The Incan Empire and Beyond

Cortés's success inspired other adventurers. Among them was Spaniard Francisco Pizarro (pee SAHR oh). Pizarro had heard rumors about a fabulously rich empire in Peru, with even more gold than the Aztecs. Pizarro arrived in Peru in 1532, just after the Incan ruler Atahualpa (ah tah WAHL puh) had won the throne from his brother in a bloody civil war. A civil war is fought between groups of people in the same nation. The war had weakened the Incas, and they had also begun to be affected by European diseases. In the end, however, it was trickery that helped Pizarro defeat the Incas.

Atahualpa Resists

When Pizarro and his small force of about 200 men reached the Inca leader, they urged him to convert to Christianity and accept Charles V as sovereign. When Atahualpa refused, Pizarro tricked the Incan leader into meeting with him. Then with the help of Indian allies, he took the emperor prisoner and killed thousands of Incas.

Painting of a native American man in s head dress, robes and decorated tunic, holding a golden axe. Inscription reads Atahuallpa Inca thirteen.

Atahualpa, portrayed here by an unknown painter in the 1500s, was the thirteenth and last Incan ruler.

For a time, the Spanish held Atahulpa captive. Pizarro's secretary described him as:

a man of thirty years, good-looking and poised, somewhat stout, with a wide, handsome, and ferocious face, and the eyes flaming with blood …

—Francisco de Xerez

Pizarro Triumphs

Despite continuing resistance, Pizarro and his followers overran the Incan heartland. He had superior weapons, and the Incan people were weakened by European diseases. From Peru, Spanish forces surged across what are today Ecuador and Chile. Before long, Spain had added much of South America to its growing empire. Pizarro himself was killed by a rival Spanish faction a few years after he established the city of Lima.

Beyond Spain's Empire

As in the Spanish empire, the Native Americans who lived in Brazil—the Tupian Indians—had been largely wiped out by disease. In the 1530s, Portugal began to issue grants of land to Portuguese nobles, who agreed to develop the land and share profits with the crown. Landowners sent settlers to build towns, plantations, and churches.

Illustration of a man in conquistador armor and feathered helmet and robe, looking to the distance.

The conquistador Francisco Pizarro appears in full armor in this hand-colored woodcut from the 1800s.

Unlike Spain's American colonies, Brazil offered no instant wealth from silver or gold. However, early settlers cut and exported brazilwood. The Portuguese named the colony after this wood, which was used to produce a valuable dye.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments