A.P. U.S. History
Chapter 1 Notes
New World Beginnings
• 33,000 B.C.-A.D. 1769
• Recorded history of the
Western World began
around 4,000 B.C.
• Recent history is only
very brief in terms of
how old the Earth is.
• The continents split
apart from a single, giant
land mass about 225
million years ago.
• The basic geological
shape of North America
was born about 10
million years ago.
• Several Ice Ages have hit
North America in the past 2
million years, even as recent
as 10,000 years ago (not
really that long ago)
• Beginning about 35,000
nomadic hunters from Asia
crossed an “Ice Bridge” from
Siberia to North America,
peopling the Western
– There were several other
migrations over the next
several thousand years.
• The sea level was much
lower then with much of
the ocean water packed
into massive ice caps.
• When the Ice Age
ended, the melting ice
caused the ocean level
to rise, “trapping” these
waves of traveling
• So Native Americans were
isolated from contact with the
rest of the world until the
Vikings came and Columbus.
• Scientists estimate that when
Columbus arrived in 1492,
some 54 million people
occupied North and South
• These Native Americans
evolved into thousands of
different tribes speaking
some 2,000 separate
• Certain cultures like the
Inca and Aztec are very
considering they didn’t
have draft animals or the
• Yet they were excellent
mathematicians, city
builders, farmers, and
had a population of 20
million people.
• When corn (maize) was
cultivated in Mexico around
5,000 B.C. tribes began to be
less nomadic and could rely
on this staple crop.
• Cultivation of corn spread to
almost all areas of North and
South America.
– Corn planting reached the
present day American
Southwest by about 1,200 B.C.
– The Pueblo tribes in the Rio
Grande valley had a
sophisticated system of
irrigation, multistoried housing,
pottery, etc.
• When Europeans first arrived, the
only real nation-states in the modern
sense existing in the new world were
the Aztec and Inca in central and
South America. Sophisticated
agriculture allowed for large
populations and permanent cities
• They also had advanced commerce,
studied mathematics that resulted in
very accurate astronomical
observations, they differed from
European empires through lack of
ocean voyages
• The would-be U.S. was inhabited
by tribes that also grew other crops
besides corn
– The 3 sisters: corn, beans, and
squash. (the corn gave the beans
something to climb up on, and the
squash with its broad leaves
retained moisture) allowed for a
better diet to support larger
• The Iriquois Confederation was the
closest approximation to the
European version of a “nation
state” which dominated in the
Northeast over neighboring tribes
and early French and English
traders and settlers.
• Many Native American
societies were matrilineal,
where power and possessions
passed down the female side
of the family line.
• In general, Native Americans
were sparsely populated and
lived in small, scattered, mostly
impermanent settlements
across the landscape.
• Native Americans did not feel
that they could “own” the land
as Europeans did.
• It is estimated that only about 4
million Native Americans
inhabited what would
eventually become the U.S. in
1492, compared to nearly 300
million today.
• Native American civilization was
least highly developed (city states
and permanent structures) in
North America (present day U.S.
and Canada)
• Vikings from Scandinavia
reached Eastern Canada
(Newfoundland) in 1000 A.D. but
the settlements did not last long.
• Without a central government at
home driving imperialism, there
was little support for colonizing so
far away.
• Europeans “accidentally”
discovered the Americas
because they were
actually looking for a
shorter and cheaper
trade route to Asia by
sailing West, to get East.
They wanted to cut out
Muslim Traders and
keep more profit for
– The lure for Asian trade
goods was started during
the Crusades of the 11th14th centuries.
• Portuguese sailors began coming
up with new sailing ships
(caravels) and techniques to
reach sub-Saharan Africa, that led
to the technology that brought
European sailors to the Americas.
• Here they discovered economies
based on slave labor developed
by the Arabs and the Africans
(long before European
• Christopher Columbus
(Italian) persuaded
Isabella and Ferdinand
to outfit a crew and 3
small ships to sail west
for the Indies.
• They “discovered”
America on Oct 12, 1492
in the Bahamas thinking
they were in East India.
3 Worlds Collided
• Europe provided the
markets, the capital, and the
technology; Africa furnished
the labor; and the New World
offered its raw materials.
3 Worlds Collided
• New World crops like
potatoes, corn, tobacco,
tomatoes, and cocoa made
their way back to the Old
• (About 3/5ths of the world’s
crops today originated in the
New World).
• These new crops lead to a
huge population growth in
Europe thanks to increased
• Old World crops and
animals transformed the
Americas and their
people with items like
cattle, horses, guns,
metal tools and
materials, the wheel, and
many diseases.
• (See Chart of Old/New
World Exchange on
page 15)
• Many millions more
Native Americans were
killed by European
diseases (whether
intentional or accident)
than from guns.
• Spanish Conquistadors
explored and
“discovered” most of
North and South
America in the 1500s.
• The gold bullion from the
Americas flowing to Europe
and the trade that went along
with it may have created the
modern economic system of
• Spanish Conquistadors
conquered vast empires in
the new world over millions
of Native Americans with just
a few hundred men.
– It helped having horses, guns,
and most Indians fell to
diseases before the Europeans
even reached them.
• Most of the Spanish
conquistadors and later settlers
were single men seeking
adventure, fortune, to gain Gods
favor (in case they were fleeing a
bad situation at home) GOD,
GOLD & GLORY. Many of them
married native women and
produced a new “mestizo” or
mixed race of Latin Americans.
Hernando Cortes
• Conquered the Aztec Empire in
• He had the help of a young girl
named Malinche who spoke the
Aztec language and eventually
learned Spanish, serving as
• Assimilation to Spanish culture was
a focus
• The Spanish wanted more souls for
the Catholic church so they
practiced encomienda, the
practice of giving natives to
conquistador households on the
condition that the household
Christianizes them
Cortes and the Aztecs
Other Native tribes did most of the
fighting against the Aztecs.
Cortes was extremely lucky in that
the Aztecs confused him with
Quetzalcoatl, a god who was
supposed to return at the same
time as him and from the same
In less than a century, would be
Mexico shrank from a population
of 20 million to less than 2
million; due mostly as a result of
warfare and European diseases.
• Europeans who followed
Columbus to America
continued to see themselves
as Europeans there to
conquer a lesser people.
• The English and French sent
explorers to the New World
too in the 15th and 16th
centuries establishing the
roots of future colonies.
• To protect her rich interests,
the Spanish established a
fort at St. Augustine Florida
in 1565, making it the oldest
continuously occupied town
in the U.S.
New Mexico
• New Mexico was established as a
province in 1609. The Spanish
were particularly cruel to the Native
Americans in this region.
• Pope’s Rebellion: 1680 in New
Mexico (Taos). The Indians
destroyed every Catholic church in
the province, killed a number of
priests and hundreds of Spanish
settlers. And Kept the spanish out
for over 10 years.
• The Spanish returned a decade
later and overtook their lost claims
and didn’t fully regain control of the
region for another 50 years.
• New Mexico was
almost always weak,
sparsely populated
and very distant from
colonial Mexico and
• (See maps on pages
22 and 23)
• Ironically the Spanish should have
ended up being the riches
European nation through
colonization in the New World, but
ended up one of the poorest.
• The Spanish got their first, stole
the most gold, had by far the
largest empire and plantation
• The French and English got started
exploring and colonizing much
later, had smaller holdings, in less
mineral rich areas.
– See timeline on page 24.

A.P. U.S. History Chapter 1 Notes New World Beginnings