Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The New World

Much of my teaching material for this topic has been based on J.H. Parry, The Age of Reconnaisance: Discovery, Exploration and Settlement 1450-1650 (Cardinal, 1973) and G.V. Scammell, The First Imperial Age: European Overseas Expansion, c. 1400-1715 (Unwin Hyman, 1989). The best textbook account I have come across is in Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (Cambridge University Press, 2006). I haven't yet read Hugh Thomas Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan (Random House, 2005).

I have also used a range of reliable internet sites which for copyright reasons I can't reproduce. Below some of the most useful.

A chronological account of the voyages of Columbus.

Information about the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494).

An assessment of Bernal Díaz' Conquest of New Spain.

Aztec human sacrifices. Is there an anthropological explanation?

What happened to Montezuma?

The account of the death of Atahualpa.

We don't know how many indigenous peoples died from diseases brought by the Europeans. Some accounts suggest that out of a total of approximately 50 million people in 1492, there might have been a death toll of 80%. If this is true, then it has to be the greatest human catastrophe in history.

Here is some information about the impact of the New World on food.
Peppers and chillis became part of the Iberian diet fairly quickly. Tomatoes were introduced into southern Europe in the 16th century though they only spread to northern Europe in the 18th century. Maize was brought back from Columbus’s first trip to the Americas in 1493 and spread rapidly, reaching Venice and the Balkans from the 1530s. In France it was known as millet. In Italy maize porridge (polenta) became a staple of the peasant diet.

See here for the history of the chilli.

The Spaniards introduced potatoes to Europe in the 16th century. The name 'potato' came from the Spanish word ‘patata from the Quechua work which appears as ‘papa’. Popular legend has long credited Sir Walter Raleigh with first bringing the potato to England, but history suggests Sir Francis Drake as a more likely candidate. In 1586, after battling the Spaniards in the Caribbean, Drake stopped at Cartagena in Columbia to collect provisions – including tobacco and potato tubers. Before returning to England he stopped at Roanoke Island, where the first English settlers had attempted to set up a colony. The pioneers returned to England with Drake, along with the potatoes. However, the spread was slow and uneven, with much consumer resistance.