Sources of Freedom Exercises

This chapter concentrates on the history of early European conquest of the Americas. European expansion by the Portuguese and Spanish, propelled by the search for African gold and a direct sea route to the Indian Ocean, is discussed in terms of European contact with African societies and through the voyages of Columbus.

The chapter gives an overview of the Indian populations before European contact and their subsequent conquest by Spanish conquistadores. Spanish colonization is explored, with attention being given to justifications for conquest, the economy, forms of labor, and Spanish relations with Indians. Dominican priest Bartolomé de Las Casas is highlighted as a voice of freedom calling for better treatment for the Indians.

North America is discussed next, with a focus again on the Indians and difference between the Indians and Europeans in terms of religion, perception of land, and gender roles. Europeans and Indians defined freedom differently, with the Europeans concluding that the concept was an alien notion for the Indians. Reasons for British interest in North America are explored, concluding that the unique history of England through the Magna Carta and its Civil War of the 1640s gave the English the belief that they were the world’s guardians of liberty. As such, the English were destined to "free" the Americas from the hold of the Spanish. Freedom and the English are again highlighted in Voices of Freedom, where Henry Care discusses English liberties.

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