs, horses,
sheep, goats, and cattle.
While smallpox traveled from Europe to the Americas, there is evidence that syphilis
traveled in the other direction. The first well-documented outbreaks of syphilis in Europe
occurred around 1495, and one physician claimed that Columbus’s men brought it to Madrid
soon after 1492. No European skeletons with signs of syphilis before 1500 have been
found, but an Amerindian skeleton with syphilis has, suggesting that the disease did indeed
move from the Americas to Europe. Causing severe pain, syphilis could be passed to the
next generation and was fatal for about one-quarter of those who contracted it, but it did not
cause mass deaths.
Assessing the loss of Amerindian life from smallpox and the other European diseases has
caused much debate among historians because no population statistics exist for the
Americas before 1492. Figures for the precontact population can be little more than
guesswork. For the entire period of European colonization in all parts of the Americas,
guesses at the total death toll from European diseases, based on controversial estimates of
precontact populations, range from a low of 10 million to a high of over 100 million.
By 1600, two extremely successful agricultural enterprises had spread through the
Americas. One was sugar, and the other was cattle raising, which took advantage of huge
expanses of grasslands in Venezuela and Colombia, from Mexico north to Canada, and in
Argentina and Uruguay.
As European food crops transformed the diet of those living in the Americas, so too did
American food crops transform the eating habits of people in Afro-Eurasia. American food
crops moved into West Africa, particularly modern Nigeria, where even today people eat
corn, peanuts, squash, manioc (cassava), and sweet potatoes.
Two crops in particular played an important role throughout Afro-Eurasia: corn (maize) and
potatoes (including sweet potatoes). Both produced higher yields than wheat and grew in
less desirable fields, such as on the slopes of hills. Although few people anywhere in the
world preferred corn or potatoes to their original wheat-based or rice-based diet, if the main
crop failed, hungry people gratefully ate the American transplants. By the eighteenth
century corn and potatoes had reached as far as India and China, and the population in
both places increased markedly.
Context and Connections
1492: The Break Between the Premodern and Modern Worlds
History departments offer many yearlong survey classes, and individual instructors often
choose midway points for their classes. Not so for world history, which almost always
breaks at 1500 (or 1492). Christopher Columbus’s landing on the island of Hispaniola
changed the world permanently.
Many claims have been made about voyagers who reached the Americas before Columbus.
Some of these voyages have left convincing evidence, like the Viking settlement at L’Anse
aux Meadows on Canada’s Atlantic coast in about 1000 or the chicken bones showing
contact between Polynesia and the west coast of South America in the 1350s. Some of the
claims have no basis at all: absolutely no evidence suggests that Zheng He’s ships reached
the Americas, as has been proposed. Some theories are possible without being certain:
English fishing boats that sailed from Bristol to Iceland in 1480 and 1481 to seek new
fishing grounds for cod might have made it all the way to the Americas, but they left no
traces there. Whatever the credibility of these claims—and new evidence is emerging all the
time—none of these voyages did more than touch down in the Americas, and they had no
lasting impact. Columbus’s voyages were utterly different.
After Columbus’s landfall in 1492, the pace of events accelerated. Spain conquered Mexico
in 1521 and Peru in 1551. The once-powerful Aztec and Inca Empires collapsed quickly.
They both had internal weaknesses; the many subject peoples of the Mexica resented their
overlords, and the Inca were right in the middle of a protracted succession struggle.
The Europeans also had superior weapons made from metal. The Mexica and the Inca
knew how to work different metals, including gold and silver, but they could not work iron,
and they had no metal weapons. Theirs were all made from stone and wood. Imagine their
reaction to the Spanish army: their guns, their iron and steel armor and weapons, and their
horses, an animal they had never before seen.
European horses were only one example of the unfamiliar plants and animals that flowed
from Europe to the Americas and from the Americas to Africa and Eurasia in the Columbian
exchange. Cows, sheep, and pigs came to the Americas and altered the American
landscape; tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and chili peppers traveled the other way, transforming
first the European and then the African and Asian diets.
As discussed in Chapter 16, silver from Spanish mines in the Americas had an equally
dramatic effect on the European economy. After 1550, when the Spanish mastered the
technique of using mercury to separate silver from ore, they began to ship large quantities
of silver home via the Philippines. The silver brought great prosperity to the Spanish Empire
and financed European purchases in Asia.
The diseases that came to the Americas from Europe devastated native peoples: smallpox
traced its deadly route from Hispaniola to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba and then on to
Mexico and Peru. Because no population figures predate Columbus, it is impossible to
know how many perished, but estimates range between 10 and 100 million. In 1568, the
Spanish counted 2,170,000 non-Spanish survivors in Mexico and Peru, the two areas with
the heaviest indigenous populations. Everyone else had died.
The mass deaths of the Amerindians preceded the large-scale movement of Europeans and
Africans to the Americas. The migrations in the first hundred years after Columbus’s arrival
in Hispaniola produced the mixed population of the Americas today.
Before 1492 world history often concerns individual regions and the intermittent contacts
among them. After 1492, Europe, the Americas, and Africa were so tightly connected that
events in one place always affected the others. In the next chapter we will learn what
happened when Europeans traveled to Asia.
Chapter 15: Maritime Expansion in the Atlantic World, 1400–1600: 15-5 The Columbian Exchange
Book Title: Voyages in World History
Printed By: Robert Smith (
© 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning
© 2020 Cengage Learning Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may by reproduced or used in any form or by
any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, or in any other manner – without the written permission of the
copyright holder.
and Innovation: Korea,
Vietnam, and Japan, 1500–1650
The societies most strongly connected to Chinese civilization in the
early modern period were Korea, Vietnam, and, more loosely, Japan. The
Chosun (choh-SAN) dynasty of Korea, which closely followed the Ming
imperial model, established one of the world’s most stable political
systems, ruling the Korean peninsula from 1392 until the early
twentieth century. The capital at Seoul (sole) was home to a Confucian
academy where young men trained for examinations that led to social
prominence and political power.
Early modern Korea benefited from a remarkable series of innovations
undertaken by the Emperor Sejong (r. 1418–1450). Learning to read
and write generally required years of training in Chinese script. But in
1446 Sejong (SAY-jung) brought together a group of scholars to devise a
new phonetic script based on the Korean language. This distinctive
han’gul (HAHN-goor) writing system, still in use today, enabled many
more Koreans to read and write, and Emperor Sejong supported the
development of movable type to produce less expensive books. Korea
became one of the world’s most literate societies.
Vietnamese leaders copied Chinese imperial models while at the same
time jealously guarding their independence. In 1428 a general defeated
a Ming army and took power in Vietnam, giving his name to the new Lê
dynasty. Thereafter Confucian scholar-officials gained greater influence
