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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Conquest of the Americas is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 117.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Revisiting a great one I took this course a number of years ago, lent it out , lost track of it and so recently returned to repurchase it and revisit it . This truly is one of the most informative and fascinating collections of information with a very unique concept . A must have. I’m delighted with it all over again!
Date published: 2019-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! Just like the courses that I’ve taken already, this one is excellent. Whether you’re interested in history, science, or one of many other choices, they’re all extremely interesting.
Date published: 2018-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful stimulating comprehensive series I could not stop watching this fascinating panorama of the history of the merging of the original Indians, Europeans and Africans in the post Colombian Americas. Told in a relaxed friendly manner Marshall's humanity shines through even the darkest moments with a skillful mixing of human interest detail, broad centuries long trends. The themes of the course are beautifully developed and brought together at the end in a heart moving conclusion!
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Survey of the topic I enjoyed this as I was determined to get a better understanding of the social themes, in particular of Latin America, its history, the major events and players. Anyone just starting out will get a great overview, and I suspect even those who have studied Latin America in some detail can profit.
Date published: 2018-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accurate I wanted to focus on colonialism in more detail and professor Eakin delivered; he leaves nothing out. It's more like two courses in one since I also learned something about Latin American history it's people as well as Africa.
Date published: 2018-05-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learning the history of the "other" America This course is a great overview of the history of the "other" America - Central and South America and the influence of the Spanish and Portuguese in our hemisphere. I am surprised at what I remembered from my youthful school days, but am learning many new things.
Date published: 2018-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cortez/morality The course is very good so far. One thing that bothers me a little is that sometimes the professor doesn't enunciate and leaves some words out of sentences as if he is in a rush to get to the end of the sentence..:) The other issue I see so far is that he downplays the 'conquest' - Cortez came and defeated this incredible civilization and the professor says he took gambled everything by taking it all on and winning if the professor is admiring him. Obviously Cortez, and Columbus were a product of their times but they really did horrible things. He does say that people miss the point when they concentrate on the conquistador' aggression but it is all part of the story.
Date published: 2018-03-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Misnamed Course; Below-Par Instructor The course is entitled "Conquest of the Americas," but that title is highly misleading. It really is about the conquest of Latin America; the instructor gives scant attention to the British, the French, the Dutch (and, yes, the Swedes and the Russians) in North America. Even in the four lectures nominally set aside for the English and the French, the instructor almost immediately snaps back to the Spanish and the Portuguese. I would not have purchased the course if I had known how unbalanced it is in the coverage. Additionally, the lectures themselves are rather bad. The instructor repeats himself endlessly; even the smallest points are made three or four times in succession. He has annoying habits (such as overuse and misuse of the word "literally"), and he simply cannot tell a story (a real shortcoming for an historian). This course is far below average for one of the Great Courses.
Date published: 2018-03-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Course I am enjoying listening to this course. My only issue is that the professor summarizes previous material too often.
Date published: 2018-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! This class is exactly what I wanted! After I completed watching this class, I went back and reread all of the previous reviews. The positive reviews are spot-on. Not only did I enjoy this class, I learned a lot. I will watch it again and use it as a future reference. The biggest complaint of the negative reviewers is that this class spends little time covering North America. The COURSE OVERVIEW on the Teaching Company web site shows what each of the 24 lectures cover. Only Lectures 18, 19, 20, and 21 cover the settlements of the English, French, and Dutch as late arrivers during this period of European expansion to the Americas. The negative reviewers could have known this before they bought the class if they had evaluated the lecture topics prior to purchasing. I did and was happy, since Latin America was my primary interest. There is one major concern that I always evaluate before buying a class. I want the professor to be fair and not have an ideological bias. If there is a bias, I will not buy the class. I was pleased with this professor. He spent most of this class presenting factual information. A few times he did state some of his personal beliefs, as intelligentsia is wont to do. But that was minor in comparison to the overall excellence of this class.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Old-school TGC course covers lots of ground Most of my recent courses have been new TGC productions, so it was a blast from the past to follow this 2002 entry: old “farmhouse” set with Harvard Classics on the table, very limited graphics, no closed captioning, talking-head approach to lectures, and even the trusty old Bach theme song. I would probably recommend doing this course in audio format, since there is little of interest on the screen except some maps and the occasional illustration. The course book is also old-style: just 3 or 4 pages per lecture of outline-style notes. But the book contains a glossary, timeline, and bibliography, items which are sometimes lacking in more recent productions. The subject of the “conquest of the Americas” has become even more of a hotbed of discussion in the years since Prof. Eakin recorded these lectures, but I think his approach is fair and even-handed. He covers the interactions, or ‘collisions,’ between various European groups and the people they met in North and South America. You’ll learn the differences between how each country approached its ‘conquests,’ and how small groups of Europeans were able to destroy or displace whole native civilizations. All the famous names are here: Columbus, Pizarro, Cortez, Montezuma, Raleigh, etc. You’ll hear familiar stories, but also quotes from other figures who experienced these interactions and wrote about them. This is a solid but unexceptional entry in the catalog, and is probably due for an update.
