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CHAPTER 17The Diversity of American Colonial Societies,1530–1770I.The Columbian ExchangeA.Demographic Changes1.The peoples of the New World lacked immunity to diseases from the Old World. Smallpox, measles, diphtheria, typhus, influenza, malaria, yellow fever and maybe pulmonary plague caused severe declines in the population of native peoples in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Syphilis was the only significantdisease thought to have been transferred from the Americas to Europe.2.Similar patterns of contagion and mortality may be observed in the English and French colonies in North America. Europeans did not use disease as a tool of empire, but the spread of Old World diseases clearly undermined the ability of native peoples to resist settlement and accelerated cultural change.B.Transfer of Plants and Animals1.European, Asian, and African food crops were introduced to the Americas while American crops, including maize, beans, potatoes, manioc, and tobacco, were brought to the Eastern Hemisphere. The introduction of New World food crops isthought to be one factor contributing to the rapid growth in world population after 1700.2.The introduction of European livestock such as cattle, pigs, horses, and sheep had a dramatic influence on the environment and on the cultures of the native people of the Americas.3.Old World livestock destroyed the crops of some Amerindian farmers. Other Amerindians benefited from the introduction of cattle, sheep, and horses.II.Spanish America and BrazilA.State and Church1.The Spanish crown tried to exert direct control over its American colonies through a supervisory office called the Council of the Indies. In practice, the difficulty of communication between Spain and the New World led to a situation in which the Viceroys of New Spain and Peru and their subordinate officials enjoyed a substantial degree of power.2.After some years of neglect and mismanagement, the Portuguese in 1720 appointed a viceroy to administer Brazil.3.The governmental institutions established by Spain and Portugal were highly developed, costly bureaucracies that thwarted local economic initiative and political experimentation.4.The Catholic Church played an important role in transferring European language,culture, and Christian beliefs to the New World. Catholic clergy converted large numbers of Amerindians, although some of them secretly held on to some of their native beliefs and practices.5.Catholic clergy also acted to protect Amerindians from some of the exploitation and abuse of the Spanish settlers. One example is Bartolome de Las Casas, a former settler turned priest who denounced Spanish policies toward the
Amerindians and worked to improve the status of Amerindians through legal reforms such as the New Laws of 1542.