Why did the Spanish conquer and colonize the Americas? Young students are typically taught that "Gold, Glory, and God" led to the Spanish empire. But the real answer is probably more complex than that.
A prerequisite for Spanish exploration was the Renaissance. The Renaissance brought Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the modern era. Intellectual pursuits, including the study of geography, were valued. The Renaissance inculcated the Spanish with a curiosity of distant places. The Chinese, on the other hand, chose to eschew voyages of exploration as the Spanish made rapid strides.
Another factor that enabled Spain to establish an empire was its national unity. The Spanish kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united in 1469. In 1492, the last Muslims on the Iberian Peninsula were subjugated. Because foreign voyages of exploration were so expensive, only a united kingdom could undertake them. By the end of the fifteenth century, a unified Spain was ready.
Trade was an extremely important...
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