Conquest of the Americas

Course No. 888
Professor Marshall C. Eakin, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
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Course No. 888
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Course Overview

Why was Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas in 1492 arguably the most important event in the history of the world? Professor Marshall C. Eakin of Vanderbilt University argues that it gave birth to the distinct identity of the Americas today by creating a collision between three distinct peoples and cultures: European, African, and Native American.

As the inheritors of this legacy, some 500 years hence, we forget how radically the discovery of the Americas transformed the view of the world on both sides of the Atlantic.

A People Unknown, A Land Unmentioned

When Columbus completed his "enterprise of the Indies" he found a people unlike any he had ever known and a land unmentioned in any of the great touchstones of Western knowledge.

Animated by the great dynamic forces of the day, Christianity and commercial capitalism, the European world reacted to Columbus's discovery with voyages of conquest—territorial, cultural, and spiritual.

For the native peoples of the Americas, the consequences were no less dramatic.

When Hernán Cortés arrived to conquer Mexico, the Aztecs feared he was a god, returned from exile to claim his ancient lands.

For all intents and purposes, he may well have been.

  • Within half a century, Old World germs and diseases had reduced native populations by as much as 90 percent.
  • The great empires of the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas, which had developed over centuries, were undone in a matter of years.
  • The religious orders of the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits undertook to convert the native peoples to Christianity.
  • Finally, the engine of European capitalism, embodied in the great plantation estates and mining complexes in Mexico and Peru, transformed the day-to-day life of the native peoples.

Enormous and Tragic Consequences

This collision of cultures also had enormous consequences for the peoples of Africa. The transatlantic slave trade, the largest forced migration in human history, changed the lives of millions of Africans and initiated one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the Americas.

And yet, this course is no simple account of heroes and villains, or victors and victims. It is a dramatic, sweeping tale of the complex blending of three peoples into one.

Through Dr. Eakin's thoughtful and detailed lectures, you understand how these three peoples formed completely new societies and cultures that were neither European, African, nor Indian. Instead, they were uniquely American.

History from Above and Below

In telling this story, Professor Eakin combines two approaches to history:

  • What has been called "history from above," or the study of heroic and elite figures that played a key role in shaping history
  • "History from below," the story as told by the great majority of common people who experienced this history firsthand.

While Dr. Eakin readily identifies and shares his analysis and interpretation of events, he also generously showcases competing views, and you benefit enormously from the numerous works he cites for further study.

He delivers his evenhanded lectures with one eye on the latest academic research and the other on classic scholarship of the past and original sources.

Those sources include the famous Florentine Codex, a retelling of the Spanish conquest of Mexico by the people who experienced it. It was compiled by a Spanish priest in Nahuatl, the native language of the Aztec Indians.

The Old World and the New

Professor Eakin sets the table for this history of the Americas by examining these two worlds as they developed in isolation for thousands of years.

You discover the wondrous accomplishments of the three great Native American empires, the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. These sprawling empires mastered the domestication of crops and animals, as well as the control of water so necessary for a society to develop.

You learn how all three had complex religions, imperial ideologies, and impressive technological expertise:

  • The Maya had intricate calendrical systems based on knowledge of mathematics and astronomy that rivaled the achievements of the Old World.
  • The Incas administered, without a written language, an empire that stretched along most of the South American coast.
  • The Aztecs, like the Incas, built an enormous empire, conquering all of central Mexico from coast to coast as they sought more and more humans for the sacrifices their complex religion required.

Breathtaking Architectural Achievements

When the conquistadors first encountered the breathtaking architectural achievements of these civilizations, they were awestruck. These were edifices that matched anything seen in the revered world of ancient Greece and Rome. Some questioned whether the "savages" of these lands were capable of producing such wonders.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Europe was a politically fragmented backwater, and hardly poised to become the dominant force on the globe. How did Portugal, for example, a territory barely larger than Maine, eventually build a trading empire so dynamic it would eventually push out into the Atlantic and set the stage for Spain's historic expeditions of conquest?

Professor Eakin paints the complex political, cultural, and technological landscape of Spain and Portugal in their infancy.

You learn how they became the vanguard of the sleeping European giant that was soon to stride across the oceans and bridge two long-divided worlds.

Making Sense of Columbus

One biographer said of Columbus that, "Like a squid, he oozes out a cloud of ink around every hard square fact of his life."