at court in this traditionally Buddhist country. Military expeditions
expanded the size and strength of the Vietnamese state, and agrarian
reforms led to greater equality in landholding and greater productivity
in agriculture.
King Sejong and the Korean Alphabet
Hunminjeongeum (“The Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the
People”) was a project sponsored by King Sejong to extend literacy by
creating an alphabet based on spoken Korean. The text shown here
(along with Sejong’s statue in Seoul) is from 1446. Written in a mixture
of Chinese and han’gul characters, it was used as a primer by those who
could already read Chinese characters to learn the new phonetic script.
Dr. Yushin Yoo/Visual Connection Archive
Japan lay further outside the orbit of Chinese civilization than either
Korea or Vietnam. Political power was decentralized during Japan’s
Ashikaga (ah-shee-KAH-gah) Shogunate (1336–1568), and the Japanese
emperor, unlike his Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese counterparts, was
a ritual figure with no real authority. The greatest political power was
the shogun, a supreme military ruler who acted independently of the
imperial court. But the Ashikaga shoguns themselves had little control
over the daimyo (DIE-mee-oh), lords who ruled their own rural
domains. As each daimyo had an army of samurai (SAH-moo-
rye) military retainers, incessant warfare spread chaos through the
Ashikaga Japan was a land of contrasts. While the daimyo lords engaged
in violent competition for land and power, they also acted as
benefactors of Buddhist monasteries. The samurai warriors were also
practitioners of the Zen school of Buddhism, with its emphasis on
mental discipline and acute awareness. Flower arranging and the
intricate tea ceremony were peaceful counterpoints to ceaseless war
In the late sixteenth century several Japanese lords aspired to replace
the Ashikaga family; the most ambitious was Toyotomi Hideyoshi (r.
1585–1598). In 1592, as Matteo Ricci was journeying in southern China,
Hideyoshi’s forces were attacking the Korean peninsula with an army of
two hundred thousand soldiers. A statue of Admiral Yi in central Seoul
still commemorates his use of heavily fortified “turtle ships” to defend
Korea against the Japanese attack.
In a power struggle following Hideyoshi’s death, the Tokugawa (TOHkoo-GAH-wah) clan emerged victorious. After 1603, the Tokugawa
Shogunate centralized power by restraining the independence of the
daimyo, forcing them to spend half the year in the shogun’s new capital
of Edo (today’s Tokyo). Many daimyo still controlled their own domains,
but the Tokugawa system brought a long-term stability that made
possible economic and demographic growth.
Himeji Castle
Incessant warfare during the Ashikaga period led the Japanese daimyo
lords to build well-fortified stone castles. The introduction of cannon in
the sixteenth century made the need for such fortifications even greater.
Himeji Castle was begun in 1346; Toyotomi Hideyoshi greatly expanded
and beautified it in the late sixteenth century. Now a UNESCO World
Cultural and Heritage Site, Himeji is the best-preserved castle in all of
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd/Alamy
Despite this increased unity, some daimyo formed diplomatic and trade
alliances with Jesuit missionaries, who attracted many converts, and the
shoguns became deeply suspicious of both European and Japanese
Christians. After 1614 they outlawed the foreign faith; hundreds of
Japanese Christians were killed, some by crucifixion, when they refused
to recant their Christian beliefs. Apart from an annual Dutch trade
mission confined to an island in the port of Nagasaki, no Christians were
allowed to enter the country.
in China: Catholicism Meets
Neo-Confucianism, 1582–1610
Ming China was less religiously diverse than Mughal India, with
Buddhism as the empire’s majority faith. In fact, when Ricci first
arrived in Ming China, he adopted the dress and shaved head of
a Buddhist priest. He soon learned, however, that affiliating
himself with Buddhism would not carry much weight with the
Confucian scholar-officials who manifested the emperor’s
power, many of whom looked down on the poorly educated
Buddhist clergy. Ricci subsequently changed his appearance to
appeal to this prestigious class of individuals. His plan was to
convert China from the top down.
Confucian scholars emphasized education as the main route to
self-cultivation. While most of the emperor’s subjects remained
nonliterate peasant cultivators, children from more privileged
households were taught to read from a young age. After they
had mastered the basics, boys had to memorize the classic texts
of Confucianism, collections of poems, and histories of past
times that usually focused on the virtues of ancient sages.
In theory, any young man could take the annual examinations
and, if successful, become an imperial official. In reality, only the
elite could afford the private tutors needed for success. Still, the
Ming system was based on merit: wealth and status could not
purchase high office, and even the privileged had to undergo
years of intensive study.
Though women were barred from taking the examinations, the
Ming emphasis on education did contribute to the spread of
female literacy. Foreign observers noted how many girls were
able to read and write. However, education for girls
indoctrinated them into the Confucian view of a strict gender
hierarchy. While boys read histories of sages and virtuous
officials, girls usually read stories about women who submitted
to their parents when they were young, obeyed their husbands
once they were married, and listened to their sons when they
became widowed.
Matteo Ricci paid careful attention to debates between
advocates of various schools of Confucianism as he built up an
argument for the compatibility of Confucianism and
Christianity. At this time the Neo-Confucian philosophy of Wang
Yangming (1472–1529) was especially influential. While other
Confucians had emphasized close observation of the external
world, Wang stressed self-reflection, arguing that “everybody,
from the infant in swaddling clothes to the old, is in full possession
of . . . innate knowledge.” Ricci accused Wang’s Neo-Confucian
followers of distorting Confucianism. By returning to the
original works of the ancient sages, Ricci said, the Chinese
literati would discover that one could convert to Christianity
while retaining the ethical and philosophical traditions of
Confucius. (See the feature Movement of Ideas Through Primary
Sources: Chinese and Japanese Views of Christianity.)
Movement of Ideas Through Primary Sources
Chinese and Japanese Views of Christianity
In China and Japan, the political and social structures of the two empires led to
quite different outcomes when Jesuit missionaries tried to convert social and
political elites to Christianity.
In China, where the number of converts was quite small, Ming officials were
tolerant of the foreign faith in spite of criticisms such as those expressed by
Confucian intellectuals in the first document below. Such toleration of
Christianity lasted into the Qing period until 1715, when the church reversed
Matteo Ricci’s policy by declaring that Confucian rites were incompatible with
Christianity. Emperor Kangxi was furious: “To judge from this proclamation,
their religion is no different from other small, bigoted sects of Buddhism.” In
1721 he banned Christians from preaching in his empire.
In Japan, the less centralized political structure at first worked to the Jesuits’
advantage. They converted a number of daimyo, and the numbers of
Japanese Kirishitan (i.e., “Christians”) grew. At the same time, however, the
ambitious general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, aspiring to the unification of Japan,
regarded the Japanese Christians and their missionary sponsors as a threat. In
1587 he issued the edicts reproduced here restricting conversion activities and
banning foreign missionaries. While Hideyoshi put no constraints on European
trade, Tokugawa shoguns later severely restricted Europeans of all backgrounds
from entering the country.
Chinese Commentaries on Christianity

