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First Contact. Europeans come to the Americas. Early Contact - Vikings. According to oral history, Leif Ericson was the first Viking explorer to find North America. He established a colony in what he called Vinland in around 1000 A.D.

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first contact

First Contact

Europeans come to the Americas

early contact vikings
Early Contact - Vikings
  • According to oral history, Leif Ericsonwas the first Viking explorer to find North America. He established a colony in what he called Vinland in around 1000 A.D.
  • In 1960, archaeologists found evidence of a Viking colony (probably that of Leif Ericson) in northern Newfoundland.
early contact what about others
Early Contact - What about others?
  • There are many theories about other people arriving in the Americas before Columbus. Theories exist about voyages by the Welsh, West Africans, and Chinese.
  • Most of these theories have very little actual evidence to support the theory. Until any solid archaeological evidence is found, these theories can remain only speculation.
europe in 1492
Europe In 1492
  • Much of Western Europe was still recovering from the end of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance had begun in Italy and spread through Western Europe throughout the 1400s.
  • Things were getting better now, but there were still many problems.
europe in 14921
Europe In 1492
  • England and France had recently finished the 100 years war and were still recovering.
  • Populations throughout Western Europe were still lower than they had been in 1300, due to the plague.
europe in 14922
Europe In 1492
  • Records are inexact and historians differ on the numbers, but estimated populations in Western Europe (according to The Encyclopedia of World History, 2001) were:
europe in 14923
Europe In 1492
  • Spain emerged from a long war to gain control of the Iberian Peninsula. A series of battles against the Muslim Moors had driven them out, leaving behind only the remnants of their sophisticated culture.
europe in 14924
Europe In 1492
  • A very important marriage between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile united the country in the hands of one Christian monarch.
early european explorers
Early European Explorers
  • Now, Spain was ready to expand its power and looked across the ocean to do so.
  • Ferdinand andIsabella gave Columbus the money and ships to explore. He “discovered” the Americas.



early european explorers1
Early European Explorers

There were many explorers involved in the exploration of the “New World” by the Europeans. Some of the important early explorers are listed here.

early european explorers2
Early European Explorers
  • These explorers represented several different European countries. The ones that came to dominate large parts of the Americas were Spain, Portugal, France, and England.
  • Though there were some differences between these countries, they tended to follow very similar patterns in their exploration and colonization.
why did the europeans defeat the natives
Why did the Europeans defeat the Natives?
  • A Case Study of the Aztec and Inca
  • Despite the strength of the Aztec Empire, it was conquered in 1521 by Hernando Cortes.
  • Cortes had an army of 600 soldiers (plus some native allies), 20 horses and 10 cannons.
why did the europeans defeat the natives1
Why did the Europeans defeat the Natives?
  • Despite the strength of the Incan Empire, it was conquered by Francisco Pizarro in 1532. Pizarro’s army of 168 soldiers defeated 80, 000 Incan soldiers.
why did the europeans defeat the natives2
Why did the Europeans defeat the Natives?
  • Why were Europeans so successful in defeating the Natives, in both of these cases and in many more?
guns germs and steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel

Weapons (Guns)

  • The Spanish had steel swords against the blunt clubs and bronze knives of the Aztec and Inca.
  • They also had guns (harquebuses) – though these were not yet very advanced
guns germs and steel1
Guns, Germs, and Steel

Disease (Germs)

  • Europeans brought diseases they had developed from contact with farm animals
    • examples: Smallpox, Influenza,Measles
guns germs and steel2
Guns, Germs, and Steel

Technology (Steel)

  • Europeans had steel armour vs. the quilted armour of the Aztec and Inca
  • Europeans had horses, and the equipment to ride them into battle
guns germs and steel3
Guns, Germs, and Steel


  • Europeans had written language and learned through writing of other battles against Natives. The Incans had none and didn’t learn about the Aztec experiences

Codex Zouche-Nuttall

Aztec Writing

end result conquest
End Result = Conquest
  • These same three things (Guns, Germs, and Steel), gave Europeans an advantage over the Natives in every part of the two continents.
  • The battle was not always so easy. Sometimes the Natives fought on for a long time. Inevitably though, the Europeans won the battles and established colonies, while the Native populations were almost wiped out.