What is the "capitulation of 1492" in American history and its relation to the theft of Native American land?  

Expert Answers
ophelious eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a fairly difficult question to answer in the way that you've worded it, but I'll do my best and see if I can't help.

The "capitulation of 1492" could refer to the Treaty of Granada (which is sometimes called the Capitulation of Granada and happened in 1491/1492) but you also mention Native Americans...that leads me to believe that you're talking about Columbus.

One thing it's important to remember is that there wasn't really a "Native American culture" at the time Columbus made his first voyage.  Native Americans (loosely lumping together everyone living in North and South America at the time) were not one group of people by any means.  Native Americans were as varied in their cultures as the Europeans were.  Traveling from South to Central to North America would result in a person encountering a wide variety of cultures.

1492 was the year of Columbus' first voyage, and the land he found was relegated to what we would call The Bahamas, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Specifically, you mention to "land theft."  When Columbus encountered the natives, he noticed a few things:

  1. They lived a "primitive" lifestyle and lacked European style cities and such (of course, he had not yet made it to South America where he would have come across more "developed" cultures"
  2. They were generally friendly and peaceful,
  3. They lacked weapons made of metal.

Columbus made the observation that these natives would make excellent servants because they "learned very quickly" and that, with a small group of well armed men, he could "conquer the whole of them...and govern them as I please." *  It was these fateful ideas that guided arrogant men to take these lands by conquest.

It was these observations that made the whole region appear like an easy conquest and would encourage ruthless men to do just that. Before returning to Spain, Columbus even set the tone by capturing a few dozen natives to take back to Spain with him.  Not an entirely merciless man by nature, one must wonder what would have happened had he encountered a more developed civilization like the Aztecs first, and if this would have changed the tone of his reports upon his return.


* Robert H. Fuson, ed The Log of Christopher Columbus, Tab Books, 1992, International Marine Publishing, ISBN 0-87742-316-4.

Read the study guide:
America in 1492

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question
Additional Links