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Updated by ConZeLister on Jan 31, 2016
Headline for 10 Things that Secured Europe's Place in the New World
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10 Things that Secured Europe's Place in the New World

Since the 10th century, there has been a continuous outpouring of Europeans entering both North and South America (that's not to say there weren't others arriving, but that's a list for another time). But, how did they become so successful and prosperous in this new land? Let's take a look.

1

The People

The People

Move over maps, compasses, ships, and even Christopher Columbus himself. Disease wouldn't have occurred to allow Native American populations to dwindle, and European populations to prosper without people to spread it around. And like I mentioned before, popular, economically rich tobacco would not have been able to even exist in Jamestown without the help of John Rolfe (a person, in case you forgot). And people caused the crusades, and, depending on if you view them as good or bad, were a tremendous part of helping the spread of Christianity, and led to interest in Mediterranean spice that provided the incentive for Columbus' maiden voyage in the first place. Needless to say, all the events on this list, in some form or another, were driven by people, rendering them the most important aspect of financial, social, and cultural prosperity for Europeans in the new world.

1

Germs

Germs

Bacteria and viruses can be bad. Sometimes, even really bad. But that is a huge understatement for natives of both North and South America, who, in the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries succumbed to viruses such as smallpox and influenza, bacteria such as cholera, and even minute eukaryotic organisms of the genus Plasmodium, also known as malaria parasites. Many Europeans obtained these unpleasant organisms from animals they domesticated, such as cattle, pigs, horses, and donkeys. Although disease was certainly not unheard of in the indigenous population of the Americas, many of the conditions that killed an estimated 90 - 95% of all Natives were really only found in the close-knit, dirty, and gritty urban environments that cities and towns across Europe certainly reflected. Europe already developed thick skin from the Bubonic Plague, but the Natives had no such experience, making their downfall ever the more inevitable.

1

Superior Technology

Superior Technology

The indigenous population of the Americas lived off of the land for tens of thousands of years before Europeans even made contact, and yet their technology was less superior, due to isolation from the technological advancements from Eurasia. As such, when the first settlers arrived, they had huge galleons, steel armor, swords, axes, and daggers, horses, and, mightiest of all, firearms. These superior tools and technologies were effective at destroying tribes, and even a whole civilization as evidenced by the fall of the Aztec city Tenochtitlan perpetrated by Hernán Cortés, and allowed for farther and wider European rule and influence in the Americas.

4

Knowledge of Trade and Finance

Knowledge of Trade and Finance

Despite issues of famine, disease, religious fanaticism, war, and corruption during the Middle Ages, the vast agricultural history of Europe managed to allow technological advances in agriculture and trade to persevere during this time. By the 15th century, European nations had built up great knowledge of the ins-and-outs of trade and economy, allowing some crafty folks to hatch bright plans that occasionally saved failing settlements. Ultimately, business persevered and allowed the Americas to become, in some eyes, as relative as Europe or Asia.

5

Animals

Animals

Animals were a very important part of the European arsenal - beings that were able to assist in warfare, agriculture, cooking, and everyday life. European horses were the equivalent of tanks - able to totally wipe out foes with the right cavalryman situated on their back. Cattle could plow fields, chicken and other fowl could provide food, and dogs could make great companions (although the indigenous population possessed them as well, descendants of dogs who crossed the Bering Land Bridge). Needless to say, without animals, the modern Americas would be much different.

5

John Rolfe and Tobacco

John Rolfe and Tobacco

Although the Natives of North and South America had been growing and cultivating tobacco for over five-thousand years, tobacco wasn't introduced to Europe until 1492, Christopher Columbus sent scouts along Cuba (where he docked), who discovered natives there "drinking smoke" out of long tubes until they became extremely intoxicated. The crop was promptly introduced to Europe, where it became extremely popular there as well as in various other European colonies, leading to a major industry in these colonies. However, John Rolfe famously introduced the plant to the Jamestown, Virginia colony after taking some from the Caribbean when the ship that eventually arrived to the location of the colony, Sea Venture, wrecked in Bermuda. Soon, hundreds of thousands of pounds of the plant were being imported and exported from the colony.

6

Lack of Tribal Unification

Lack of Tribal Unification

It's hard to group all indigenous Americans under one group, due to the vast differences in society, culture, and religion across the many different tribal and societal groups across North and South America. These differences provided a challenge for these groups to keep peace with one another, and, many times, the Europeans exploited these weak links for their own benefit. Most famously, Hernán Cortés and his men sacked the once sprawling, thriving Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, using native groups who were not huge fans of the Aztec's seemingly strange and startling customs, including human sacrifice, as soldiers. This, and numerous other incidents, led to the societies of the indigenous peoples to eat themselves from the inside out.

7

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

Although nowadays many people bash Christopher Columbus for his apparent inhumane treatment of indigenous Americans and the fact that he really wasn't the first European to arrive to the Americas, there is no denying the massive scope of his influence. Although his voyages alone didn't necessarily cause the success of Europeans in the new world, many more were initiated in his wake, and he was one of the first Europeans to encounter tobacco, a plant which single-handedly caused the economic uprising of what was to become the United States of America.

8

Religion

Religion

Beyond the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries, religion played an important role in the voyages and successes of European explorers and settlers during the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Many explorers and conquerors sailed because promises of fantastical wealth, shorter and more efficient routes to places of interest, or to spread the "word of god". Strong themes of Catholicism were prevalent throughout many of these voyages, particularly by the Spanish and Portuguese. Religion also allowed for further reasons for persecution of the Native American peoples, and contributed to the conflict and death which allowed wider European influence.

9

The Crusades

The Crusades

The Crusades were indirectly involved with the arrival of Europeans in the new world in the first place, which is why they deserve a spot on this list. Lasting between 1095 - 1291, they were a series of campaigns driven by the "need" of by European Catholics to overtake the so called "holy lands" away from Seljuk Turks and other Muslim groups who were in control of them as a result of the Islamic Conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries. They peaked an interest in spice found in the Mediterranean (an area visited by Europeans as part of these Crusades), and also reinforced feelings for the spread of Christianity, both reasons for Columbus trying to find a passage to Asia, which resulted in him finding the New World instead. These feelings of spreading Christianity were successful in that they inspired many voyages crucial to the development of the New World.