[The Jesuits] are extremely intelligent. Their studies concern astronomy, the
calendar, medicine and mathematics. . . . Truly they have the means to win minds.
. . . The only trouble is that it is a pity that they speak of a Master of Heaven, an
incorrect and distasteful term which leads them into nonsense. . . . Our
Confucianism has never held that Heaven had a mother or a bodily form, and it
has never spoken of events that are supposed to have occurred before and after
his birth. Is it not true that herein lies the difference between our Confucianism
and their doctrine?

The superiority of Western teaching lies in their calculations; their inferiority lies
in their veneration of a Master of Heaven of a kind to upset men’s minds. . . .
When they require people to consider the Master of Heaven as their closest
relative and to abandon their fathers and mothers and place their sovereign
[king] in second place, giving the direction of the state to those who spread the
doctrine of the Master of Heaven, this entails an unprecedented infringement on
the most constant rules. How could their doctrine possibly be admissible in
China? . . .

[The Ming emperor] sacrifices to Heaven and to Earth; the princes sacrifice to the
mountains and rivers within the domains; holders of high office sacrifice to the
ancestral temple of the founder of their lineage; gentlemen and ordinary
individuals sacrifice to the tables of their own [immediate] ancestors. . . . In this
way . . . there is an order in the sacrifices that cannot be upset. To suggest that
each person should revere a single Master of Heaven and represent Heaven by
means of statues before which one prays each day . . . is it not to profane Heaven
by making unseemly requests?

In their kingdom they recognize two sovereigns. One is the political sovereign
[the king,] the other is the doctrinal sovereign [the pope]. . . . It comes down to
having two suns in the sky, two masters in a single kingdom. . . . What audacity it
is on the part of these calamitous Barbarians who would like to upset the
[political and moral] unity of China by introducing the Barbarian concept of the
two sovereignsǃ

We Confucians follow a level and unified path. . . . To abandon all this in order to
rally to this Jesus who died nailed to a cross . . . to prostrate oneself before him
and pray with zeal, imploring his supernatural aid, that would be madness. And
to go so far as to enter darkened halls, wash oneself with holy water and wear
amulets about one’s person, all that resembles the vicious practices of witchcraft.

Our father is the one who engendered us, our mother the one who raised us.
Filial piety consists solely in loving our parents. . . . Even when one of our parents
behaves in a tyrannical fashion, we must try to reason with him or her. Even if a
sovereign behaves in an unjust way, we must try to get him to return to human
sentiments. How could one justify criticizing one’s parents or resisting one’s
sovereign on the grounds of filial piety toward the Master of Heaven?
Edicts of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1587)
I. Limitations on the Propagation of Christianity
1. Whether one desires to become a follower of the padre [Catholic priest] is up to
that person’s own conscience.
2. If one receives a province, a district, or a village as his fief, and forces farmers in
his domain who are properly registered under certain temples to become
followers of the padre against their wishes, then he has committed a most
unreasonable illegal act. . . .
3. Anyone whose fief is over 200 cho and who can expect two to three thousand
kan of rice harvest each year must receive permission from the authorities
before becoming a follower of the padre.
4. Anyone whose fief is smaller than the one described above may, as his
conscience dictates, select for himself from between eight or nine religions. . . .
5. If a daimyō who has a fief over a province, a district, or a village, forces his
retainers to become followers of the padre, he is committing a [great] crime. . . .
This will have an adverse effect on [the welfare of] the nation. Anyone who
cannot use good judgment in this matter will be punished. . . .
II. Expulsion of Missionaries
1. Japan is the country of gods, but has been receiving false teachings from
Christian countries. This cannot be tolerated any further.
2. The [missionaries] approach people in provinces and districts to make them
their followers, and let them destroy shrines and temples. This is an unheard of
outrage. When a vassal receives a province, a district, a village, or another form
of a fief, he must consider it as a property entrusted to him on a temporary basis.
He must follow the laws of this country, and abide by their intent. However, some
vassals illegally [donate part of their fiefs to the church]. This is a culpable
3. The padres, by their special knowledge [in the sciences and medicine], feel that
they can at will entice people to become their believers. In doing so they commit
the illegal act of destroying the teachings of Buddha prevailing in Japan. These
padres cannot be permitted to remain in Japan. They must prepare to leave the
country within twenty days of the issuance of this notice.
4. The black [Portuguese and Spanish] ships come to Japan to engage in trade. Thus
the matter is a separate one. They can continue to engage in trade.
5. Hereafter, anyone who does not hinder the teachings of the Buddha, whether he
be a merchant or not, may come and go freely from Christian countries to Japan.
Questions for Analysis

In the Chinese documents, how is Christianity judged to be incompatible with
China’s social and political traditions? How is that incompatibility described?

In the Japanese documents, how does Toyotomi Hideyoshi differentiate between
acceptable and unacceptable means of spreading and practicing Christianity?