Date published: 2017-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super coverage of a fascinating topic I bought this a couple of weeks ago and am still going through it. So far I have been very pleased. Professor Marshall Eakin is very thorough and explains what's going on as we move through the conquest of the Americas. I enjoy his detailed comments on what took place and especially why it took place. He moves the story along at a nice clip and it's easy to follow his presentation of this complex subject.
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable Gives insight into areas of American History that I didn't think about in school.
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Does North America exist? The instructor was very well informed about Latin America and he did a more than adequate job regarding South and Central America. However...North America was less than a passing footnote. He's very Iberian centric, and if I had realized this prior to purchase, I would not have purchased this. The professor does a disservice to not just the cultures that arrived on the shores of North America from Europe, but also to the peoples here prior to 1500.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A lot of information I learned a lot after listening to this course. However, the professor seem to repeat the same point over and over. If this did not happen, there might be more material that can be included in this course
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Wow Just once I would like to read a contemporary history course involving Europe or america that did not have an obvious slant. Christianity and the philosophy of the west is the cause of conquest an war? So China attempted to invade Japan to spread Christianity? Attila the Hun was a capitalist? What utter nonsense. I bought this for my son who jumped from the 3rd grade to the 6th grade. He found the course interesting. I watched with him and glad I did.
Date published: 2017-08-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great overview of the early Americas This course helped me to put together the convergence of the old world and the New World with the early explorers and the many peoples of the early Americas. It answered many questions I had about this time in history.
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Information I'm a "History Buff" and was eager to learn more about exploration/development in the Americas. The scope of the lectures was much wider than I had been exposed to before, and presented in an very interesting sequence. Excellent content and organization.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So informative He has material that I have never heard before. Very good historical background.
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lacks Detail on Dutch in North America Prof. Eakin's knowledge about Central and South America and the Caribbean is impressive, but the course regrettably lacks much detail about the Dutch in North America. Their original settlements in New York, New Jersey and Delaware took an entirely different trajectory than did the Spanish conquistadores and the New England Puritans. Instead of looking to "conquer" the Indians, they instead looked to establish trade relationships and covenants with them. When the Puritans attempted to push the Indian leader Metacom (King Philip) and his followers out of their ancestral territories in 1675-77, it was the Dutch and English in New York, along with their Mohawk allies, who first defeated them and then offered sanctuary to New England tribes displaced by King Philip's War. The subsequent "beaver wars" with the French led to the long series of French and Indian Wars and eventually to the American Revolution. And the influence of the Jesuit "Black Robes" was as significant in New York and Canada as it was in other American areas. It seems like there should have been enough room in the lectures to squeeze in something more about the North American situation instead of so much on Brazil and the Caribbean pirates.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative and formative It is a well structured course that opens up with the arrival of Columbus to the Caribbean and then proceeds to exploring gradual expansion of the Spanish into the South America and then North, followed by Portugal and in the 17th century Britain, France and Holland. The clash of the civilizations one driven by bounty and riches, the other by protecting its way of life is well presented on the examples of Mexico and Peru, with the Cortez and Pizarro's conquest of the two great American civilizations: the Aztecs (and Maya) and the Incas. The story of steel, horses, diseases and canning of the Spaniards is told very convincingly. The British conquest of the North America is shown in sketches, with less detail and the sense of some disappointment at the arrival into a territory without any natural riches of full of Indians, who could be enslaved to work for the old continent. The history of slave trade and its slow dismantling is not only shown but also the economic drive behind it is well explained (the extermination of the indigenous population by diseases and a gluttony of colonizers to get more gold and silver). The differences between the Spaniards, who tried to cover up with the mission of expanding the Christianity their colonization for economic benefit, and the Portuguese, who looked for trading opportunities are explained. And the late arrival of the Brits and French with the Dutch in the 17th century to take over the initiative from the Spanish and conquer the lands in order to settle. In the end the emergence of the new mixed societies that retain their European, Indian and African roots is also well explained showing the vestiges of racial or class prejudices that still persist, as the minds and culture are the last to be conquered. I think that moral aspects of colonization are rightly noted and projected although lightly to the today's reality, showing the historic roots of the unresolved problems of free access to economic, political and educational opportunities that exist. The human nature transpires through the history of conquest and subsequent colonization, and the winners continue to protect their privileges while wondering while those pushed asides cannot achieve what they do and consider them underserving. It is the course that apart from imparting information also makes one reflect on the impact of the process that shaped the Western hemisphere the way it is today.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mixed Emotions About the Course When Professor Eakin sticks to history this was a very informative course and he gets an above average as a lecturer. There are however times when he allows his obvious political views to take him down a path of commentary rather than history. The conquest of the Americas is what it is. It contains the good, the bad and the ugly. I do think a good history course has to contain all three and as someone who majored in American history that is the way it has been taught for many years. What I am not interested in with this kind of course are moral assesments which Professor Eakin slips into occasionally. That said because of the overall content I am giving it four stars. Though I could also give it 3.5 based on the other history curses from the teaching Company that I have purchased (probably more than 15).
