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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY (oxfordre.com/latinamericanhistory). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

The region known as the Amazon represents approximately forty percent of the territory of the South American continent. Today, it spreads through the territory of eight countries and one European overseas territory. In the colonial period, this vast area, which stretched from the piedmont of the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean, was an essential space for European imperial conflict in the Americas. The Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French struggled for the possession of the region from the 16th century onward. However, the history of this vast region begins much earlier. A multiplicity of ethnically and linguistically distinct peoples occupied this territory, and their social, political, and economic arrangements were crucial for European conquest and colonization. Many of these peoples were directly affected by the arrival and settlement of the Europeans, especially by disease and wars. Others integrated into colonial society through religious missions, voluntary settlement, and forced labor. The Indian labor force was crucial for the development of the colonial economy in the Amazon. However, European dominion over this territory was limited to the banks of the main rivers, and most of the Amazonian lands remained indigenous.

Keywords: Amazon region, frontiers, 16th to 18th century, Europeans, Indians, Africans, Mestizos

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