Professor Eakin separates the facts about Columbus from the myths, and hones in on the significance of his voyage and the frenzy of exploration it set off:

  • You see how the ruthless conquest and subjugation of the Caribbean island peoples set a pattern that was played out across the Americas.
  • You're introduced to the ruthless and strategically brilliant Cortés as he vanquishes an empire of millions with just a few hundred Spanish soldiers.
  • You learn how Francisco Pizarro, inspired by Cortés, set out for Peru with the same dreams of gold and glory.

Eventually, all of Mexico and Central and South America would be defeated, and the European powers would begin to create new societies in these conquered lands.

A Voyage through Turbulent Times

The many topics covered by Professor Eakin as he moves through the turbulent times of the conquest also include:

  • The growth of the transatlantic slave trade as the conquerors began running out of the labor they needed to exploit the new territories
  • The spread of the plantation system as it became the lifeblood of the Portuguese colonial economy
  • The building of Spain's "golden age" on the backs of the indigenous peoples whose grueling labor mined the rich silver deposits of Mexico and South America
  • The "quest for souls" as Christian religious orders fanned out across the Americas
  • How the native peoples of the Americas resisted complete assimilation by creating new and colorful religions from the simmering pot of Christianity and long-held native beliefs.

In the final lectures, Professor Eakin looks at the foundations of the different societies in the Americas and looks forward, for better or for worse, to what future may emerge from this common past.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Three Peoples Collide
    Neither the Eurocentric term "discovery" nor the blandly neutral "encounters" does justice to the impact of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans coming together in the New World. This process of conquest and mutual discovery can best be described as a "collision" whose causes and effects are outlined in this introductory lecture. x
  • 2
    The Native Americans
    Most of the inhabitants of the Americas arrived in a series of migratory waves from Asia between 40,000 and 2,000 B.C. Their civilizations, based on sophisticated irrigation and farming, and complex religions and social structures, would eventually rival those of Europe in almost all realms of life. x
  • 3
    Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas
    The Aztecs and Incas created empires built upon religions of conquest, and powered by the control of water, around Lake Texcoco in Mexico and high in the Andes Mountains, respectively. In the lowlands of Guatemala, the Maya developed a sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and mathematics, and built the archaeological monuments that astound us even today. x
  • 4
    Europeans and Africans
    Europe and Africa had been connected for centuries by Old World trading networks centered around the Mediterranean. It was in the 15th century that Spain and Portugal, nation-states with expertise in shipping and navigation, shifted the trade out of the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic, along the west coast of Africa. This set the stage for expeditions to the New World. x
  • 5
    European Overseas Expansion
    In 1492, Europe was dwarfed in power by the civilizations of China, India, the Ottomans of the Middle East, and even the empires of Africa. This lecture explains how four factors—the modern nation-state, capitalism, Christianity, and new technologies—combined to catapult Portugal, with its window onto the Atlantic, to a position of global primacy. x
  • 6
    Christopher Columbus—Path to Conquest
    Neither villain nor visionary, Christopher Columbus was an extremely learned and deeply devout man, who embarked on his "enterprise of the Indies" for "gold, glory, and gospel." He died unaware that he had initiated arguably the most important event in world history of the last 1,000 years. x
  • 7
    Stepping Stones—The Conquest of the Caribbean
    Within a generation the Spanish swept across the Caribbean Sea and the surrounding regions, conquering and annihilating native peoples, and establishing the patterns of conquest that they would repeat across the Americas for nearly a century. x
  • 8
    The Rise of Hernán Cortés
    In the conquest of Mexico, two empires collide, and two mighty figures clash. Emerging from obscurity in Cuba, Hernán Cortés would lead a renegade Spanish expedition to the coast of Mexico. He brilliantly exploited divisions among the various Indian tribes, bringing enemies of the Aztec empire to his side, and eventually capturing Montezuma in his own palace. x
  • 9
    The Fall of Montezuma
    After a massacre of the Aztecs by one of Cortés's officers, hundreds of thousands of enraged warriors surrounded the Spaniards, and the battle to flee from Tenochtitlán was about to begin. During the bloody struggle around Lake Texcoco, Montezuma would die, and the Spanish forces would narrowly escape. Cortés prepared to lay siege to the capital, and the ravages of disease began to weaken the Aztecs, sealing their empire's fate. x
  • 10
    Conquistadors and Incas
    Unlike the sweeping epic tale in Mexico, the conquest of the Incas in Peru was a sordid tale of betrayal and civil war. Francisco Pizarro captured and executed the Inca ruler Atahualpa, and pitted an enemy Inca faction against Atahualpa's remaining forces. Jealousy over the spoils of conquest, however, would eventually claim more Spanish lives than the war against the Incas itself. x
  • 11
    The Frontiers of Empire