Date published: 2017-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent explanation of how the Spanish were able to dominate the empires of the Aztecs and Incas, how the races converged in Latin America, and how different the development of North America was
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A longtime favorite I've purchased several courses in a variety of disciplines. This course is my favorite. For me, it strikes exactly the right balance between being thorough in the details but never tedious. And yes, it's a history course, but the professor takes the extra step to tie historical facts and events to today's American cultures and societies. I bought this course many years ago and find myself still listening to, enjoying, and benefitting from individual lectures today. Super good.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from lot's of new history for me I recently took a seminar at the UofA with in which the professor was very critical of the European conquest of the Americas. His comments awakened me to my ignorance of the Spanish conquests that produced present day Latin America. That led me to this course. I am quite satisfied it did. Who were the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Incas? Where did they live? What were they like? Why did the whole thing start in the little country of Portugal? What were the economic conditions that led up to this monumental moment in history? Before this course I could not have answered any of these questions. They are all answered by lecture 6, even before the Conquistadors arrive. How did a tiny group of Conquistadors manage to subdue the large, established cities of the Aztecs? How did their conquests so quickly snowball into what Latin America has become today? One detail I did not realize, for example, is that slavery was well established in Latin America long before it took hold in the southern Untied States. As professor Eikan says, understanding the conquest of the Americas is necessary to understand who we are and how we came to be. I did not find Professor Eakin's treatment of the British and French in the northern regions as compelling as that of the Spanish and Portuguese. Perhaps that is because Latin America is the Professor's specialty and passion. Perhaps that is because the Spanish conquered established cities, while the British and French moved through lightly populated wilderness regions, thus history provides less dramatic detail. Nonetheless, I feel this course has broadened and enriched my perspective on American history. It was well worth it.
Date published: 2017-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorites! Together with my brother, we own and have listened to 100+ Teaching Company lecture series, and Conquest of the Americas is one of my favorites. The era of the conquistadors is not a subject the average Anglo learns a lot about, and I was blown away by the stirring stories of blood and conquest that happened just south of our fair United States, and how these events shaped the entire Latin view of themselves and the world. I personally enjoyed the professor's easy going manner and style. He is willing to sit back and tell you a story while keeping and eye for detail and factual accuracy, in contrast to, say, a Teaching Company series by Rufus Fears. Highly recommended. Buy it.
Date published: 2017-03-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Overwhelmed with political correctness I know this is a very old course, but for those of us who like to scoop up bargains, it may still be interesting. It was okay, but for my tastes history has been rewritten here to conform with the current overly political correct, even Marxist ideology that, as I return to college as a senior citizen, I see has infected most history classes. There is nothing in the course about the rampant human sacrifice and cannibalism practiced by the stone-age indigenous tribes, and the book actually asserts and judges actions based on the assertion that indigenous tribes, Africans, and European invaders were equal in terms of civilization, culture, and intellectual ability. To me that is absurd. IQ inequality is still at the root of most of the worlds conflicts. On the whole, I recommend the book by Lewis B. Wright, Gold, Glory, and the Gospel, written before history became corrupted with nonsense ideologies.
