Study Questions for Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Chapter 3, Collision at Cajamarca


"The factors that resulted in Pizarro’s seizing Atahuallpa were essentially the same ones that determined the outcome of similar collisions between colonizers and native peoples" p. 68.


How would you characterize Native American culture before 1492 as portrayed at the start of chapter 3?
"Biggest population shift of modern times" 
Pre-1492 Native American culture included complex agricultural societies that developed in isolation from Old World societies.
At the time of Pizarro's conquest, the Inca empire was one of the New World's most complex, populous, and powerful societies.

Pages 69 through 74 contains an account of Pizzaro’s conquest of the Incas in 1532. Because it is written by eyewitnesses of the battle, we call this a primary source. Keeping in mind that it was written by participants, what do we know about the nature of colonization?
It often consisted of brutal reactions on the part of the conquerors to unintended slights on the part of the vanquished, all of which derived from fundamental cultural misunderstanding and readiness to exert force. 

~How did the authors characterize the Inca; what terms do they use to describe them?
Spaniards called the Inca "infidels" and "heathens".    They also noted the Inca's vast population (40,000-80,000), Atahuallpa's beautiful camp, his well-organized attendants, the Inca's colorful uniforms, a well-developed atmosphere of royal pomp.  Inca were terrified at sight of mounted Spanish warriors, and sound and damage created by guns.   

 ~What is the role of religion in the account, specifically, the Catholic Church?
The Spanish chroniclers identified themselves as servants of the Catholic god, represented on Earth by Spain's "Emperor of the Roman Catholic Empire",  who glorified his name by subjugating the "heathen" Inca.

 ~How was the Spanish mission of salvation used as a way to legitimize political conquest?
Conquer to convert.  "We come to conquer this land by his (King of Spain) command, that all may come to a knowledge of God and of His Holy Catholic Faith."

 ~What did Pizarro tell Atahuallpa’s messenger?
"Tell Atahuallpa that I am a friend, that I want to meet him, and that no harm will come to him.

What does this say about the nature of European-Native American relations?
It suggests that they were deceitful.

 ~What event precipitated the battle?
Atahuallpa threw the Bible to the ground, not realizing its importance to the Spaniards, nor the significance of his action.

What was the last thing the friar said before the fighting began?
"March out against him, for I absolve you."

 ~Pizarro had 168 soldiers. How many Incas were slain?
~7000 according to Atahuallpa.

Specifically, what class of Incas were slain and how did Pizarro turn this to an advantage in taking over the empire?
The Spaniards had killed much of the ruling elite, and best warriors of the Inca empire.   Because the Inca empire was so centralized, this severely limited the Inca's ability to organize a resistance against the Spanish. 

Diamond moves on to discuss some of the advantages that the Spanish conquistadors had over the Inca. What were some of the military advantages?
Guns, steel armor and swords, and horses vs, Inca's wooden, and stone clubs and cotton armor. 

What was the state of the Inca Empire before the battle?
Atahuallpa had just won a civil war to determine ascendancy to empire's throne.  However, his authority was not yet completely in place.

How did European colonization cause this state of affairs?
The Spanish introduction of smallpox into Panama 10-15 years earlier, and its later overland spread, had killed (1526) the previous Inca emperor, his court and designated heir.   This caused the contested ascendancy that led to the civil war.

How is this an example of ecological imperialism?
This is a case of unintended subjugation that was possible because of the differing ecologies of the warring sides.

How did European political organization enable Pizarro’s colonization of Peru?
European nation-states were developing centralized political organization, which covered the expenses of exploration, and conquest.

How did writing and literacy figure in Pizarro’s conquest?
Writing and literacy were essential for rapid diffusion of information (Columbus' discovery, Cortez’s conquest).  Atahuallpa had only inaccurate word of mouth information about Pizarro.

Diamond considers the European advantages (military technology, horses, infectious diseases, maritime technology, centralized political organization, and writing) proximate causes of Pizarro’s victory. What does Diamond mean by "proximate"?
By "proximate", Diamond means that Europe's guns, germs and steel were the "immediate reasons" of Europe's successful colonization of the New World.


Why do scholars consider the Inca civilization an "unusual achievement"?  What's an altiplano?
developed in different physical environment; instead of lowland river connected valleys, Inca developed in elongated highland basins (altiplanos) in Andes

The territorial extent of the Inca empire was more than 2000 miles N-S

What was the population of Inca Empire?  20 million

Describe the social-political structure of the empire.
Inca minority of administrators that ruled every aspect of life in a multi-ethnic, class-structured society