    Conquests outside of the core regions of Mexico, Peru, and the Caribbean were far less fruitful. Ironically, the less developed people of the frontier proved far more difficult to conquer than the large empires. Pedro Alvarado was successful in his campaigns against the Maya in Guatemala, but expeditions into what is now the North American mainland yielded neither riches nor glory. x
  • 12
    Portuguese Brazil—The King's Plantation
    The Portuguese had stumbled upon Brazil in 1500 while sailing off the coast of West Africa, and it was initially an insignificant part of their vast trading empire. With the growth of sugar as a cash crop, however, Brazilian sugar plantations expanded on a vast scale. The depletion of Indian labor and the protection of Indian populations by Jesuit priests caused Brazil to turn to the widespread use of African slave labor. x
  • 13
    The Atlantic Slave Trade
    The Atlantic slave trade was the largest forced migration in world history. The Middle Passage, a harrowing experience almost beyond comprehension, claimed the lives of almost 20 percent of its human cargo en route. Slave narratives of the time describe the slave experience in graphic, first-hand detail, and newly assembled documentation assists in understanding the true scope of this shameful chapter in human events. x
  • 14
    Haciendas and Plantations
    The Spanish, Portuguese, and other European powers employed various labor systems to make their colonial possessions productive. This lecture explores the functioning of the encomienda, or land-grant system, the repartimiento system, which allocated draft-enforced Indian labor to landowners, as well as the plantation system as it functioned, quite distinctively, in the Caribbean and Brazil. x
  • 15
    American Silver and Spanish Galleons
    Spanish colonial wealth was built on the great estates, the rich silver mines in northern Mexico and upper Peru, and the fleet system that carried American silver back to Spain. When silver production in 1610 dramatically declined, the mercantilist Spanish economy upon which it was built fell like a house of cards. x
  • 16
    The Sword and the Cross
    With a religious zeal forged both by the long battle against the Moors of North Africa and by the intimate link between Church and State, Catholic missionaries from Spain and Portugal flooded into the Americas. Many produced some of the most extensive anthropological work on native cultures ever conducted. x
  • 17
    New Peoples, New Religions
    Despite the combination of persuasion and force employed by the missionaries, religious conquest was largely a failed project. Today, the vast majority of people in the Americas practice forms of Christianity, but in syncretic forms that are deeply imbued with indigenous and African religious beliefs. x
  • 18
    Late Arrivals—The English in North America
    In search of the Northwest Passage, and intending to disrupt the Spanish-Portuguese monopoly in the Caribbean, the English began expeditions of exploration and settlement. In Virginia, they would turn to a plantation system similar to that of the Portuguese in Brazil. The Pilgrims settling in Massachusetts Bay would pursue an entirely different, "northern" kind of society. x
  • 19
    Conquest by Dispossession
    The condemnation issued by Bartolomé de las Casas of Spanish treatment of the Indians was taken up by English and Dutch Protestants with vigor and gave rise to the notorious Black Legend. All European powers, however, were equally guilty of cruelty and ruthlessness towards native peoples, and each developed ideologies to justify the taking of lands from them. These ideological underpinnings are crucial to understanding the nature of the various mixed societies that ultimately emerged in the Americas. x
  • 20
    Late Arrivals—The French in the Americas
    The French attempted to establish footholds throughout the Americas, but their greatest success came along the St. Lawrence River, in New France, which would eventually become Quebec. The French Calvinist Jean de Léry also left perhaps that most empathic ethnographies of Indian life, based on his months living with the Tupinamba Indians, which includes an apology for cannibalism! x
  • 21
    Pirates of the Caribbean
    In the early 17th century, Dutch privateers struck at the heart of Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the Caribbean basin to undercut their trade monopolies. The Caribbean became a battleground, and by the end of the 17th century, the English and French had followed suit and established a permanent colonial presence. x
  • 22
    Clash of Cultures—Victors and Vanquished
    The European military conquest of the Americas was largely successful. The parallel effort to impose European cultures and values on Native Americans, Africans, and their descendants has not been. Active resistance to assimilation and the inevitable effects of racial and cultural mixing have led to new, widely divergent hierarchies and continuums of race, class, language, and social mobility. x
  • 23
    The Rise of “American” Identities
    Latin American cities in the 17th century were urbane, sprawling centers of wealth and culture that arguably outshone their European counterparts. The way of life was very different in the countryside, out of the reach of the church and other cultural institutions, as it was in the less developed British North America and along the Brazilian coast, where more uniquely "American" societies evolved. x
  • 24
    The Americas—Collisions and Convergence
    The mainstream of life in the Americas has been fed by three sources—one African, one European, and one Native-American—which are now inextricably fused. If economic development and social and political equity continue to spread throughout the Americas, the process of three peoples becoming one may yet reach fruition. x

