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9 - How Did 168 Spanish Conquistadores Capture an Empire?

Europeans in the New World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2022

Johan Fourie
Affiliation:
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
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Summary

In 1532 a motley band of 168 Spanish soldiers arrived on the outskirts of Cajamarca, the capital of the mighty Incan empire in present-day Peru. Already on his third expedition to the New World, Francisco Pizarro had one aim: to find gold and claim it for the Spanish king. He first sent his trusted captain, Hernando de Soto, to meet with the In can emperor – Atahualpa – and invite him to a meeting. De Soto rode out on his horse. It was the first time Atahualpa had ever seen such an animal. Impressed with his strange visitor, he agreed to meet Pizarro the next day.

Pizarro, however, had different plans. He prepared an ambush and, when Atahualpa arrived with 6,000 unarmed men, he attacked with 106 soldiers on foot and 62 on horses. The Incas were completely caught off guard; about 2,000 Inca died in the volleys of gunfire that ensued.

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Our Long Walk to Economic Freedom
Lessons from 100,000 Years of Human History
, pp. 48 - 52
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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