The Great Geographic Discoveries

Following the discovery of the New World, the conquest, Spanish invasions of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries began. Small units opposed alliances of tribes and entire states. Their successful advance was facilitated not only by the availability of firearms but also by the skillful use of infighting among the Indians. The conquerors knew no mercy in the massacres of the conquered peoples. Nevertheless, the warring parties gradually came to a truce: the division of territories.

If the usual seizure of jewels took place at the first stage of the conquest, the conquerors passed from the middle of the XVI century to permanently exploit mines. The New World gave already half of the world’s extraction of precious metals, and to Spain, there stretched multi-ton “gold” and “silver” flotillas. Profits came not only from mines but also from the cultivation of agricultural plantations. The owners were Spanish colonists, but the land was worked by Indians who had been forced into slavery. Unbearable labor and unbearable conditions caused the mass deaths of Indians. During the Great Geographic Discoveries and the first division of the world, the first colonial empires emerged – states with colonial possessions in different parts of the world. The division of the world also occurred locally: with the arrival of the Spaniards, societies were divided into cells (castes), and strict hierarchy principles were established.

An exchange occurred between the people of Africa and valuable things and goods from the Americas. In the Americas, enslaved people participated in producing new goods, after which they were transported to Europe. Each side of the slave triangle described a process of exchange of people and goods (Whatley, 2017). The first involved the transportation of labor between Africa and the Americas: often, the position of the people was uncomfortable and cramped, causing the number of diseases when crossing the ocean to increase dramatically. The second route connected the Americas and Europe: the transport of products created by enslaved people (e.g., sugar) took place. Finally, the triangle closed, and new goods from Europe to Africa were transported from America. For example, the British sent slaves to New England to America where they grew sugar; the sugar was then sold to Europe, where rum or other goods were made; the rum was sold again and exchanged for new slaves.


Whatley, W. C. (2017). The gun-slave hypothesis and the 18th century British slave trade. Explorations in Economic History, 67, 80–104.