Financial History Issue 118 (Summer 2016) - Page 12


Conquistadorial Entrepreneurship : Risk Bearers with Harquebuses

By Brian Grinder and Dan Cooper
Spanish conquistadors , according to popular lore , were professional soldiers in the service of the king of Spain . These legendary figures conquered Central and South America by the authority of the pope , in the name of the king . Military discipline , along with superior technology , allowed them to subdue Aztec and Incan civilizations with relative ease . Thus , a few hundred well-trained Spanish conquistadors were able to defeat thousands of indigenous warriors and acquire vast areas of land and oceans of gold for the king of Spain .
But the conquistadors were not professional soldiers . In his book , Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest , Matthew Restall describes this popular view as the “ myth of the king ’ s army .” He argues that at the beginning of Spain ’ s South American expansion , the military revolution that would help create the professional soldier was “ still in its genesis .”
According to Latin American historian James Lockhart , the conquistadors “ semi-deliberately ” chose not to apply the term “ soldier ” to themselves because : “ It implied a person who was being paid a salary and therefore was another person ’ s direct dependent , with little claim to direct rewards .” Lockhart points out that the members of the early expeditions were not paid ; instead , they were partners in a joint enterprise and expected to share in the profits . According to Lockhart , early conquistadors preferred the term Compañero , which means partner or companion , to describe themselves .
In an extensive analysis , Lockhart identifies the occupations of 47 of the founders of Panama ( no such data exists for the men who accompanied Pizarro to Peru ). Only three were engaged in military-type occupations , while 28 % were described by Lockhart as “ merchants , managers and entrepreneurs ,” 26 % were clerks or notaries and the remaining 40 % were
described as artisans , which included tailors , carpenters , seamen , stonemasons , barbers and trumpeters . Although they were well armed , they were not a professional army .
Conquistator Francisco Pizarro
Historians of the Spanish conquest of South America widely agree that the conquistadors were of an entrepreneurial , rather than a military , bent . For instance , Matthew Restall asserts :
To some extent , all participants were investors in commercial ventures that carried high risks but potentially the highest of returns . Spaniards called these ventures “ companies .” While powerful patrons played important investment roles , it was the captains who primarily funded companies and expected to reap the greatest rewards . As the governor of Panama , Pedrarias de Avila , told King Charles of early Conquest expeditions into Nicaragua and Colombia , “ it was done without touching your majesty ’ s royal treasury .” The spirit of commercialism thus infused conquest expeditions from start to finish , with participants selling services and trading goods with each other throughout the endeavor . The conquerors were , in other words , armed entrepreneurs .”
In his book , The Last Days of the Incas , Kim MacQuarrie echoes Restall :
The leaders of most conquest expeditions , beginning in the 1520s , actually formed a company that was normally drawn up as a contract and was duly notarized . The participants thus became partners in the company and were the equivalent of shareholders . Unlike companies dedicated to providing services or manufactured goods , however , it was understood from the outset that the conquest company ’ s economic plan was predicated upon murder , torture and plunder . Conquistadors thus were not paid soldier-emissaries of a distant Spanish king , but were actually autonomous participants in a new kind of capitalist venture ; in short , they were armed entrepreneurs .
Hugh Thomas writes , “ In Peru , the allocation of gold and silver continued . Many poor conquistadors became newlyrich entrepreneurs overnight . Thus , in Cuzco in March 1534 , a quantity of silver estimated to be four times what had been distributed in Cajamarca was allocated by Pizarro with the help of Valverde , according to their judgment of each soldier ’ s merits , extra shares being given to those who seemed to deserve it .”
Finally , Rafael Varón Gabai notes of Francisco Pizarro : “… the outstanding position achieved by Peru ’ s future conqueror was a result of his entrepreneurial and political ability .”
While historians agree about the entrepreneurial nature of the conquistadors , are their counterparts in the field of entrepreneurship of the same mind ? Would a conquistador fit today ’ s definition of an entrepreneur ?
