With the first contact between the Americas and Afro-Eurasia kick-started by the Europeans, it was like two hemispheres colliding. The vastly different and often superior technology of the Europeans played a role in this, and along with disease let a small number of men overwhelm empires.
One technological advantage the Europeans had was more exposure to what was at the time, modern warfare. Native American civilizations were more spread out and isolated from each other. While some formed cohesive societies and cities, such as the Aztecs and Incas, most were spread out over a vastly bountiful continent. Outright, large scale warfare seldom happened and weren’t the focus of advancements. Europeans had the benefit of learning from peoples of Asia, Persia, and Africa, who had been consumed with the business of war for centuries.
The Europeans also had the benefit of learning from ancient civilizations other technologies. They learned the power of social organization, and it’s value of subterfuge when entering diplomatic relations. They learned the value of the written word for communications. Europeans had access to inventions and their improvements, such as farming methods, guns and gunpowder, ways to heal disease. While Native Americans were more advanced than Europeans in some areas, such as mathematics and astronomy, their absolute lack of knowledge of other civilizations was detrimental to technological advancement.
Europeans had access to their own products and goods, and to trade routes in order to procure other civilizations goods. They had access to domesticated animals, which enabled them to be more mobile. Even while the Incas and Aztecs built great cities, they were limited in scope and in their ability to keep up with the demands of population growth due to the lack of ways to harvest and transport crops and supplies.
A final factor that illustrates the difference between the Americas and the Europeans harks back to isolation. While highly religious for the most part, Europeans had been exposed to a wealth of knowledge and ideas from other cultures while Native Americans had not. As a result, Native Americans were deeply connected to the spiritual, and often thought the invading Europeans with their diseases and weapons were avenging Gods. Or in their innocence, took them at their word that they were friends. As de Las Casas described, they “reverenced them as Persons descended from Heaven” (de Las Casas, from Project Gutenberg E-book, 2017).
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