111-112 - Aztecs + Cortés

113-114 - Inca + Pizarro

Conquest as a word implies winning, taking over, imposing your will on others.  The case studies this unit examines are the European expansion into the New World of the Americas from the 16th century onwards.  In South and Central America, this saw the Conquista of Spain defeat the major world civilisations of that era - the Aztecs and the Incas, both in most ways as advanced, if not more so, as many Western equivalents.  In North America, this  saw Spain's European adversaries, Great Britain and France, establish colonies which became politically and economically successful and then independent.  However, the story of that success is also the story of conquest, both over the indigenous First Nation peoples, and over the West African peoples who were transported over to the New World in their millions.  What did these conquests create at the time; and what are the legacies of these conquests in the modern world?

The Conquista

The Conquista was the successful conquest of South America by Spain from the 16th century onwards.  They established an Empire called New Spain that would last 300 years until the South American people, led by Simon Bolivar and others, rose up in revolution and fought for their independence in the 19th century.

The indigenous people of S America had by then been decimated by diseases such as smallpox and influenza, and then enslaved if they had somehow survived.  However, the initial conquest of this vast continent by a small number of Spanish invaders, or conquistadors, was not easy.  One reason was that these areas were already organised into empires ruled by people such as the Aztecs in modern-day Mexico, and the Incas in modern-day Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Your job is to investigate what made these Empires successful pre-Conquista, what people's lives were like, and ultimately why did they fail to defeat the invaders from Europe....


Who were the Aztecs?

To start off with, using your colour text handouts, identify how the Aztecs conquered their Empire, what they believed, how they lived from day to day, and finally who their leader was by the time the Spanish arrived - Moctezuma (Montezuma) II

Use the poster-note framework Word document in the bottom right hand corner to compile a set of visual notes using mind-mapping, flow charts, bullet points to organise your information - remember to embrace the space and use plenty of colour...

Using your research, you must write a letter back to Spain as one of the first Europeans to visit Tenochtitlan. It must cover the wonders of the city itself (the surroundings, the architecture); the daily life of the people around you (how they dress, what they do, what they're like); as well as the aspects of life that terrifies you (the ritual sacrifice, the numbers of people, the insects and disease etc.)   These must be described in detail using examples and backed up with drawings and illustrations (at least one being your own...)

The rubric can be accessed  via the Word icon attached

Who was Hernan Cortés?

Click on the PDF top left

Read the pages 110-112 and answer the questions below

Use each question as a subtitle

Use bullet points to structure your answers

1) How did the Spanish settlers treat the peoples of the New World?

2) How did they defeat a much larger population time after time?

3) Who was Hernan Cortès and why did he become a conquistador?

4) Where did he land and how well equipped was he?

5) Who was Malinche and how did she help Cortès get to Tenochtitlan?

6) Who else joined Cortès against the Aztecs and why?

7) Who was the ruler of the Aztecs and what did he think about the Spanish?

8) How did he try to deal with Cortés, and why did this make him more     

    determined to get to Tenochtitlan?

9) Explain in detail using stages, how Cortés managed to beat the Aztecs

Then complete the storyboard cartoon strip, showing Cortés journey from deciding to be a conquistador, to landing in Mexico and then eventually discovering Tenochtitlan and so beating  the Aztec nation...

In 1518 Cortés was made commander of an expedition to Mexico. It had only recently been discovered by Europeans and was rumoured to contain great wealth. On arrival he established a settlement (now Veracruz) and made local allies.

The major civilisation in the region was that of the Aztecs, led by Montezuma II. Cortés headed for the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, which was a three-month journey over difficult terrain. It is thought that Cortés’ arrival coincided with an Aztec prophecy about a white-skinned god arriving from the east, which would explain why Montezuma welcomed Cortés and gave him lavish gifts. However, relations quickly deteriorated and, fearing an attack, Cortés took Montezuma hostage, demanding a huge ransom from his people.

In April 1520, Velázquez sent an expedition to capture Cortés. As Cortés left to fight the expedition, an Aztec revolt began in Tenochtitlán. Cortés returned and obliged Montezuma to face the crowd, but the Aztec leader was struck by a stone and died. The Spanish were driven out of the city, incurring heavy losses.

Cortés re-organised his forces and in 1521 returned to Tenochtitlán, which fell after a three-month siege. A new settlement, Mexico City, was built on the ruins and settled with Spanish colonists, becoming the centre of Spanish America. Cortés secured control over Mexico, inflicting great cruelty on the indigenous population. Western diseases such as smallpox also caused huge fatalities. (BBC History)

History Skills focus

For your Cortés storyboard, your task includes finding at least one extra digital source to provide information to help you complete your description of how Cortés beat the Aztec nation. 


Below are three examples of digital resources available on youtube. 


In 3s, choose 1 each to watch and judge how trustworthy you find the source. 


Rank 1-2-3 in order of trustworthiness...


What should we look for when using internet sources? 

What internet sources do we avoid and why?

Who were the Inca?

To start off with, again using your text handouts, identify how the Inca conquered their Empire, how they lived from day to day, what they believed and finally how they organised their rule by the time the Spanish arrived.  Once again, compile a set of visual notes using mind-mapping, flow charts, bullet points to organise your information - remember to embrace the space and use plenty of colour...