In the two sets of documents, what do the commentators regard as strengths of
the missionaries in gaining converts, and the greatest dangers if they succeed?
Sources: Excerpt from Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures,
Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 39–40, 53, 82, 107, 108, 120, 159, 169. Reprinted with
permission of Cambridge University Press; English translation copyright © 1997 by David J. Lu.
From Japan: A Documentary History, ed. David J. Lu (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1997), pp.
196–197. Used with permission of M. E. Sharpe, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Not for reproduction.
Once his language skills were sufficiently developed, Ricci took
advantage of a favorite Ming pastime to share his views.
Scholar-officials would often invite interesting speakers to a
banquet and, after dinner, hold philosophical debates. For many
in the audience Ricci’s well-known ability to instantly memorize
and repeat long lists of information, and even repeat them
backward, would have been of greater interest than his views
on Confucian philosophy and Christian theology. It was a highly
relevant skill in a society where difficult exams were the main
path to power and status. While his hosts might have been
entertained by his arguments, few were persuaded by them.
Ricci also impressed them with examples of European art and
technology, especially printed books, paintings, clocks, and
maps. Ricci’s world map, locating the “western barbarians” for
the first time in relation to the “Middle Kingdom,” was such a
success that Chinese artisans were employed to print
For Ricci, however, mnemonic tricks, maps, and clocks were
only a means to convert his audience to Christianity. Criticizing
both Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, Ricci emphasized those
aspects of the Western tradition that appealed most to
Confucian intellectuals: its moral and ethical dimensions rather
than its character as a revealed religion. For example, after
learning that Chinese scholars were usually upset to hear about
the suffering and death of Jesus, he largely avoided that central
aspect of Christianity.
Ricci’s most influential work published in Chinese was The True
Meaning of the Lord of Heaven. Composed together with Chinese
Christian converts who undoubtedly gave Ricci key insights on
Confucian thinking and guidance with difficult translation
issues, it is a dialogue between a “Chinese Scholar” and a
“Western Scholar.” In the following passage Ricci criticizes
Buddhism and argues for the compatibility of Confucianism and
CHINESE SCHOLAR: The Buddha taught that the visible world emerges from
“voidness” and made “voidness” the end of all effort. The Confucians say: “In the
processes of Yi there exists the Supreme Ultimate” and therefore make “existence”
the basic principle [of all things] and “sincerity” the subject of the study of selfcultivation. I wonder who, in your revered view, is correct?
WESTERN SCHOLAR: The “voidness” taught by the Buddha [is] totally at variance with
the doctrine concerning the Lord of Heaven [i.e., Christianity], and it is therefore
abundantly clear that [it does] not merit esteem. When it comes to the “existence”
and “sincerity” of the Confucians, however . . . they would seem to be close to the
Such arguments did not convince many, but at least the Jesuits
in China, unlike their brethren in Japan, were accepted as
representatives of a legitimate school of philosophy.
Some Catholics felt that attempts by Ricci and the Jesuits to
reconcile Christianity and Confucianism went too far. For
example, Ricci argued that veneration of ancestors was
compatible with Christianity and the biblical command to
“honor your father and your mother.” Less flexible church
authorities felt that Chinese ancestor rites were pagan and
should be rejected. Ricci knew that such a rigid interpretation of
cultural practice would limit the appeal of Christianity among
potential converts, who would be ostracized by family and
friends if they abandoned their household shrines. In fact, after
an eighteenth-century pope declared that ancestor worship was
idolatrous, Catholicism lost its status as a legitimate faith in
China. Nevertheless, by debating these issues, Ricci had helped
to lay the foundation of an ongoing “great encounter” between
Europe and China.
Context and Connections
Empires of Land and Sea
When Christopher Columbus sailed west to reach the “Indies,” he greatly
underestimated the circumference of the globe. The better-informed Portuguese,
whose route Matteo Ricci followed to China, succeeded where Columbus failed
by establishing a direct oceanic link to the riches of the Indian Ocean and South
China Sea. Nevertheless, the biologic, demographic, political, and economic
consequences of Columbus’s journeys were more dramatic. The “Columbian
encounter,” which brought the Eastern and Western Hemispheres into
systematic contact for the first time, was in many ways the starting point of
modern world history.
Prior to 1500 the Indian Ocean, in contrast to the Atlantic, was already
interconnected, although those connections were commercial and cultural rather
than political or military, and largely remained so. Ming emperors had proven
uninterested in pursuing political dominance across the ocean at the time of
Zheng He in the fifteenth century (see Chapter 14), while the Portuguese and
other European powers tried but failed. The story of maritime expansion in Asia
is therefore as much one of continuity as of change. Massive land-based empires,
especially the Mughal dynasty in India and the Ming dynasty in China, remained
the dominant powers. Inter-Asian trade remained the key to commercial profit,
even as the Portuguese and later the Dutch inserted themselves into these
markets. In Africa the Atlantic slave trade was new and an ominous sign for the
future, but at first it affected only a few coastal West African societies; East
African city-states continued their traditional orientation toward commerce with
India and the Persian Gulf.
However, there were also important changes in the Indian Ocean world in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The destructive power of ship-based
cannon allowed the Portuguese to seize crucial transit points such as Malacca,
setting an example that would later be followed by the Dutch, British, and
French. The innovative ship designs and commercial practices of the Dutch
further stimulated trade and made the competition between European chartered
companies a new feature of Asian politics. The influx of American silver was
crucial. Increased availability of silver coins facilitated trade and gave European
merchants the wherewithal to compete more effectively in Asian markets. The
implications were not yet clear to Asian rulers, but the foundations had been laid
for a new global market controlled from Europe.
Christian missionaries like Matteo Ricci played only a small part during this time
of intellectual ferment across Afro-Eurasia. Whereas in some areas of the
Americas, such as the Andes and Mesoamerica, conversions to Catholicism
quickly followed Spanish conquest, in Africa and Asia it was Islam that expanded
during this period. While the Protestant Reformation played a role in propelling
the Jesuits and other Catholic orders out into the world to expand the pope’s
religious domain, and while “new science” forced the Catholic Church to respond
to new intellectual challenges, neither European science nor religious reform had
a significant impact in Asia before the end of the seventeenth century. Instead,
existing religious and intellectual modes of discourse—between Muslims and
Hindus in India, and between Buddhists and Confucians in China—remained the
norm. In some places Christian missionaries contributed to the debate, but only
in rare cases did they have a significant influence; in this regard, Japan and Kongo
were exceptional.
Meanwhile, religious divisions were deepening in western Eurasia, where in both
Christian and Muslim lands religion and politics formed a combustible mixture in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The struggle for religious ascendency
in western Europe divided the continent between warring Catholic and
Protestant powers, while the old rivalry between the Sunni and Shi’ite branches
of Islam magnified the struggle between the Iranian Safavid and Turkish
Ottoman empires for regional predominance. In the new age of gunpowder
weapons, the stakes of such conflicts were higher than ever before.
of the Russian Empire,
Before the sixteenth century, the Slavic-speaking Russian
people had been deeply influenced by Greek-speaking
Byzantium. Medieval Russian princes and merchants cultivated
relations with Constantinople, and the Russian city of Kiev
became a central point for the diffusion of literacy and Orthodox
Christianity. The monastic tradition of Orthodox Christianity
took deep root.
The early consolidation of a Russian state is largely the story of
two Ivans, Ivan III (r. 1440–1505) and Ivan IV (r. 1533–1584).
Ivan III ruled Muscovy from his capital at Moscow, drove the
weakened Mongols out of the other Russian states, and asserted
his authority over them. He made an explicit connection
