Some Spanish Context

Pre-Colonial Spain

I wanted to study a little bit of Spain before I started really looking into Columbus and his voyage to the new world. I figured it might add some helpful context to why Spain was expanding and what was going on in the world at the time.

I was surprised to learn that there had been a centuries long war in Spain, the ending of which opened the door for expansion and colonization.

The Reconquista

In the early 8th century, Muslims (known as Moors at the time) conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula. This conquest would eventually lead to what is known as the Reconquista, or reconquest.

Starting in the year 801 CE Spain began fighting to reclaim the land they had lost to the Moors. This war went on for an insane amount of time, not ending until 1492. That’s 691 years!

While the war started out as a fight for land, it changed over the nearly 7 centuries of war and became a religious conquest as well, with Spanish catholics trying to convert the Muslim people to Christianity through violence.

This mentality and idea of violent conversion would carry forward after the end of the Reconquista as Spain turned its view outward to the rest of the world.

Gold, Glory, and God

Following their reclamation of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain was ready to expand their empire. It was the Age of Exploration after all, everyone was exploring and expanding!

Other posts will get into the nitty gritty of Columbus and all his history, but this seemed like a good place to briefly touch on Spain’s motivations for exploration and colonization. Gold, glory, and god.

They wanted wealth, power, and to spread their beliefs to new corners of the world. These motivators would inform the mentality that early explorers carried with them and likely impacted the way they chose to interact with people they encountered.

Why this matters

This one may not matter directly to US history as much as others, but it is an interesting note about where Spain was at when they started sending explorers to the New World. They ended a centuries long religious crusade the same year they sent Columbus on his first voyage. They felt powerful and ready for further expansion and conversion to Christianity.

Maybe not the most relevant, but context matters sometimes so I wanted to provide it.

Sources & Additional Reading:

World History Encyclopedia


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