Effects of the Spanish conquest
- There was a drastic decrease in the indigenous population of the Americas due to diseases introduced by the Spanish, such as smallpox, measles and typhus, resulting in demographic collapse.
- It’s estimated that up to 90% of the indigenous population died due to these diseases as they had no natural immunity.
- Enforced labour in harsh conditions, and brutal treatment during the conquest period, also contributed to the population decline.
- The discovery and exploitation of abundant natural resources, particularly silver and gold, transformed the Spanish economy and made Spain one of the wealthiest European nations.
- The Encomienda system was introduced, a type of feudalism where natives were forced to work in mines or fields by Spanish landowners.
- The Spanish introduced new crops such as citrus fruits, sugar cane, and wheat, which transformed agriculture and land use in the Americas.
- The Spanish imposed their language, religion, and customs on the native people, leading to cultural erasure and adoption of Spanish culture.
- Christian missionaries converted many indigenous people to Catholicism, leading to a significant shift in religious practices.
- Education and literacy, primarily offered through the Church, was introduced, dramatically altering indigenous cultures and societies.
- Spanish arrivals led to the built environment being dramatically changed, with city planning and architecture reflecting European styles.
- The discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa and the first circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan’s crew expanded the Spanish Empire and European knowledge of the world.
- New Spanish settlements, forts and cities took the space of former indigenous settlements.
Future Global Relations
- The Spanish conquests laid the groundwork for the Atlantic Slave Trade, as the diminished indigenous population led settlers to look to Africa for labour forces.
- Boundaries drawn and territories claimed during the Spanish conquest still influence Latin American geopolitics today.
- The conquest also established lasting imperial patterns of economic exploitation and cultural dominance across the world.