between his own power and the Byzantine legacy, calling
himself tsar (“caesar”) and declaring that Russia would defend
the Orthodox Christian heritage after the fall of its traditional
center of Constantinople to the Ottomans. Ivan’s strategy of
maintaining a large territorial buffer around the core Russian
lands to protect them from invasion would become a perennial
element of Russian imperial policy.
A generation later Tsar Ivan IV centralized royal authority even
further and extended Russian power to the west, east, and
south, earning the nickname “Ivan the Terrible” for the random
cruelty of his later years. Defense and expansion of the
Orthodox faith inspired Ivan’s conquests.
To the east, across the Ural Mountains, lay the forbidding lands
of Siberia. The quest for animal furs lured the first Russian
frontiersmen to these lands, and state power followed later
(see Chapter 20). Already in the seventeenth century, Russians
were trading furs on a substantial scale, meeting demand from
England to Iran. In fact, Evliya Çelebi described a specialized
Ottoman guild of furriers whose goods included “furs of sable,
ermin, Russian silver fox” and “outlandish bearskin caps.”
Following the death of Ivan the Terrible came a “time of
troubles” with no clear successor to the title of tsar. Then in
1613 the Russian nobles offered royal power to Mikhail
Romanov. The Romanov dynasty (1613–1917) continued
Russia’s imperial expansion (see Chapter 20). Russia, along with
the Ottoman Empire, became the most enduring of land-based
empires in the modern era: both Romanov tsars and Ottoman
sultans ruled into the early twentieth century.
The main sources of revenue for the tsars and the nobility were
agricultural surpluses. Village-based farming was the
foundation of all the land-based empires, not only Russia but
also the Ottoman and Safavid empires, Mughal India, and Ming
China (see Chapter 16). What was distinctive about Russia was
the persistence of serfdom. Russian peasants were tightly
bound to their villages, and the tsars and aristocracy
increasingly saw these “souls,” as they called the peasants, as
property that could be bought and sold. The oppressive
conditions of serfdom in Russia contrasted with developments
in western Europe, where serfdom had either disappeared
altogether or where peasant obligations were becoming less
Conflict and Political
Control in France and England, 1500–
In France and England, more centralized monarchical
governments developed in the early modern period, in both
cases influenced by the need to counter Habsburg aspirations to
a broader empire. In both countries, however, internal divisions
of several kinds stood in the way of national success, most
notably religious differences and conflicts between kings and
aristocrats over the relative weight of their power. In both
France and England centralizing forces overcame such divisions,
though with great violence and with very different political
In France, Protestants were a minority to be reckoned with
(see Map 17.1). As French Calvinists, known as
Huguenots (HEW-guh-noh), faced increasing persecution,
religious warfare began. In 1572, after ten years of constant
conflict, a mass slaughter of Huguenots started in Paris and soon
spread to other French cities. In 1589, the Protestant Henry of
Navarre took the throne as Henry IV. Facing Catholic armies and
a largely hostile Catholic population, Henry publicly converted
to Catholicism and then, in 1598, issued the Edict of Nantes
granting limited toleration of Protestant worship. Still, CatholicProtestant tensions persisted.
The dominant French political figure of the time was Cardinal
Richelieu (1585–1642), whose policies were guided wholly by
the interests of the French monarchy. Richelieu’s attempt to
amass greater power for the king and his ministers alienated
the French nobility, and the common people resented increased
taxes to pay for military campaigns.
When the king and Cardinal Richelieu both died within a few
months of each other and a child-king, Louis XIV (r. 1643–
1715), came to the throne, revolts broke out. From 1648 to
1653, France was wracked by civil war between the monarchy
and those who were fed up with high taxes and the
centralization of authority at court. But the French monarchy
survived, and Louis XIV came of age to become a monarch of
legendary power. His court and Versailles Palace rivaled
Constantinople’s Sublime Porte in splendor and luxury.
At the time that Louis XIV became king, the nobility still
dominated the countryside, and they remained jealous of their
prerogatives. Both lords and peasants lived in a world where
local affiliations and obligations were more important than
national ones. As during medieval times, peasants labored on
their lords’ estates and were subject to manorial courts.
To assert his power, Louis increased the use of officials known
as intendants, often from the middle class or the lower ranks of
the nobility, who depended on royal patronage and owed their
loyalty to the king. Dispatched across the country, they enforced
royal edicts that cut into the power of the landed nobility. As
nobles lost local power, they too sought royal patronage and
gravitated toward the lavish court at Versailles.
Louis XIV at Court
King Louis XIV was an active patron of new science. It was his finance
minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who suggested that the king form the
Royal Academy of Sciences in 1666. Here Colbert is shown presenting
members of the Academy to the king; two globes and a large map
indicate that the French monarch saw the development of science as a
means of expanding his empire.
Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, NY
In 1685, Louis formally revoked the Edict of Nantes, realigning
the French state with Catholicism. Soon hundreds of thousands
of French Protestants fled to England, Switzerland, the
Netherlands, and Cape Town in South Africa. Adopting the
motto “One King, One Law, One Faith,” Louis was determined to
weaken Spain and Austria and position France as the world’s
dominant Catholic power, poised to challenge England in a
global competition for empire.
Louis XIV’s form of government has been termed “royal
absolutism.” “I am the state,” he said, implying that all of public
life should be directed by his own will. The French “Sun King”
was the envy of all who aspired to absolute power, including
contemporary English monarchs. However, in their case
religious divisions and the tradition of parliamentary power
checked royal absolutism and led to the execution of one king
and limitations on the authority of all later ones.
Under Queen Elizabeth, English society had entered the
seventeenth century in relative tranquility and with increasing
national confidence. In religious matters, Elizabeth followed the
Anglican Church of England tradition established by her father,
King Henry VIII. Although Catholicism was made illegal, Henry
actually retained many Catholic rites and traditions, including a
hierarchy of powerful bishops. Many English Protestants
wanted further reform to purge Catholic influences. Among
them were the English Calvinists, Protestant reformers known
as Puritans, who grew discontented with the Stuart kings who
came to power after Elizabeth. They scorned the opulence of
court life and the culture of luxury of Anglican bishops.
Increased taxes and assertions of centralized royal power were
additional causes of complaint.
Under King Charles I (r. 1625–1649), tensions exploded.
Charles pursued war with Spain and supported Huguenot rebels
in France, but he could not raise taxes to finance his policies
without the approval of Parliament. In 1628, when Parliament
presented a petition of protest against the king, he disbanded it
for eleven years. By then Charles was so desperate for money
that he had no choice but to reconvene Parliament. Reformers in
Parliament tried to use the occasion to compel the abolition of
the Anglican ecclesiastical hierarchy. When Charles arrested
several parliamentary leaders on charges of treason, the people
of London reacted with violence. The king fled London, and the
English Civil War (1642–1649) began.
Opposition to the king’s forces was organized by the Puritan
leader Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658). After seven years of
fighting, Cromwell prevailed. The king was captured and, in
1649, beheaded. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the
English Commonwealth and instituted a series of radical
reforms. But the Commonwealth was held together by little
other than his own will and his control of the army, and some of
his policies were highly unpopular. Puritan suppression of the
theaters, for example, while in keeping with strict Calvinist
ideals, was resented by many. Cromwell died in 1658, and in
1660 Parliament invited Charles’s son home from exile to
reestablish the monarchy.
When Charles II returned to England, absolute power was not
an option. He could only raise funds with the approval of
Parliament. Charles himself preferred relatively tolerant
policies, but Parliament imposed restrictions on Catholics and
Protestant “dissenters” who rejected the Anglican Church in
favor of a more thoroughly reformed Protestantism: only
Anglicans were allowed to hold public office.