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Your professor

Marshall C. Eakin

About Your Professor

Marshall C. Eakin, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University
Dr. Marshall C. Eakin is Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he has taught since 1983. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of Costa Rica and at the University of Kansas, where he also earned his master's degree. He earned his Ph.D. from UCLA. Before taking his position at Vanderbilt, he taught at Loyola Marymount University. He has won many teaching awards at Vanderbilt, including the...
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Reviews

Conquest of the Americas is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 114.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb! This is a wonderful course. It provides an excellent introduction for better understanding US history as well as the Americas in general. Professor Eakin is a superb teacher who fills every moment of his class time with a free flowing presentation.
Date published: 2016-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Comments on course A lot of good material was covered with valuable information but the presenter was too repetitive; the same information was given a number of times.
Date published: 2016-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely enlightening The professor is personable and the course is well organized. The material is very interesting. We were never taught anything like this in school.
Date published: 2016-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Conquest of the Americas Facinating and well balanced. I didn't know the African background before this course. I think more info on the Jewish-Spanish history would have been interesting
Date published: 2016-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good overview of overlooked topic This course provides a quite unique perspective on the American conquest - focused primarily on South and Mezzo-America with relatively little time dedicated to North American history. The Professor’s narrative is to describe Columbus’ exposure of the “American secret” to the rest of the world as a spark that would lead to huge, very unexpected historical events and trends that will change world history forever. Particularly, he talks at length about the South and North American native populations of which roughly 90% were decimated by disease, approximately thirty million slaves that were taken from Africa to the Americas It would also provide a sudden spike in European Mercantile wealth that would provide the excess for fueling the Renaissance and open the door to European Imperialism and colonialism, whereas before Europe was a relative backwater when compared to China and other Asian Empires. This is not a pretty story, and Professor Eakin makes no attempt to hide the ugly aspects. The conquest of the Aztecs and Incas by Cortes and Pizzaro provide perhaps the center-stone narratives in the course of how the two most dominant and developed South American empires were conquered so easily by what seem to be a mere handful of Conquistadors. Personally, I found the accounts of these conquests in Professor Barnhart’s two courses on South and Mezzo America to be better and more comprehensive. In the current course, however, the conquest is the central aspect of interest. The conquest narratives are explored in many different geographies and are the focus of lectures seven to twelve, and lectures eighteen and twenty on North America. It is the analytical and thematic aspects of the course which I found most fascinating and well done. Many varied and interesting topics are discussed which enable quite an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of change in the Americas. Among them are the economics which include a slave based economy and labor intensive crops, the special missionary cultures that were developed, and special Afro-American religions that developed. One particularly interesting aspect which he discussed was the difference in which race discrimination differed between South and North America: in the North it was very polar – either black or white. In the South, many shades were distinguished and this allowed for very different race dynamics between the two continents. This was a point I had never considered before. Overall this has been a very enjoyable course for me and touched upon many aspects which were new to me. I found the course to be well structured and reaching a good balance between narrative and analytical aspects, with the lectures on analytical themes a notch better in my opinion. The Professor’s presentation was clear and easily understandable but hardly thrilling in my opinion – even a bit monotonous and slow at times. This is a mere trifle however when considering the pros and cons of the course, and was definitely enjoyable and well worth the effort.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wrongly Titled and Not Comprehensive This course should be titled "Conquest of Central and South America" because that's where the focus of this now outdated course resides. To be honest, I've been spoiled by more recent GC offerings such as "Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed" and "Lost Worlds of South America," both by the excellent Edwin Barnhart. Watching this course, now 14 years old, on an outdated set, in which the professor lectures to a studio audience, left me lacking. While some lectures are noteworthy and even riveting (the sections on the conquistadors) I felt I was listening to lecture hall dissertation from the 1960s (and yes, I'm that old). The professor's pace is slow and his points are repetitive. More than once I dozed off during a particularly boring lecture. A big omission is the lack of information on North America, specifically the development of the British and French colonies. If the Great Courses were to develop and 2nd Edition version, (as they have done in several other offerings) with a different lecturer, that covers both North and South America, I would consider buying that updated edition. I cannot recommend this course and I'm returning it for repayment.