Skip to Main Content

Spanish Conquest & Aztecs: The impact and legacy of colonisation

Year 8 History | Exploring the Spanish conquest of the Americas

Hernán Cortés from "[Cassell's Illustrated Universal History.]" - PICRYL  Public Domain Search

Source:  Picryl

The arrival of the Spanish in 1519 signalled the beginning of the end of the Aztec Empire. The final defeat of the Aztecs in 1521 had a number of consequences not only for the Aztec people, but for the whole Mesoamerican region. Read through these resources to find out more about the impact and legacy of colonisation.

End of the Aztec Empire (DK Find Out, n.d.)

A short description of the fall of the Aztecs with an interactive illustration.

Downfall: Aztec civilisation (New World Encylopaedia, n.d.)

This article provides a summary of the downfall of the Aztec empire and then a discussion of the legacy of the Aztecs, including the genetics of the local population, the language of the region, and the creation of modern day Mexico City.

Consequences of the conquest of the Aztecs (ThoughtCo, 2019, May 30)

In 1519, conquistador Hernan Cortes landed on Mexico's Gulf coast and began an audacious conquest of the mighty Aztec Empire. By August of 1521, the glorious city of Tenochtitlan was in ruins. The Aztec lands were renamed "New Spain" and the colonization process began. Conquistadors were replaced by bureaucrats and colonial officials, and Mexico would be a Spanish colony until it began its fight for independence in 1810. Cortes' defeat of the Aztec Empire had many ramifications, not the least of which was the eventual creation of the nation we know as Mexico. Read through this article for a list of consequences including: cultural genocide, the Vile Encomienda System, and Spain's rise as a world power.

What did Spanish conquistadors bring to the New World? (Classroom, 2018, June 28)

After Christopher Columbus tried to reach Asia in 1492 by sailing west of Africa, the Old World’s view of the planet changed. While Columbus wasn’t the first to discover the Americas, he was the first to establish settlements. The conquistadors who followed would forever change the lives of the indigenous people in the New World. Read through this article to learn more.

Impact of Cortez's conquest is still felt today in Mexico (Chicago Tribune, 2006, April 12)

Mexico changed forever Aug. 13, 1521 -- the day Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez conquered Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire and site of present-day Mexico City. Read through this article to learn about the impact that colonisation had on language in Mexico.

Mexico City marks the 500th anniversary of the Fall of Tenochtitlan (Smithsonian Magazine, 2021, May 24)

This article describes how Mexico City (the modern city on the site of Tenochtitlan) marked the anniversary of the Fall of Tenochtitlan, and how the colonisation of the Aztec Empire impacted the world, including prejudices against people of colour in modern day Mexico, and the spread of globalism.

What were the affects of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs? (Isabella Djunatan, n.d.)

Scroll through this mind-map to learn more about how the arrival of the Spanish affected the Aztec Empire and the Mesoamerica region. The mind-map includes a reference list and images.

Details of brutal first slave voyages discovered (History Channel, 2019, March 21)

After Charles I of Spain signed an edict allowing slave ships to travel directly from Africa to the Americas, human cargo on transatlantic voyages spiked nearly tenfold. This growing need for slaves in the New World was a direct result of the Spanish conquest of The Americas and their brutal treatment of the Indigenous Aztec populations. Read this article to learn more.

How disease and conquest carved a new planetary landscape (The Atlantic, 2018, August 25)

A pivotal moment in the shift to the modern world was the arrival of Europeans in what they would name America. The people of the Americas had been isolated from those of Asia and Europe for about 12,000 years. When the Europeans arrived they brought with them livestock, weapons and disease. And when they returned home they took with them new crops and diseases. This is often called the Columbian Exchange. This article discusses how the European colonisation of the Americas completely changed the biodiversity of the entire planet.

Aztec drawing of smallpox victims

Unknown - Scanned from (2009) Viruses, Plagues, and History: Past, Present and Future, Oxford University Press, USA, p. 60 ISBN0-19-532731-4.