I’d also recommend looking into the conquest of the Aztecs. It is fascinating. In my opinion it is not exactly accurate to depict the Spanish conquerors as barbarians taking down a sophisticated, developed civilization (the aztecs).
Harumph. The Aztecs were just as much barbarians as the Spanish. They were Evil, with a capital E. (As clearly demonstrated by my capitalization of the word.) I just finished an excellent, non-polarized book by Hugh Thomas called CONQUEST: CORTES, MONTEZUMA, AND THE FALL OF OLD MEXICO. The bastard Aztecs were just as superstitious, oppressive, arrogant, and… well… evil as the Spanish turned out to be. Plus, the details about their extensive human sacrifices are pretty shocking. They literally killed thousands of people during certain festivals. Still, the book makes for an excellent read, and there’s nothing like salacious, gratuitious details about violence to keep you turning the pages. On the other hand, there’s also good analyses of personalities and social/economic factors that do a good job of explaining why what happened did happen.
The military victory of Cortez was not exactly because of the superiority of European arms/armor. Guns of that period being slow to reload, prone to failure in the humidity, etc etc. Arrows are pretty deadly.
There were other important factors to their victory. First, the Aztecs (or Mexica as they called themselves) had many enemies. These enemies were nice enough to send about 100,000 soldiers (I really don’t remember, but it was a huge number.) There was also a bit of a civil war as Montezuma’s brother realized the Spanish were not Gods, but just greedy bastages looking for gold.
Hmm… Hugh Thomas’ book makes it sound that one of thre greatest causes of Spanish victory was the Aztecs’ ridiculous tactics. They fought to gain honour, capture people for sacrifice, etc. The Spaniards (and most of the Spaniards Native American allies, whom the Spaniards trained) fought to kill.
In addition, I think the weapon difference was more important than what you’re making it out to be. The Aztecs had those stupid obsidean swords, which are good for like one or two strikes before they shatter on metal armour, which many of the Spaniards were wearing. However, you’re right; arrows are pretty deadly, and the gunpowder weapons weren’t all that hot. However, the Spaniards themselves had more crossbowmen than arquebusiers, and the crossbows were much more effective than anything the Natives had. Plus… the Spaniards had cannon! Woo hoo!