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent corrective for a Gringo education Of the 15-20 courses I've taken from the Teaching Company in the last 15 years, this is my favorite so far. It's the first of three courses I've purchased in preparation for extended travel in Latin America. The professor offers no-nonsense clarity in a well-organized and well-reasoned course. I especially liked the way he brought in first-person accounts of the events under discussion, as well as the way he built trust by explaining his perspective on the subject up front. His narrative of the conquest of Mexico, the Caribbean and Peru was riveting. But there's much more to this course, including a fascinating and persuasive analysis of the origins of vastly different dynamics of race and class in North and South America. He does not sugar-coat or excuse the brutality of the conquistadors and slave traders, but nor does he ignore the tactical brilliance of figures like Cortes. The value of this course for me was huge. My historical knowledge of the Americas pretty much started with the Jamestown settlers and the Pilgrims. I didn't realize how much farther back settlement of most of today's major cities in Latin America took place. I was also surprised to learn that when the English settlers reached North America, the indigenous population had already been decimated by European diseases. The professor's discussion of differences between the Spanish and Portuguese approach to exploration and colonization, on the one hand, and that of the English, French and Dutch, on the other, was illuminating. And his conclusion that Latin America is much less European in its culture and religion than North America seems extremely helpful for understanding the whole region. I strongly recommend this scholarly yet accessible course to anyone who wants to understand the big picture of Latin America today, in historical perspective - especially if this has been a neglected topic in your education thus far.
Date published: 2016-06-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It Does the Job I bought this course mostly to get a good account of the historical details of the conquest of the Americas. And, for the most part, I can say it does the job. But, among TGC courses, I can't deem it better than average. For starters, the professor is highly repetitive. Were one to tote up the time that could have been saved had the professor been lean in his teaching, it would have likely allowed for another lesson or two to look at other matters. This extra time, for instance, could have been invaluable in permitting a deeper dive in exploring the aftermath of the conquest in the Americas. We get a dose of this as it relates to religion and racial mixing, but we get far too little as to other matters of society, culture, economics, and historical development in the subsequent decades and beyond. I bought the course expecting and wanting a healthy treatment of imperialism, colonialism, oppression, and race. It's mostly an ugly story. But the professor had me beat by a mile. He has a perspective that goes way beyond mine, and too far, in my view. He's almost myopic, dealing so much with the story from this perspective he leaves out others. And, as other reviewers have pointed out, he sometimes stretches beyond historical accuracy to keep to his narrative. This made Cortes' conquest of the Aztecs entertaining, but I had substantial doubts about the account in some of its particulars. This left me unsatisfied. Again, the course has merit for those wanting basic coverage of the topic. But I can't recommend it as a great among TGC courses.
Date published: 2016-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, scholarly, thoughtful This is a terrific history of the two centuries or so during which Europeans entered the Americas. I very much appreciated Prof. Eakin's emphasis on the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, simply because that is the history that I knew the least about. In the first lecture he describes his scholarly orientation and summarizes the course. He was too heavy handed in presenting his approach, and the lecture almost put me off the course. I am glad I kept going. He turned out to be careful in his presentation of evidence, thoughtful, and humane in thinking about the collision of Europeans, Indians, and Africans. Why did the Spanish manage to conquer the Aztec and Incan Empires? After completing the course I could not give a confident explanation. But perhaps I learned that it was a fortuitous combination of disease (European diseases killing Americans, rather than the opposite); clever alliances with people conquered by those empires; the innovations of steel swords, horses, war dogs, and gunpowder; and the kind of unpredictable randomness of history that can never be fully explained. Were the Spanish wore than the English? Prof Eakin: both oppressed savagely, but in different ways that led to different results that we can still see today. This course may challenge the world view of some people, but that is part of what education is for. I suggest giving the course a chance. I liked it very much.
