Financial History Issue 116 (Winter 2016) - Page 13

EDUCATORS’ PERSPECTIVE Cuzco to be crowned king of the 90-yearold Inca Empire; he had defeated his halfbrother Huascar in the civil war that broke out after their father, Huayna Capac, died in 1527. On the way, Atahualpa stopped to take in the baths at Cajamarca, where he encountered strange bearded men who rode even stranger beasts. This encounter with the Spanish conquistadors was about to change Atahualpa’s life dramatically. He never made it to Cuzco. Francisco Pizarro set out with fewer than 200 men into unknown South American territory (present day Peru) to search for gold. Hernando Cortes’s success in Mexico fueled gold fever in other Spanish explorers who were anxious to hit the next jackpot. Pizarro did just that in Peru, and it happened in the most unusual way. When Pizarro encountered Atahualpa at Cajamarca, the Incan army accompanying the new ruler consisted of up to 40,000 soldiers, yet Pizarro’s small band was able to inflict enormous casualties on this vast Incan army. According to historian Hugh Thomas, “No Spaniards seem to have died, but the Indians killed were without limit.” Estimates run from 2,000-8,000 deaths. Montaigne ends his essay, On Coaches, with a description of Atahualpa’s capture: Instead of using coaches or vehicles of any kind they [the Incan Kings] have themselves carried on the shoulders of men. The day he was captured, that last King of Peru was in the midst of his army, borne seated on a golden chair suspended from shafts of gold. The Spaniards in their attempts to topple him (as they wanted to take him alive) killed many of his bearers, but many more vied to take the places of the dead, so that, no matter how many they slaughtered, they could not bring him down until a mounted soldier dashed in, grabbed hold of him and yanked him to the ground. Instead of being crowned king, Atahualpa was now Pizarro’s prisoner. He mistakenly thought that if he paid a ransom to these foreign devils, they would free him and leave his country forever. He could then continue on to Cuzco. When Pizarro asked Atahualpa how much gold he could muster, Atahualpa reached his hand as high as he could on the wall in the room where H[