Effects of the Spanish conquest

Effects of the Spanish conquest

Demographic Impact

  • 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.

Economic Changes

  • 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.

Cultural Influence

  • 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.

Geographical Alterations

  • 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.