With the death of Charles II, religious tension rose to the point
of crisis when his Catholic brother came to the throne as King
James II (r. 1685–1689). While James II did not try to impose
Catholicism on the largely Protestant kingdom, he did seek
greater tolerance for his own faith. In response, in 1688
Parliament invited Charles’s reliably Protestant daughter Mary,
together with her Dutch husband William of Orange, to take the
throne. James II raised an army but was defeated by Protestant
forces. The accession of William and Mary, known as the
Glorious Revolution, made permanent the Protestant character
of the English monarchy.
William and Mary were required to accept the principle of
annual parliamentary meetings. They also approved a Bill of
Rights. While restrictions on individual liberty remained and
most people had no real voice in governance, the English Bill of
Rights established important precedents for the future—
freedom of speech in Parliament, for example, and the right to
trial by jury—for England and for the world.
English governance thus differed from French absolutism. By
the eighteenth century the balance between king and
Parliament gave English society a stable foundation. English
commerce thrived, both domestically and across the world, and
the English navy became dominant. England became “Britain”
after unification with Scotland in 1707. The French and the
British, with their very different political cultures and religious
foundations, would soon be engaged in a global contest that
brought war to both the Americas and Asia (see Chapter 19).
18-1b Colonial Society: Gender and Race on the Margins of Empire
Within the Western Hemisphere, the basic patterns of life in Spanish-speaking America
were set by 1750. The subjugation of indigenous societies was well advanced. Large-scale
haciendas and mining operations were the foundation of commercial economies based on
exploitation of the labor of Amerindians and African slaves. Officials from Spain dominated
the upper ranks of both church and state, while criollos became local officials, hacienda
landowners, and merchants.
Between the small Spanish elite at the top of the social hierarchy and the Amerindians who
continued to practice ancient cultural traditions at the bottom, a complex mix of peoples and
cultures emerged. Ingredients of this mix included European immigration, the forced
migration of African slaves, and the continuing loss of indigenous populations to disease
and deprivation.
The Spanish elite were concerned with enforcing strict hierarchies of caste, gender, and
religious and ethnic identity. This fixation with “purity of blood” went back to
the reconquista (see Chapter 15), when reserving public office for men of pure Spanish
descent was instituted to keep converted Jews and Muslims out of positions of power. This
policy was transferred to the Americas: those of non-Spanish and non-Catholic origin were
expected to defer to their social superiors.
Maintaining elitist hierarchies in the courts, schools, and urban spaces of Mexico City, Lima,
and other bastions of Spanish authority was easy enough. Outside the cities, however,
conditions were more fluid. Spanish men rarely brought their wives and families to the
Americas, and liaisons between Spanish men and indigenous women made “purity of
blood” impossible to maintain. By the seventeenth century, a distinct mestizoOffspring of an
Amerindian and Spanish union. Cultural and biologic blending became characteristic of
Mexican society, marked by a complex racial hierarchy, the casta system, in which people
were carefully categorized into dozens of categories of racial descent.(mes-TEE-zoh), or
mixed Spanish/Amerindian, category had emerged whose blended culture came to
characterize Mexican society.
Under frontier conditions the Catholic Church also had difficulty imposing religious
orthodoxy. In Spain itself, the inquisition (the Catholic bureaucracy devoted to suppressing
heresy) strictly monitored the beliefs and behavior of the population. Families
of conversos and moriscos (mohr-EES-koz), who had been forcibly converted from Judaism
and Islam, were subjected to special scrutiny. On the colonial frontier, however, such
groups were sometimes able to retain elements of their old faith, secretly incorporating
Jewish rituals in their family traditions.
Converted Amerindians were the largest group of Catholics deviating from church doctrine,
especially in Mexico and Peru, where missionaries had baptized many descendants of the
Aztecs and Inca. Many Amerindians embraced the church as a way to adapt to their new
world, blending their own cosmologies and traditions into Catholicism. While some church
leaders campaigned against the continuation of “idol worship” among baptized Amerindians,
more often Spanish missionaries tolerated such practices. Amerindian populations gradually
stabilized after the great losses of the sixteenth century, and where they formed a majority,
as in the Andes, missionaries had little choice but to work through indigenous cultures.
This process of syncretismThe fusion of cultural elements from more than one tradition. In
colonial Latin America religious syncretism was common, with both Amerindians and
Africans blending their existing beliefs and rituals with Catholicism., is an important theme in
world history that is also seen, for example, when Islam spread to Africa and Buddhism to
China. A thousand years before the conquest of the Americas, European converts to
Christianity had themselves adapted some of their pagan ideas to the new faith. For both
ancient Europeans and colonized Amerindians, former gods reappeared as Christian saints.
And while the Christian God might be male, worship of Mary as the Virgin Mother allowed
Catholic Aztecs to retain the female presence in their religious worship previously
represented by the fertility goddess Tonantzin. The centrality of the female principle in
Mexican worship crystallized in the cult of the Virgin of GuadalupeAn apparition of the
Virgin Mary, with a dark complexion, said to have appeared to a Mexican farmer in 1531.
The cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe exerted a powerful attraction to Mesoamerica’s surviving
Amerindians. She remains a symbol of Mexican identity.. Represented as dark in
complexion, like most of her devotees, she remains a symbol of Mexican identity and an
embodiment of religious syncretism.
In Catalina de Erauso’s story the Catholic Church plays a more practical role. Once after
she had stabbed a man in a fight she sought refuge in a church, where the civil authorities
could not pursue her without the bishop’s permission. Still, Erauso’s autobiography also
affords insights into race and gender in frontier Spanish America. Once in Peru, she
deserted the army and wandered alone into the mountains, where she nearly died but was
rescued by two men who took her to their mistress’s ranch:
The lady was a half-breed, the daughter of a Spaniard and an Indian woman, a widow and a
good woman. . . . The next morning she fed me well, and seeing that I was so entirely
destitute she gave me a decent cloth suit. . . . The lady was well-off, with a good deal of
livestock and cattle, and it seems that, since Spaniards were scarce in those parts, she
began to fancy me as a husband for her daughter . . . a girl as black and ugly as the devil
himself, quite the opposite of my taste, which has always run to pretty faces.
Never intending to marry the girl but merely to receive the widow’s gifts, Erauso went along
with this plan. She then writes, “In the two months I was putting off the Indian woman, I
struck up a friendship with the Bishop’s secretary,” who introduced Erauso to his niece with
the indication that they might get married. Again, Erauso accepted gifts from this potential
in-law, but then “saddled up and vanished.” We cannot know how much of this story is
embellished, but it suggests how Iberian men (as Erauso presented herself to be) were
highly desirable marriage partners for families wishing to sustain or improve their social
Erauso’s narrative shows the complexities of the casta systemThe system of racial
categorization in the Spanish Americas. Dozens of different “casta” terms were developed
for various mixtures of European, African, and Native American descent. Though this was a
flexible system that allowed movement “up” or “down” the racial hierarchy, markers of
Spanish descent always carried the highest status.of racial hierarchy. She describes the
widow as a “half-breed” who is “good” and “well-off” and who is trying to interest a Spaniard
in marrying her “black” and “ugly” daughter. Here we see two fundamental racial realities.
On the one hand, racial mixing was accepted as a part of life. On the other hand, whiteness
always conferred status. So even in the many places where mestizos or mulattos (of mixed
Spanish/African descent) formed the majority, the casta system reinforced the superiority of
Spanish descent.
Gender relations and the social roles of women varied by social class. As in many societies,
including the North African ones that had strongly influenced medieval Iberia, Spanish men
demonstrated their wealth and status by keeping women away from the public realm. Elite