Date published: 2017-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very well done I was quite impressed with this course. At the introductory level it seemed to be well researched and original, a nice synthesis of obviously a large about of information that Professor Eaiken distills well. The content seems to dwell largely on the history of the conquest of the MesoAmericas, which is of course largely his specialty.( And his personal stories of this are interesting.) He did give some token attention to conquest events that took place in North America and Canada, however they seemed to be somewhat minimal -- perhaps understandably given the depth of his coverage on events elsewhere. And those shorted issues could well be the basis of another entire course I expect. Overall, I was very well impressed by Professor Eaiken's course and would highly recommend it. My only additional recommendation to "improve" the professor's presentations would to include more graphics. He does include some, however over the past 7 years or so since these lectures were done viewers have now become accustomed to (spoiled by) the inclusion of quite creative and meaningful graphic content when being relayed such information by other sources -- but that of course incurs much higher production costs, something that is probably prohibitive given the economics of this sort of distribution -- i.e., it's quite impossible for The Great Courses to compete with production capabilities of the BBC, NOVA, History Channel, etc. Still, I believe that the inclusion of a few more graphics (stills and simple animations) could well enhance delivery of this subject matter.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unvarnished, but with Empathy and Compassion video download version Professor Eakin presents his topic in an unromantic fashion. His delivery is steady and calm, only occasionally allowing his passion for his subject and area to come through and then only when discussing individuals (usually historical) for whom he has empathy. For example, he speaks with warmth about his fellow students in Costa Rica, using them and him as examples in his first and last lectures of the mixture of ethnicities in Latin and North America. He never tries to justify atrocities, just describing them and putting actions and policies into the context of the times. This course has been rigorously thought out as to content, flow and his objectives. Some reviewers have objected to what they see as repetition, but rather his methodology is classic: he tells us what he is going to say, then he delivers his lecture and then he tells us what he has said. And not only for each lecture, but he also bookends the course in the same manner with his first introductory lecture and his final concluding one (of course this is usually the case for most TTC courses and not unique to Professor Eakin.) I’d never much thought about why the Spanish and Portuguese had such a jump on the British, French and Dutch, other than perhaps Columbus’ initial voyages, but now I have a much clearer appreciation, as well as for added confirmation as to why the seeming poverty of New England (as opposed to the silver, gold, sugar and tobacco of the South and Latin America) turned out to be a good thing in the long run. In the spirit of full disclosure, while I greatly enjoyed this course and learned quite a bit, a part of my feeling may be due to having lived and worked in several Latin American countries over a number of years. I am predisposed to find this topic interesting, even compelling. There are many disturbing things to learn or to be reminded of in this course: slavery, conquest of established civilizations, involuntary labor requirements, genocide, disease, exploitation and much more, I think the thing I found most upsetting was that the English did not consider the natives worth converting to Christianity. Dr. Eakin compares this to the almost enforced conversions of natives and slaves by the Spanish pointing out that at least the Spanish (and Portuguese) considered them to be at least human and worth saving rather than subhuman and not worthy of consideration. He uses this as an opening to express a great deal of admiration for the Jesuits although he does not go forward enough in history to point out their expulsion from Mexico. Although (and as Dr. Eakin points out) most of the course is delivered from the top down (after all, that is who wrote most of the remaining documents), he does leaven many of his lecturers’ with personal accounts of individuals, allowing us occasional views from the bottom up. And as an added bonus, I now have another poet to read, as his compelling description of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, her life and her writing clearly moved him, and I’m sure that will be true for us all. I think a good precursor to this course would be “Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire” by Dr. Ruiz and a good follow up would be “Americas in the Revolutionary Era” also by Dr. Eakin Highly Recommended
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I had some background in this topic from studying history and Spanish in high school and college. However, I learned a lot of new things in this course. I really liked the professor's presentation style. He clearly has a passion for the topic. He quoted a lot of primary sources and told so many incredible stories. You can tell by the way he speaks that he really has an appreciation for the human side of history. When you listen to him teach history, you don't feel like you are learning a list of events, but rather he is an expert story teller passing on stories that are stranger than fiction. He also adds some little jokes and related personal stories here and there, which I appreciate. Not only did I like them, but so did my son. Even though he is young, he likes to watch documentaries and NOVA specials, but I was running out of things on Netflix to show him. I had these DVDs for years and hadn't watched them, but he recently learned about Native Americans in school and became extremely interested in learning more. I thought I'd try watching these with him to see if he might glean anything before he lost interest. These are definitely adult level lectures dealing with adult level content using adult level vocabulary. However, the professor is so talented and the content is so fascinating that even my son watched every single lecture with me, and actually requested to watch them (he was usually playing legos on the couch while listening). We blew through them in less than a month! If you are at all curious about this topic, don't hesitate to buy this course. You will learn about an incredible chapter in history, and you will really enjoy it!
Date published: 2016-12-27
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