Date published: 2016-03-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enthusiastic Revisionism Professor Eakin's presentation exemplifies the left-leaning revisionism that is so rampant in the academy. This lecture series is well organized and coherent, but sometimes stretches the trope of Amerindian sophistication and development to the breaking point. Few people would deny the devastating impact of European colonialism on Central and South America. Many sound histories have been written about the fallout (demographic, environmental, civilizational# resulting from the confrontation of the "Old" and "New" World. But Eakin's enthusiasm for the indigenous Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations #whether politically or anthropologically motivated# gets tendentious and polemical in spots. Lecture Nine #The Fall of Montezuma# provides a couple representative examples. The Aztec resistance to Cortes is termed "titanic." I'm not sure any failed resistance against several hundred Spaniards and their allied Tlaxcalan Indians - the numbers of which are simply unknown - qualifies the use of this adjective. The claim that "under the leadership of the last Aztec leader, Cuauhtemoc, the resistance was ferocious," presents a very interesting paradox. If the Aztec civilization was as sophisticated and grand as Eakin's implies how could it have fallen so easily #notwithstanding disease and the hostility of other Indian groups it had subjugated#. This scholarship brings to mind the revisionist portrayal of black emancipation and the Reconstruction Era #Eric Foner, et. al.# in which many former slaves and their children are shown not to be docile, naïve, or lacking in strong leadership. The portrait is much more convincing, if not simply a demonstrable truth in the American post-bellum context. That "many Spaniards" drowned in the Lake of Mexico, pulled down by gold as they sought to flee Tenochtitlan after an Aztec rising is falsely evocative. The image of mendacious greed dragging Spaniards to the bottom of the sea seems forced. A more credible image is probably one of soldiers pulled underwater by the weight of their armor or of Spaniards wallowing helplessly in a body of water that was often shallow and marshy. Dr. Teofilio Ruiz's "Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire" touches on some of these issues concerning the clash of cultures in less detail, but is more sophisticated, articulate and honest. He is far more open about when the source materials are lacking and speculation is being substituted for the lack of definitive evidence and less prone to academic vogue.
Date published: 2016-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceeded my expectations Professor Eakin far exceeded my expectations for this course. I found that the history I was taught was exceptionally superficial. Understanding the Conquest of the Americas involves bringing together the status and development of Europe throughout the time of the Age of Exploration. The commerce, politics, religion, and technology all impinge on how the events unfolded. The professor does an excellent job of explaining how these facts influenced how the Conquest of the Americas unfolded. I love understanding the real history behind the major events that we are taught in school, and this Great Course provided the insights I was looking for. Well done!
Date published: 2015-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Excellent course. The subjects discussed are very relevant, and masterfully placed in historical and economical contexts. Clear presentation. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2015-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from not enough and too much Much solid information is presented, and I learned quite a bit, particularly from the earlier lectures. Professor Eakin's assertion that the story is about the (forced) coming together of people from Europe, from Africa, and from roots in the Americas is helpful. However, his coverage is uneven, with very little time spent discussing events in North America (I would have liked to know more about happenings in what is now Canada). Much personal opinion is given, which may be a necessary part of historical coverage. A graphic that shows the Mississippi River in the wrong location relative to the Great Lakes is disconcerting. I also thought that he could have stopped after his summaries of brutal treatment of people, rather than reading many specific accounts. Overall, I would recommend the course only to those who are very interested in this topic.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fascinating Story! AUDIO: CDs I have had several graduate courses on this period and subject, and also lived and worked for extended periods of time in several Latin American and Caribbean countries. As this was many years ago, it seemed that this TC course would be a good refresher. Professor Eakin exceeded my expectations. He is not only a very good, clear, speaker, but also brings to bear a critical eye to what many might think a well-worn, or worn out, subject, making this a lively, insightful, and even thought-provoking course. Throughout the twenty-four lectures, Professor Eakin quotes liberally and appropriately from a wide variety of contemporary sources, and frequently cites and discusses the work of other scholars as well as his own experience. Though most of the course focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, Professor Eakin also deals with North America. In addition to the Portuguese and Spanish, he discusses other European colonial powers in the New World, notably the English, French, and Dutch. Professor Eakin pulls no punches in eschewing terms like ‘discovery’ and ‘encounter’ for ‘conquest’ in describing what happened from the 16th century onward. What I found especially interesting is Professor Eakin’s comparing and contrasting of the quite varied colonial regimes, noting contributing factors that, for instance, made for differences in slavery in Latin America and the American South; the background of Africans sent to the New World and how the African slave trade operated; how the ‘conquest’, though complete in the military sense, was often much less so in cultural and religious matters; and the many fine treatments of notable individuals, from Hernan Cortes and his conquest of Mexico to Mexico’s late 17th century Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, “ [a] fine example