America's History: Chapter 1 Questions

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AP US History

How do you explain the different ways in which the Indian peoples of Mesoamerica and North America developed?

Farming technology developed earlier in Mesoamerica; settled agriculture arrived later in North America. This factor produced a larger population and large cities earlier and in greater numbers in Mesoamerica than in North America. A larger population in Mesoamerica produced greater state control, urbanization, and more social classes compared to North American societies. Lower population levels in North American societies produced less diversity of occupations and social classes, lower levels of state formation and territorial competition, and fewer large-scale cities than in Mesoamerica. Greater use of mixed hunting/gathering and farming in North America stemming from the later development of farming technology in North America produced smaller-scale and more self-governing societies. Greater development of dispersed and smaller settlements compared to Mesoamerica gave women more economic power within North American societies.

What made Native American peoples vulnerable to conquest by European adventurers?

Lack of political unity. For example, Aztecs had many enemies from within their own tribes as a result of territorial competition, wealth acquisition, and the sacrifice of captives taken in war. Cortés exploited Indian political rivalries to his advantage, forming alliances with enemy tribes of the Aztecs. La Malinche, Cortés's interpreter, assisted the Spanish in the hope of escaping enslavement by the Aztec. In contrast, the Spanish possessed a highly unified society. Lack of iron also contributed. Native Americans possessed copper but did not melt iron. Spanish metal armor, swords, and lances inflicted devastating wounds on Aztec warriors armed with cotton armor and obsidian-tipped spears and arrows. Differences in weaponry. Besides penetrating power and devastating wounds, the use of guns and crossbows, though limited, inflicted psychological shock on Native American people. Lack of horse and animal technology. Aztecs fought on foot and had no wheeled carts or cavalry, unlike the Spanish, who also possessed attack dogs. Lack of immunity to European diseases. Although tuberculosis was known among Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans, isolation from Eurasia for thousands of years prevented habituation to common European diseases. Examples: In 1500 the Mesoamerican population equaled 30 million, but only 3 million by 1650; 300,000 Indians in Hispaniola were wiped out in a few decades; a smallpox epidemic lasted twenty days in Aztec Tenotchtitlán in 1521, facilitating Cortés's victory. Before Pizarro landed in Peru in 1524, smallpox had reduced the Inca population by half (18 to 9 million), igniting an internal native fight over succession to rule and weakening the Inca militarily. Influenza and measles also severely impacted native populations, producing both a population loss and a psychological shock that facilitated power decline.

What led to the transatlantic trade in African slaves?

Crusades in Europe during the Middle Ages brought Europe closer to North Africa and increased the desire of European monarchs to take advantage of Arab Muslim slave trade with Sub-Saharan Africa. Renaissance economic expansion influenced European monarchs to increase commerce with Africa and Asia in an attempt to remove Arab Muslim control of world trade. Profits from increasing trade created powerful merchant and banking interests that promoted further world exploration. Africa, geographically close to southern Europe, was within easy reach due in part to advances in ship design (caravel) and the compass. European monarchs such as Prince Henry the Navigator sponsored voyages to find maritime routes to West Africa and Asia. West Africans had previous experience with domestic slavery in African societies. People became slaves as prisoners of war and as security for debts, and some were sold by relatives in times of famine. West African societies engaged in African slave trade with Arab Muslim traders of North Africa before the Portuguese arrived in the mid-1400s. West African slaves were sold as agricultural workers from one kingdom to another or carried overland in caravans by Arab traders to North Africa. The large population of Africans and a high degree of African warfare made a great number of people available for slave trade. The desire of African leaders to take part in slave trade with Europeans led to Atlantic slave trade. There was a lack of political unity in Africa. African leaders raided neighboring tribes for slaves to use in African societies and to sell to Arab traders from North Africa and to the Portuguese by the mid-1400s. Portuguese monarchs and traders militarily overwhelmed Arab middlemen and took control of trade (e.g., the building of the first slave-trading post at Elmina in 1482). Portuguese monarchs and merchants created a sugar plantation system based on West African slave labor. Plantations were established in Cape Verde islands, the Azores, and Madeira, with as many as 9,000 slaves imported in Lisbon. By 1550 Atlantic slave trade expanded enormously to supply new sugar plantations in Brazil and West Indies.

What was mercantilism? How did this doctrine shape the policies of European monarchs to promote domestic manufacturing and foreign trade?

During the sixteenth century, European banks, private investment firms, and monarchies, led by the English and Dutch, promoted a system of capitalism, known as mercantilism, that evolved into a complex state-sponsored system of domestic manufacturing and foreign trade that encouraged Europeans to increase funding of world exploration and conquest. European monarchies created royal law courts and bureaucracies that reduced the power of the landed classes. The desire to export rather than import goods (and create a favorable balance of trade) prompted England under Queen Elizabeth to expand mercantilism through overseas colonization. In exchange for free trade, merchants and urban areas were taxed heavily. The expansion of mercantilism increased the revenues of the English royal treasury and enhanced the power of the national government.

How did Europeans become leaders in world trade and extend their influence across the Atlantic?

Europeans used technological innovations derived by Arab inventors in navigation, weaponry, map-making, and communication. Mercantilist policies were promoted by Christian merchants and monarchies. Profits from commerce created powerful merchants, bankers, and textile manufacturers who spurred technological innovation in communication and navigation. Military supremacy was achieved over Muslims in Spain and Africa by 1492. Competition with Arab states for control of Asian trade increased European mercantilist policies and eventual expansion into the Western Hemisphere. Crusades and the expansion of Christian power during the 1300s created an economic and cultural ethos of competition that fed the expansion of mercantilism.In conjunction with African leaders, European monarchs and merchants created an Atlantic slave trade that increased the power of mercantilism.

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