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CHAPTER 20 Epilogue: European Reactions to Hispanic Expansion in America The impact of Hispanic expansion on America was direct, massive, and permanent . It involved the rapid conquest of large parts of two continents, the sudden destruction of great Indian civilizations, and the decimation of indigenous populations. In the wake of conquest the Spaniards and Portuguese created new American societies with the unwilling help of the conquered peoples and slaves brought from Africa. As they existed at the end of the seventeenth century, these societies give the appearance of archaic structures when compared with those of northern Europe, but less so if their mother countries are used as the standard of measurement . Except for afew favored locations, they had low population densities and poorly developed urban networks; they were economically backward and dependent; they possessed hierarchically ordered social structures in which status ostensibly was based on racial qualities and various degrees of servitude; and their governments were inefficient and corrupt. They were insulated from the currents of change flowing in early modern Europe by distance, metropolitan policies,the vigilance of the church,and the conservatism of their elites. The sharp cleavages among their social classes, moreover, make them appear fragile and vulnerable to eruptions from within and subversion from without. Nonetheless , they proved to have a remarkable durability, and, even after they became independent, they stood as clearly visible marks of the work of Spain and Portugal in America. The impact on Europe of Hispanic expansion in America is much more difficult to assess. Indeed, except for the shock of the Discovery and the arrival 452 E P I L O G U E 4 5 3 of large quantities of American treasure, the effects could hardly be called an impact. They amounted, rather, to the slow infiltration of material things and intangible influences. Furthermore, it is hard to isolate American influences from changes already under way in Europe at the time of the Discovery, and historians of Europe have implicitly assumed that what Europe gave was more important than what it received in return. For these reasons the effects of the opening of the New World on the Old have been less thoroughly studied than the creation of Hispanic empires in America, and what has been written on the former subject has not been fully synthesized. Nonetheless, the theme of this series, "Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion," demands at least a survey of what scholars think Europe received in the "Columbian Exchange."1 Information about the New World: Accumulation, Dissemination, andAssimilation Information about the New World accumulated steadily in Europe beginning with Columbus's first voyage. At first it came chiefly from Spanish sources and fell into several categories: (l)the charts and notes of navigators, which were mainly of cartographical interest; (2) the reports to the crown of discoverers , conquerors, and colonial officials, which were full of miscellaneous information but often unbalanced by a desire to please or impress; (3) the chronicles of conquest, which varied widely in quality according to the education and perception of their authors;2 (4) the writings of the first generation of missionaries , especially in Mexico,which contained a wealth of ethnographic data;3 and (5) the histories, "general," "natural," and "moral," written by men on the scene, which described the New World's physical features, its climates, its minerals , its flora and fauna, and, above all, its indigenous peoples.4 After the middle of the sixteenth century, Spanish sources were supplemented by Portuguese chronicles and histories of the conquest and colonization of Brazil and by the writings of foreigners who penetrated Hispanic America. The last-named category included the descriptions of Brazil by Frenchmen who participated in Huguenot efforts to settle in Brazil, and Sir Walter Raleigh's The Discovery of the Large, Rich, and Beautiful Empire of Guiana.5 Although numerous works on the Hispanic New World were written in the seventeenth century, the great age of information gathering was the sixteenth , and by its end these regions had been very well described. The dissemination of information about America occurred more slowly than its gathering. Most of the official accounts reposed in Seville, Madrid,and 4 5 4 E P I L O G U E Lisbon, far distant from the most important centers of learning in Europe, and Spanish and Portuguese kings restricted their use because they did not wish to draw foreign attention to their American dominions. As for private chronicles and histories, many were not...


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