of Creole high culture…the greatest literary figure of the Americas” (Course Guidebook, Part II, Page 36). For me, the best parts of the course concern the conquest of Latin America and the Caribbean. Professor Eakin’s analogy of three rivers converging, European, Native American, and African, makes for an especially useful way to view developments, then and now. He also challenges us to try to see both sides of the conquest equation from the perspective of people in their times, not from our vantage point. This means a good deal of discussion, for example, about the Iberian re-conquest, freeing Portugal and Spain from the Islamic Moors, with the habits of thought, action, and organization attendant on that centuries-long process, which carried over into their New World conquests; and the extent, nature, and accomplishments of Native American societies, and how their divisions facilitated the European conquest. Most importantly, however, are the differences in cultural and world views, with the Europeans working from a Judeo-Christian view of time as a linear progression to an end, and the Native American adherence to a cyclical view of time. This difference as related by Professor Eakin is crucial for understanding the conquest. I am going to resist the temptation to further summarize the course. Suffice it to say that Professor Eakin has put together a fine, well-organized, course, free of the often prevalent PC hang-ups with which this period can so easily be encumbered. I am so impressed by Professor Eakin, I want to move on to his ‘The Americas in the Revolutionary Age’ TC course. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2014-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Collision, not discovery Eakin takes us on a modern look back at the collision of worlds as opposed to the "discovery" of the Americas. This theme is woven through every lecture. I listened to the audio version at double speed with no problem keeping up. I could have used a map here or there but I survived. Easily, one of the best of the 2-3 dozen or so courses I've purchased.
Date published: 2014-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worlds in collision (Audio download...augmented with Google Earth) Dr. Eakin does a great job on this survey of the development of the 'New World', presenting the background for the Spanish and Portuguese exploration, conquest and exploitation of Central and South America. I found many lectures spellbinding, especially the conquest of the Aztec, Mayans and Incas. What I also found interesting were the many extraordinary reviews, that describe nuances about Eakin's lectures that I had missed. I cannot add anything new, without being redundant. If you are considering purchasing, review these reviews...then buy the lectures (as always with coupon and on sale)...you won't be disappointed. I loved the lectures.
Date published: 2014-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beyond excellent One of my top five courses--and I have purchased many! Professor Eakin immediately engaged me through his lecture style; perfectly paced and highly organized. I would urge all to purchase this lecture series, as it is a balanced and updated approach to every aspect of this important subject.
Date published: 2014-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting History The only feature that could detract is the lack of visuals. He lectures 90+% of the time. But, he is good at it. Some of the major items were: America's populations, foods available, effects of disease, slavery, contributions to the wealth of Europe, key 'exploring' nations, and the characters involved. The extent of the brutality, slavery, and theft during the 'development' of the New Word should be understood by all. We can better understand the present cultures of America's countries with the help of this course.
Date published: 2013-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exquisite As someone born in Latinoamerica I truly enjoyed this course. I t s thorough , engaging and describes the cultures of different part of the Americas with such precision that shows he truly knows what he s talking about. It is very well organized and guides you through the different stages of the "conquest " in a very clever, unbiased, and compassionate way.
Date published: 2013-12-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Important Material, Dull Presentation [Video] This is important stuff that every American should have knowledge of, but I'm not sure that this course is the place to obtain it. Likeable though the professor is, the pace and delivery of these lectures is rather dull, I'm sorry to say. The best presented parts are on the conquistadors, as this material makes a gripping story. As for the rest of the lectures, I felt obliged to watch them, but I was constantly waiting for each one to end.
Date published: 2013-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from comprehensive picture painted A great course. Dr. Eakins humanitarian attitudes are very sensitive to all sides and mindful of subtle issues and contradictions. Informative, well organized, brilliantly presented. I was not very familiar with the topic before listening to the course and now can see a comprehensive picture painted by Dr. Eakins with both broad and minute strokes. Very much recommended.