Why did the Incan Empire collapse?

The Incan Empire had established itself as the world civilisation in South America by the 1520s.  Its lands stretched from modern day Ecuador in the North, to Chiles southern reaches; from the Pacific coastline far up into the tropical rainforest and snow clad peaks of the Andes.  How did this vast Empire of millions with a standing army numbering hundreds of thousands collapse in the face of a few hundred Europeans?  Just like Cortés' conquest the previous decade, there are numerous factors to uncover - the acts of the conquistadors themselves; the customs and traditions of the world they encountered; decisions made by the Incan leadership; and forces beyond any one people's control


Your job is to research these multiple factors using the website on the right, and the documentary underneath.  Create a timeline using the key dates from the website, and add extra detail from the documentary.  Once completed, you must find evidence that backs up each of the highlighted theories above.  Which one makes the strongest argument and why?

atahualpa arrest.jpg

BBC 'Conquistadors' (2002)

- episode 2 'Conquest of the Inca' 

- presented by Michael Wood


..start watching at 24.12

1532 saw the Incan Empire at its most powerful and furthest reaching. 

It also saw the entrance of Francisco Pizarro.

Who was he and how did he conquer the Inca?

..there is a summary of this collapse at 42.07

How had Pizarro won, and how had the Inca lost?


Slavery has existed as long as humans have been living together in settled communities and established territorial borders.  Humans have bought and sold other humans as property for thousands of years.  The evolution of slavery in the centuries following the Conquista saw a dramatic increase in the numbers and organisation involved.  The result was one of humanity's greatest crimes - the capture, transport and enslavement of millions of West African people by Europeans to work on plantations in the New World.

How were these people captured and transported over thousands of kilometres away from their homes?

The Middle Passage typically took 3 months with ships crammed with people - slavers still made a profit even if 2/3 of the people died en route so they didn't spend any time or money on food or medicine. Your task is to use the handout info along with the video clips and website below to research what this journey was like for the people involved....

Attention - some disturbing scenes are involved in these clips - be aware that they may be very upsetting before you watch - you can just use the website below if you wish.....


Protest I : Underground Railroad


So how did people in the Deep South of the USA  cope with their enslavement on the cotton plantations?  Many tried to escape, which often led to been more vicious punishment if they were caught.  To this end, a resistance movement was organised which helped arrange the escape.

This became known as the Underground Railroad, with its most famous leader a woman called Harriet Tubman, herself an escapee from a plantation.

Use the information from the websites on the left and underneath to complete your A3 railroad diagrams displaying how the organisation worked and how Harriet Tubman found freedom and helped others...


Protest II : Civil War

Click the book icon above to access the text you need to read to research how slavery ended in the USA with the Civil War....

So how did this protest evolve or develop?

With the growing number of escaped slaves came a growing number of accounts of the horrors of plantation life.  Alongside this evidence, the growing international condemnation of the slave trade was gathering strength.  Many Northern states had already banned slavery, but the Deep South had multiple reasons for insisting it stay.  Its entire economy was built on slave labour, and a ban would cripple the plantations and businesses.  Moreover, they resented being told what to do by' uppity Northerners' who they saw as having no idea about what it meant to be Southern.

The result was heading for war.....

Your job is to research how civil war started in the USA - (1) make a timeline + answer Q1; and (2) answer Q3 on page 19

How successful was war as protest?

The institution of slavery found itself abolished whilst the Civil War was still raging, with President Abraham Lincoln

issuing the Emancipation Doctrine in 1863.  However, it wasn't until the war's end that this actually became a reality with the Southern Confederate states' surrender.

The big question for the Union states now was how to replace this fundamental economic, social and political institution and with what?  Moreover, how were the defeated, yet still highly motivated white Southerners to be brought back into the Union and contribute to the USA?

For the emancipated millions of course, the key question was whether the protest of the Civil War and its successes would be for the better or for the worse.

Again, using the information on the pages above, and the article on the right, construct a timeline of Reconstruction 1865-1903 and then answer Qs 1+2 on page 21.


Protest III - Civil Rights

So how had Reconstruction helped shape the 20th Century for the millions freed by the Emancipation Proclamation?  Millions headed north away from the South to find economic success and social acceptance in the industrial cities of the North...only to encounter racism and ghettoisation in their new homes.  Those that stayed found themselves subject to Jim Crow segregation and lynching.  In short, people's lives although technically free were still being controlled by the old racist power structures that existed before Emancipation.  The desire for Civil Rights and genuine freedom accelerated after WWII's fight against Fascism..and it is here we see our last case study into protest with the Civil Rights Campaigns of 1950s and 60s USA...Read the text on the left and answer the qs...

So what challenges faced the Civil Rights Movements who were protesting against the institutional racism in the South?  Their opponents included police, the FBI, state governments and governors alongside White Citizen's Councils and organisations like the KKK.  Each one made the protestors jobs difficult and dangerous in different ways.  However, these difficulties and dangers didn't stop the protestors.  They managed to launch challenges to White power across the South in a wide number of areas - school education; university access; equal public access; transport; freedom from violence; voting rights etc..

How were protestors (1) obstructed in their protests?; and (2) how successful were their protest in getting the civil rights they wanted?

Read the pages on the right and answer:

q 2 p33; q1 p35; q1 p37