parents, preoccupied with protecting the family honor, arranged unions for adolescent
daughters who would, upon marriage, lead restricted lives. Those for whom no acceptable
marriage could be found were sent to convents. Poorer families in which women played vital
economic roles as farmers and artisans could not imitate such behavior; their darker skin
and ruddy complexions resulting from outdoor work marked their lowly status.
Women sometimes had access to education, and those in convents might rise to power
within their all-female communities. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz One of the great literary
figures of colonial New Spain. Wrote poetry, prose, and philosophy despite having been
denied a university education. Best known for her defense of the intellectual equality of men
and women.(1648–1695) was the most famous of such women. Born into a modest family,
she was a child prodigy who learned to read Latin before the age of ten. She became a
lady-in-waiting for the viceroy’s wife in Mexico City and a popular figure at court. But after
her application to the University of Mexico was denied, she entered the convent. In contrast
to Catalina de Erauso, who saw convent life as a prison, Sor Juana restricted herself to an
all-female community to develop her remarkable literary and intellectual skills.
Sor Juana’s writings cover many topics, and her poetry is still taught to Mexican
schoolchildren. She is best known for her belief in the equality of women with men: “There
is no obstacle to love / in gender or in absence, / for souls, as you are well aware, /
transcend both sex and distance.” After years of correspondence and debate with church
leaders who denounced her work, she saw the futility of trying to change their minds and
stopped publishing altogether. In 1694, church officials forced her to sell her library of four
thousand books, and the next year she died of plague.
Sor Juana’s story illustrates the degree to which New Spain duplicated the Spanish social
order. But Erauso’s narrative reminds us that the “new world” could also mean new
Chapter 18: Empires, Colonies, and Peoples of the Americas, 1600–1750: 18-1b Colonial Society: Gender and Race
on the Margins of Empire
Book Title: Voyages in World History
Printed By: Robert Smith (
© 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning
© 2020 Cengage Learning Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may by reproduced or used in any form or by
any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, or in any other manner – without the written permission of the
copyright holder.
18-2d Mainland English Colonies in North America
For the English, as for the French, the Caribbean islands and sugar were the economic
focal points of their American venture (see Chapter 19). Also like the French, the English
were relative newcomers to mainland America in the first half of the seventeenth century,
settling initially in areas such as Virginia and Massachusetts.
Jamestown, founded in 1607 and the first permanent English settlement in Virginia (est.
1607) English colony in North America with an export economy based on tobacco
production. The use of European indentured servants gave way to dependence on slave
labor., was nearly wiped out in its early years, but by the 1630s the colony was thriving after
the colonists discovered a lucrative Atlantic market for tobacco. Long used by Amerindian
peoples for social and ritual purposes, tobacco became the foundation of Virginia’s
prosperity and generated a strong demand for labor.
English attitudes excluded Amerindians from participation in the evolving economy of
Virginia, even as laborers. (In any event, woodland Amerindian men looked down on
agricultural work; moreover, imported diseases were soon decimating the Amerindian
population.) Unlike the French, who cooperated with Amerindian societies, the English
drove indigenous peoples out, replacing them with “civilized” English farmers. Sir Walter
Raleigh, a major investor in Virginia settlement, had taken this approach when he was sent
to put down a late-sixteenth-century Irish rebellion, creating settlements where the “savage
Irish” were to be replaced by more dependable English farmers. In Virginia, the “savages”
were Amerindian rather than Irish, but Raleigh’s strategy remained the same.
However, plantations required more work than free settlers could provide. One solution was
indentured labor. In this system, employers paid for the transportation costs of poor English
and Irish peasants in return for four to seven years of work, after which they received either
a return passage or a small plot of land. Cheap as this labor was, tobacco planters needed
a labor force even cheaper and more servile. In 1619, when the first shipment of captive
Africans arrived at Jamestown, they were treated as indentured servants. By the 1650s,
however, a racial distinction between white servants and African slaves had become the
rule. By the late seventeenth century, planters were buying larger numbers of African slaves
in Virginia markets.
Colonial authorities worried about contact between Europeans and Africans; as early as
1630, one Hugh Davis was whipped “for abusing himself to the dishonor of God and the
shame of Christians, by defiling his body in lying with a Negro.” By the later seventeenth
century, Virginia law prohibited interracial unions. Such liaisons continued nevertheless,
but mulatto (mixed-race) Virginians, even if free, were discriminated against both legally and
Even as slave bondage increased, Virginia evolved a system of governance in which free,
propertied white men had a voice. Virginia became a royal colony in 1624, with a governorgeneral appointed by the king. By the 1660s Virginia’s assembly, the House of Burgesses,
was acting as an independent deliberative body. By the eighteenth century, Virginia’s ruling
class of planters were accustomed to running their own affairs.
Farther south, the English colony of Carolina (est. 1663) English colony that was patterned
after West Indian social and economic patterns, with large plantations growing rice and
indigo with slave labor. Unlike in Virginia, Africans were a majority of the seventeenthcentury population.more closely resembled the colonies of the West Indies, especially on
the coast and the coastal islands. Carolina’s plantations were generally much larger than
Virginia’s and their use of slaves more intensive. Rice and indigo (used to produce a rich
blue dye) were the main crops.
Slavery was less important in the middle colonies, where New York City and Philadelphia
emerged as vibrant political and economic centers. Twenty thousand German settlers had
arrived in Pennsylvania by 1700, but the European immigrant population was still primarily
English and Scottish.
The settlement of New EnglandColony that began with the arrival of English Calvinists in
the 1620s that was characterized by homogeneous, self-sufficient farming
communities.began with the arrival in the 1620s and 1630s of religious dissenters
dissatisfied with the established Church of England. More English settlers soon came for
economic reasons: land was cheap, and wages were relatively high. Entire families
migrated to New England intending to recreate the best features of the rural life they knew
in England and combine them with American economic opportunity.
Whereas elsewhere European men outnumbered European immigrant women, in New
England their numbers were equally balanced, making cultural and racial mixing much less
common. Since families did their own farm work, there was little call for slave labor.
Regarding indigenous peoples as competitors for land and water resources, the settlers
drove them out, beyond the colonial boundaries.
In the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, then, England’s mainland colonies were
of limited economic and strategic importance. The silver of New Spain and the sugar of the
West Indies generated profits on a much greater scale. With a hostile alliance of French and
Indian societies to the north and west, the potential for expansion beyond the Atlantic
seaboard seemed uncertain. However, by 1750 England and France were poised to battle
for control of such diverse colonial territories as the Ohio River Valley, plantation colonies in
the Caribbean, and trade settlements in South Asia (see Chapters 19 and 20). By that time
the significance of Britain’s mainland American colonies had grown substantially. However,
all of the English mainland colonies had achieved a degree of self-governance by the
eighteenth century. Not willing to give up the voice in public affairs to which they had
become accustomed, colonists would increasingly resist attempts by the English monarchy
to impose central control.
Chapter 18: Empires, Colonies, and Peoples of the Americas, 1600–1750: 18-2d Mainland English Colonies in North
Book Title: Voyages in World History
Printed By: Robert Smith (
© 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning
© 2020 Cengage Learning Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may by reproduced or used in any form or by
any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, or in any other manner – without the written permission of the
copyright holder.

