The Voyages of Discovery and Conquest of the Americas, 1492-1522

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Eduqas GCSE History Component 1: Studies in Depth

Written examinations: 2 hours (comprising two papers of 1 hour duration each)
50% of qualification 100 marks (plus 6 marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar and use of specialist terms)
Learners study two Studies in Depth, one British and one non-British, from eight options in total. This component focuses study on substantial and coherent short time scales. Studies in Depth will provide learners with the opportunity to study history in greater depth and consequently understand the complexity of a society or historical situation more effectively.

Studies in Depth will focus study on different historical eras and different geographical contexts. This component encourages learners to use a wide range of historical sources. Learners should also study different historical interpretations of specific events and issues.

The two options studied must be from different historical eras (Medieval, 500-1500; Early Modern, 1450-1750; and Modern, 1700-present).

This module is from the Early Modern era.

Curriculum for 1F. The voyages of discovery and conquest of the Americas, 1492-1522

  • This option focuses in depth on selected themes and issues relating to the history of the voyages of discovery, key figures including the Catholic Monarchs, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias, Ferdinand Magellan and Hernán Cortés.
  • Candidates will be required to consider the main drivers for encouraging expeditions, the political rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the system of tributes and the social and cultural impact of the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas.
  • Candidates should develop an awareness of how technological, navigational and military advances gave Europeans the advantage in their conquests, as well as the advantage of leveraging traditional rivalries and lack of immunity to European diseases aided their conquests.
  • Students should be able to form well-reasoned judgements based on historical facts, while also including issues of the wider historical debate of colonisation.
  • They should also address the key issues in each topic area using a range of historical sources.
  • The required content in italics shows which key features and characteristics of the period must be studied.

Key Questions and required content

Reasons for the voyages of discovery

What factors contributed to the European voyages of discovery?

Required content: Power of Spain and Portugal; the search for new routes to Asia – southeastern, southwestern routes; trade and religious factors; technological advances

Voyage of Columbus

Why were the voyages and discoveries of Columbus so significant?

Required content: Background to Columbus’ expedition; 1492 and 1493 voyages and discoveries; settlement at Hispaniola; effects upon and treatment of native populations

The explorers

What were the main developments in European exploration during this period?

Required content: The explorers: Bartolomeu Dias; Vasco da Gama; Amerigo Vespucci; the journey of Magellan 1519-22; Spanish settlement of Central America 1509-10

The Aztec civilisation

What were the main features of the Aztec civilisation?

Required content: Methods of rule; payment of tributes; beliefs; codices; ritual of sacrifice; significance of Tenochtitlan

Hernán Cortés

What role did Cortés play in the conquest of the Aztecs?

Required content: Relations with Velazquez; mission to Mexico; alliances with indigenous peoples – the Nahuas, Tlaxcaltec, Totonacs; massacre at Cholula

Defeat of the Aztecs

How did the Spanish forces conquer the Aztec empire?

Required content: Ransom of Montezuma; expulsion of Spanish; siege of Tenochtitlan; defeat of Aztecs; establishment of Mexico City

Effects of the Spanish conquest

What was the impact of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs?

Required content: Impact of disease; treatment of natives; imposition of Christianity; cultural impact; increased trade; wealth; European inflation

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