European discovery of America
Although Vikings had colonized Greenland and visited Canada, news of these lands was unknown to other Europeans. The Eurasian and African continents were the only land masses known to Western civilization throughout Medieval times and into the Renaissance. Even the true circumference of the Earth was not clearly known.
Columbus wanted to find a shorter ocean route to India and proclaimed the places and people he discovered to be "Indian", giving modern English the term "Indians" for the Native Americans.
- The Spanish conquerors of the Middle American and Andean worlds immediately overwhelmed their ill-equipped and unsuspecting victims by force of arms; they virtually exterminated those elements of the population that were the repositories of the indigenous cultures; they substituted themselves as an alien dominant minority, and they reduced the rural population to the status of an internal proletariat of the Western Christian society ...