Purchase answer to see full

Explanation & Answer:
4 pages




User generated content is uploaded by users for the purposes of learning and should be used following Studypool’s honor code & terms of service.

Looking for this assignment? Then

do my essay homework

Reviews, comments, and love from our customers and community

Article Writing

Great service so far. Keep doing what you do, I am really impressed by the work done.



PowerPoint Presentation

I am speechless…WoW! Thank you so much! Definitely, the writer is talented person. She provided me with an essay a day early before the due date!

Stacy V.

Part-time student

Dissertation & Thesis

This was a very well-written paper. Great work fast. I was in pretty desperate need for help to finish this paper before the due date, which was in nine hours.

M.H.H. Tony


Annotated Bibliography

I love working with this company. You always go above and beyond and exceed my expectations every time. Kate did a WONDERFUL job. I would highly recommend her.

Francisca N.


Book Report / Review

I received my order wayyyyyyy sooner than I expected. Couldn’t ask for more. Very good at communicating & fast at replying. And change & corrections she put in the effort to go back and change it!

Mary J.


Essay (Any Type)

On time, perfect paper. All concerns & matters I had Tom was able to answer them! I will definitely provide him with more orders!

Prof. Kate (Ph.D)


Case Study

Awesome! Great papers, and early! Thank you so much once again! Definitely recommend to trust James with your assignments! He won’t disappoint!

Kaylin Green


Proofreading & Editing

Thank you Dr. Rebecca for editing my essays! She completed my task literally in 3 hours. For sure will work with her again, she is great and follows all instructions

Rebecca L.


Critical Thinking / Review

Extremely thorough summary, understanding and examples found for social science readings, with edits made as needed and on time. It’s like having a tutoring service available (:

Arnold W.



Perfect!I only paid about $80, which i think was a good price considering what my paper entailed. My paper was done early and it was well written!

Joshua W.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>