History 561: Spring 2010
The Spanish Conquest of the Americas

History 561

History of the Spanish Conquest


Spring 2010

Professor Chad Black
Email: cblack6-at-utk.edu
Office: 2629, 6th Floor Dunford Hall
Office Hours: T 11:00-12:00, 1:30-2:30

The Discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events in the recorded history of mankind.”

-Adam Smith

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and… discovered, or destroyed, conquered, or civilized the Americas.  Sixty years later, in 1552, López de Gómara, the private secretary of Hernán Cortes, wrote, “The greatest event since the creation of the world (excluding the incarnation and death of Him who created it) is the discovery of the Indies [i.e. Americas].”  He was, himself, a participant the great conquest of Mexico.  From the very beginning, not only the magnitude, but also the meaning of the Conquest of the Americas has been a point of controversy and acclaim.  Worlds were upended. Millions of people died through the cumulative impacts of warring, labor practices, and, maybe most importantly, disease. Empires were torn down and reconstructed. Christendom was vastly expanded. And, of course, tomatoes, chiles, potatoes, silver, gold, emeralds, horses, cattle, pig, corn, and syphilis traversed the Atlantic in an epoch of unprecedented ecological exchange. Modernity itself was forged in the crucible of Conquest.  The readings in this class will take us on a journey through the historiography of the Conquest, from its original Spanish and indigenous chroniclers through current approaches. Along the way we will treat the complexities, myths, and enduring legacies of the process of Spanish conquest. Texts:  Several books have been ordered for this seminar and are available for purchase at the UTK bookstore. All other readings will be available via the course website. All students should give serious consideration to purchasing James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz’s textbook Early Latin America, which will provide a general framework for understanding this period of Latin American History.

Required readings:


  1. Group Bibliography (10%): All members of the seminar will be invited to become members of the “Spanish Conquest @ UTK Spring 2010” Zotero Group, through which they will help to generate an online group bibliography over the course of the semester.  In addition to the postings required of seminar discussion leaders, students will post, tag, and comment on these citations throughout the semester, and add bibliographic entries from their own projects to the database.
  2. Seminar Participation (20%): Students must come to class prepared to discuss the session’s required readings, including posting a reaction to those readings on their personal blog. Each student must register their own blog, which we will feed onto the course website. I suggest using an RSS Reader, such as Google Reader, to follow
  3. Discussion Leadership (20%): Students who are leading the weekly discussions (twice per semester in pairs) are asked to write a 1-2 page synopsis of the book they are discussing, which will attached to the group bibliography.  Students are also responsible for developing bibliographies related to the weeks they lead discussion. Additional resources identified and referenced by discussion leaders (book reviews, published historiographical essays, research articles) should also be added to the group bibliography and handed out in class.
  4. Short Historiography (25%): Students must write a short historiography of one theme or topic related to the Spanish Conquest. As our readings center on the conquest of Mesoamerica, they are encouraged to use this assignment to explore Andean experience. Papers should review three books and two to three articles related to their topic of choice. Bibliographies should be cleared with the professor, annotated, and put on the course Zotero page.
  5. Teaching the Conquest (25%): Students will design a teaching unit, comprised of at least 3 lesson plans, and designed for incorporation into a World or Western Civ survey. At the end of the semester, they will present these plans to the class.  Guidelines for this assignment will be distributed in the seminar.


Some of the points you may wish to cover include:

1. Explain how the information and materials used in seminar have been integrated into the design of the unit and the structure/content of the lesson plans. Provide a copy of the unit and lesson plans to seminar participants. Construct a website to do the above.

2. Assess how your work in class changed how and what you plan to teach in relation to the subject area.

Other Information

Please note:  If any special accommodations are needed to complete the requirements of this course, please come see me at the beginning of the semester. No make-ups or incompletes will be given without medical documentation.

Absences: Multiple absences from the class meetings will be noted and will affect a student’s participation grade.

Deadlines: Assignments must be emailed to the instructor no later than the beginning of class on the day they are due, or at some other specified time established by the professor. It is important to be technologically savvy in today’s world. Much of our communication occurs through email, including the sharing of documents and other work product. Late papers will not be accepted for any reason without prior arrangement. This includes technology problems. You’re responsible for attaching your work correctly and sending it in on time.

Academic honesty. There is a UTK Academic Code of Conduct that defines and recommends sanctions against plagiarism. Familiarize yourself with it. The complete policy may be found here and here. Just follow the links on those pages. Any level of academic dishonest (such as cheating or plagiarizing) will result at minimum in the student failing the assignment, but can also include expulsion from the course and actions filed with Student Judicial Affairs.