Mass Labour: the Key to Spanish Maritime Construction in the Americas during the Sixteenth Century

By Robert Levis Schema, published May 1972

Abstract

Spaniards found that American native shipbuilders had little knowledge of this art.  They used mainly dugout canoes with up to eighty rowers, and some of them propelled by a sail. In South America their knowledge was little bette: there they were able to build rafts for high seas navigation.  Indians were only used to primitive techniques.  The first ships built in America were made by carpenters carried there by Christopher Columbus in 1496. In 1516 a royal law allowed the construction of ships, fewer than 100 tons, in Cuba.  A little later there was an attempt to make them at the Pacific coast. Shortly afterwards shipbuilding was established in Nicaragua and Panama. Up to 1560 shipbuilding in Mexico was in the hands of Hernan Cortés family.

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design

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