Date published: 2013-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great History I enjoyed this 24 lecture course immensely. Professor Eakin was well-organized and was successful in presenting a clear and even-handed telling of the story of the Americas, providing views from both the conquerors and the conquered. He began by clearly laying out his theme – the societies of the Americas emerged out of the collision, convergence, and complex mixture of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans. He proceeded to discuss each of these three cultural groups. The initial explorations emanating from Portugal and Spain followed. The historic voyage of Christopher Columbus led in subsequent lectures to the stories of the conquistadors: Cortes and Pizarro, among others. The back half of the course explored the roles of slavery, religion, silver, haciendas and plantations in the development and maintenance of the economy of the Americas. Pirates appeared as well as later explorations by England, France, and the Dutch. The concluding lectures focused on the social, cultural and spiritual lives of the conquered and the legacy of the burdens and strengths formed through the process of conquest and colonization. Professor Eakin was successful not only in relaying the factual information about the conquest of the Americas, but he also succeeded in exploring the motives of those who came to the Americas. He provided a better understanding of the thinking of the Native Americans (and why so many joined the Spanish side in the conquests of their neighbors), the ruling families of Spain and Portugal, the conquistadors, the African slaves, and the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits who came to bring Catholicism to the “heathen” Indians. Even the difference between the Spanish and English settlers in their perspective of the personhood of Native Americans gets attention. I highly recommend this course to anyone who enjoys history and wants to take their understanding of the Americas beyond the facts to a higher level of appreciation.
Date published: 2013-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely eye-opening and interesting I decided to take a systematic approach to U.S. history via the Great Courses and begin with this course "Conquest of the Americas." Taking it made me realize how little I knew about this period. My prior knowledge was gained in history classes in grade school and high school, when we studied the "discovery and exploration" of the Americas by brave men in the 15th century. This course attempts and succeeds in giving you the big picture of the conquests of the Americas. The instructor is extremely well organized, speaks clearly and slowly, and was easy to follow. He has no distracting mannerisms or vocal tics. I can't begin to tell you how many insights I got from this course. Although hearing about all the violence was difficult at times, I feel that I made leaps and bounds in my awareness of the history of Central and South America and even of the southern US, whose colonial history was similar to that of the Carribean and Brazil. I recommend this course to anyone interested in American, European, or African history.
Date published: 2013-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good course Very good review of the period of Spanish conquest of the new world.
Date published: 2012-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and enlightning course. This course exposed me to a part of history that I hadn't learned much about. I learned to be sicken by and yet at the same time admire the Conquistadors throughout the course, with a good measure of indigenous background presented in this course. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone seeking to learn more about this pivotal point in world history.
Date published: 2012-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History after 1492 You Never Studied Our history classes start with Columbus in 1492 and then skip to Jamestown, Plymouth, etc. Here Eakin details the fascinating, and important, history in between (though he does make it to the English and French). The often neglected - from a U.S. perspective - Latin American discoveries, Spanish Conquest, the ancient civilizations, and many other events and places that set the stage for the rest of the Americas. A great study, and necessary one, to complete your knowledge of our past.
Date published: 2012-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Program This was my first "Great Course" and great it was! The information was delivered in a linear fashion that made it easy to follow. The content was rich with in depth historical facts. Dr. Eakins brought this program to life with color and expertise that was truly impressive. I bought the program in preparation for a one month trip to Peru and found it so interesting that I just listened to it again, 9 months following our return!
Date published: 2012-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent The thought that this was the best course I have taken. Prof was very well organized and spoke clearly and distinctly. I had him for a course at Vanderbilt and he is well respected there. There should be more courses offered on meso America.
Date published: 2012-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from expected more mesoamerican history This is an interesting course but not in the way I expected it. I was hoping for better insight into Mayan, Olmac, Inca and Aztec history and culture, but this course dealt more with how/why/when the Europeans came to the Americas. Prof Eakin clearly cares greatly about the subject and while he was a bit wooden in the first few lectures, started to relax and made the course very enjoyable. I hope before long the Teaching Company will have a course which discusses the archaeology and history of the Americas, from the latest research (and there are lots of it) going on there.
Date published: 2012-03-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Redundant and remedial After listening to the first few lectures I began to wonder if this was a remedial high school course. I found the pace to be far too slow for an intelligent adult, with so much review of material that I found myself in a stupor. The professor gives one the impression of being inexperienced in teaching college level courses to adults. It was lacking in the energy and vibrance that one associates with The Teaching Company.
Date published: 2012-03-30
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