The European Colonization of North and South America

The European Colonization of North and South America





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The European Colonization of North and South America

As Europeans explored and colonized the Americas, they brought different changes to the various aspects of the people and their land, from hunting and trade to personal property and welfare. Indeed, the goods, diseases, and ideas of the Europeans helped shape the changing American continent. As such, different primary sources give varying accounts of the life experiences of the natives and Europeans in North and South America. Overall, a majority of sources agree that the colonization of the American continent had several effects both negative such as spread of diseases, introduction of hierarchical social order, and enslavement of people, and positive, for instance, commercialization and introduction of new crops.

Viewpoints in the Conflicting Primary Sources

 ‘Diseases in Mexico’ (2012) primary source offers the historical account of disease migration during the colonial period. The article demonstrates that smallpox, a plague, attacked the people of Mexico just before the Spaniards rose against them. The plague was catastrophic since it resulted in many casualties and some of the people were left with permanent injuries such as roughened faces and blindness. The plague affected the region for approximately 60 days before it was realized and diminished. Hence, this primary source covers the negative elements that are associated with the colonialism and migration of diseases.

‘European plants and animals in Mexico and Chile, 1620’ (2012) documents the account for the migration of animals and plants in Mexico. The source covers how the archdioceses of Mexico were organized and the type of food that was planted in the area. Besides, the article covers different provinces in Mexico including, Michoacan and New Vizcaya. According to the article, there was plenty of food that was introduced in Mexico by the Spaniards. The article also offers an overview of the City of Santiago, Chile, and its economic background. Therefore, this source shows that Mexico positively benefited from the European colonialist who introduced new agricultural products in the country. The article also demonstrates that the Native Americans were clustered into categories during the arrival of the Spaniards. This led to the creation of different classes of individuals in society.

Important Effects: Native Americans vs. European Colonialists

Comparing the different experiences of the Native Americans and the European colonialists there numerous important effects that can be noted as depicted in ‘Diseases in Mexico,’ (2012) and ‘European Plants and Animals in Mexico and Chile, 1620’ (2012). The positive effects that are indicated in the sources include the introduction of new agricultural products and mines which resulted in booming economic activities in the region. Indeed, the Native Americans were more enmeshed in commercial relations with different European countries and they depended on European trade goods. Besides, the interaction created an opportunity for the Native Americans to introduce their American food crops, for instance, potatoes, corn, and cassava into the Eastern parts of Europe (Strayer, 2013). However, these effects which were drawn from the source, ‘European Plants and Animals in Mexico and Chile, 1620’ differ from the effects indicated in the article ‘Diseases in Mexico.’

Several negative effects can be identified in the two primary sources but are different. The ‘Diseases in Mexico’ indicates the main effect of Native Life experiences as an outbreak of diseases which resulted in several casualties and permanent injuries. It is argued that as the disease took toll of the Native Americans, they became dependent on the Spaniards who helped them curb their spread. Besides, the second primary source shows that the Native Americans life was directly affected by the Spaniards since it changed their cultural lifestyle. The Spaniards introduced the concept of classes which led to the recognition of various mixed races. It resulted in clustering people in a hierarchical social order which was defined by heritage and race. Moreover, the life of the Europeans becomes more comfortable while the Native Americans became subjects working in the mines and farming fields (“The Potosi Mine and Indian Labor in Peru” 2012). They were the ones working on the mines and the agricultural fields. The Spaniards were the priests and the mangers across Mexico.

The differences in the historical accounts as captured in the two sources are attributed to different issues which include the period that the account was made, the intentions of the persons documenting the facts, and the experiences of the writer. For instance, the first account as it is in ‘Diseases in Mexico’ largely captures the occurrences and life experiences in Mexico in the period just before the arrival of the Spaniards. The second source focused on the life of the Native Americans during the period when the Spaniards had risen against them. The difference in the period of the historical accounts demonstrates the difference in how the two sources illustrate the historical facts of the Native Americans during colonialism.


A comparison of the European and Native Americans experience indicate several important effects. The interaction between the two groups led to the transformation of the commercial and trade viability of America. However, it also resulted in several negative effects as demonstrated above. The main negative effects included the spread of catastrophic diseases, changes in the cultural lifestyle of the Native Americans, and the introduction of hierarchical social order which lead to racism in the region. However, how these effects are accounted in the reviewed primary sources are different maybe because of the period that the events took place.


“Disease in Mexico”, from Stearns, PN, Gosch, SL, Grieshaber, EP &Belzer, AS (eds.) 2012, Documents in world history, vol.2. From 1500 to the present, 6th edn, Boston, Pearson, pp.16–17.

“European Plants and Animals in Mexico and Chile, 1620”, from Stearns, PN, Gosch, SL, Grieshaber, EP &Belzer, AS (eds.) 2012, Documents in world history, vol.2. From 1500 to the present, 6th edn, Boston, Pearson, pp.17–20.

Strayer, RW 2013, Ways of the world, 2nd edn, Boston, Bedford/ New York, St Martin’s, pp.619–35 (Week 3), pp.679–81 (Week 4)

“The Potosi Mine and Indian Labor in Peru”, from Stearns, PN, Gosch, SL, Grieshaber, EP &Belzer, AS (eds.) 2012, Documents in world history, vol.2. From 1500 to the present, 6th edn, Boston, Pearson, pp.91–92.