10 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Summer 2016 | www . MoAF . org
EDUCATORS’ PERSPECTIVE Conquistadorial Entrepreneurship: Risk Bearers with Harquebuses By Brian Grinder and Dan Cooper Spanish conquistadors, according to popular lore, were professional soldiers in the service of the king of Spain. These legendary figures conquered Central and South America by the authority of the pope, in the name of the king. Military discipline, along with superior technol K[Y[HXYH^X[[[][^][ۜ][]]HX\K\H][Y[ ]Z[Y[\ۜ]Z\Yܜ\HXHYX]\[›و[Y[\\[ܜ[X]Z\H\\X\و[[X[و܈B[وZ[]Hۜ]Z\Yܜ\Hٙ\[ۘ[Y\ˈ[\][^]›وH[\ۜ]Y\ X]]\[\ܚX\\[\Y]\H8'^]وH[&\\^K'HH\Y\]]HY[[وZ[&\][Y\X[^[[ۋHZ[]\H]][ۈ][[ܙX]HHٙ\[ۘ[Y\\8'[[][\\˸'BXܙ[][[Y\X[\ܚX[[Y\\ Hۜ]Z\Yܜ¸'[ZKY[X\][x'HH\HB\H8'Y\'H[\[\X]\N8'][\YYH\ۈ\Z[ZYB[\H[\YܙH\[\\۸&\™\X\[[ ]]HZ[H\X]\˸'H\[]]BY[X\وHX\H^Y][ۜ\BZY[XY ^H\H\\[B[[\\H[^XY\H[Hٚ]ˈXܙ[\ X\Bۜ]Z\YܜY\YH\H\pY\XYX[\\܈\[[ۋ\ܚXH[\[\˂[[^[]H[[\\\Y[YY\H\][ۜو وH[\›و[[XH X]H^\܈BY[X\[YY^\\JKۛHYH\H[YY[Z[]\K]\B\][ۜ[H H\H\ܚXYH\\8'Y\[X[Y\˜[[\[]\8'H H\H\܂\Y\[H[XZ[[ H\B\ܚXY\\\[X[YYZ[ܜ\[\X[Y[ۙ[X\ۜ\\[[\]\ˈ[Y^B\H[\YY ^H\HHٙ\[ۘ[\^KH\[\ ]\X\[œ[[\X\[Y[]XX\Y]H[X]܋Hۜ]Y\ܜ\K[\ܙ\YY[\[]\˸'B[\H\^\وH[\[HXX]X\YHX\\[ۜ]Z\]܈[\^\‚\ܚX[وH[\ۜ]Y\ق][Y\XHY[HYܙYH]Hۜ]Z\Yܜ\Hو[[\[]\X[ ]\[HZ[]\K[ ܈[[KX]]\[\\΂YH^[ [\X\[\B[\ܜ[[Y\X[[\\]\YYY\][X[HBY\و]\ˈ[X\[Y\H[\\8'\[Y\˸'H[B\[]ۜ^YY[\ܝ[[\Y[\]\H\Z[[X\[H[Y\[Y\[^XYX\HܙX]\]\˂\Hݙ\܈و[[XKY\X\™H][K[\\وX\Bۜ]Y\^Y][ۜ[X\YXB[XXK8']\ۙH]]X[[\XZ\x&\X[X\\K'HH\]و[Y\X[\B\[\Yۜ]Y\^Y][ۜ‚L8 8 SSPSTԖx 8 [[Y\ M 8 ˓[Qܙ‚HXY\و[ۜ]Y\^Y][ۜY[[[H MLXX[HܛYYH\[H]\ܛX[H]ۈ\\H۝X[\™[H\^Y H\X\[\˜X[YH\\[H\[H[\HH\]Z][[و\Z\˂[ZH\[Y\YX]YݚY[\X\܈X[YX\Y]\]\[\HB]]]Hۜ]Y\\[x&\™XۛZX[\YX]Y\ۂ]\\ܝ\H[[\ۜ]Z\Yܜ\\HZYY\Y[Z\\Y\وH\[[\[]\HXX[H]]ۛ[\\X\[š[H][و\][\[\N[ܝ ^H\H\YY[\[]\˂YX\ܚ]\8'[\KB[][ۈو[[\۝[YY X[H܈ۜ]Z\YܜX[YH]\X[\[]\ݙ\Y \[^[X\ ML H]X[]Hو[\\[X]YH\[Y\]YY[\X]Y[Z[X\H\[]YB^\]H[و[\KXܙ[Z\YY[وXXY\&\›Y\]^H\\Z[][BY[YY\\H] 'B[[KYY[\ۈXZH\ق[\^\Έ8'8)H][[œ][ۈXY]YH\x&\]\Hۜ]Y\܈\H\[و\[\[]\X[[]X[X[]K'B[H\ܚX[YܙYHX]H[\[]\X[]\HوHۜ]Z\Yܜ\HZ\[\\[HY[و[\[]\\وH[YHZ[[Bۜ]Z\Y܈]^x&\Y[][ۈو[[\[]\‚