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Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto Hernando de Soto[2†]

Hernando de Soto, also known as Fernando de Soto[1†], was a Spanish explorer and conquistador born around 1496/97 in Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz, Spain[1†][2†]. He is best known for leading the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States, and he is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Hernando de Soto was born around 1496/97 in Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz, Extremadura, Spain[4†][3†]. His parents were of minor nobility, but they were not wealthy[4†][3†]. Despite their modest means, they had high hopes for their son. They wanted him to become a lawyer or a priest[4†][5†], but young de Soto was more interested in exploration[4†][3†].

Around the age of 14, de Soto left for Seville[4†]. There, he found a generous patron named Pedro Arias Dávila, who funded de Soto’s education at the University of Salamanca[4†][3†]. However, his interest in exploration remained undiminished. He was a skilled horseman, and his talents caught the attention of Dávila, the first Governor of Panama[4†][3†].

Dávila invited de Soto to join him on his expedition to the West Indies in 1514[4†][3†]. This marked the beginning of de Soto’s career as an explorer and trader. His early experiences in the New World laid the foundation for his future expeditions and conquests[4†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Hernando de Soto’s career as an explorer and trader began when he joined the 1514 expedition of Pedro Arias Dávila to the West Indies[4†][1†]. In Panama, de Soto quickly made his mark as a trader and expeditioner, reaping high profits through his skill and daring[4†][1†]. By 1520, he had accumulated considerable capital through his slave trading in Nicaragua and on the Isthmus of Panama[4†][1†].

In 1530, de Soto lent Francisco Pizarro two ships to investigate reports of gold located south of Darién on the Pacific coast (now in northwestern Colombia)[4†][1†]. After Pizarro’s expedition confirmed the reports of gold, de Soto joined the new enterprise[4†][1†]. In return for the use of his ships, Pizarro named de Soto his chief lieutenant, and the conquest of Peru began the next year (1532)[4†][1†].

De Soto, as the expedition’s captain of horse, was the driving force in the Spaniards’ defeat of the Incas at Cajamarca[4†][1†]. He was the first European to make contact with the Inca emperor Atahuallpa[4†][1†]. Following the Spaniards’ capture of Atahuallpa, de Soto seized Cuzco, the Inca capital[4†][1†]. For political reasons, he became the emperor’s friend and protector[4†][1†].

In 1536, de Soto returned to Spain as one of the wealthiest conquistadors of the era[4†]. He had made a significant fortune from his numerous business endeavors, including investments in the Spanish slave trade, as well as the mining and agriculture businesses in the Americas[4†][6†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Hernando de Soto’s main works were not in the form of publications, but rather his explorations and conquests. Here are some of his significant works:

Analysis and Evaluation

Hernando de Soto’s explorations and conquests had a significant impact on the history of the Americas. His expeditions led to the discovery of new territories and the establishment of Spanish influence in these regions[4†][7†].

De Soto’s role in the conquest of Peru and his exploration of North America, including the Mississippi River, marked him as a key figure in the Age of Exploration[4†][7†]. His expeditions contributed to the expansion of European knowledge about the New World[4†][7†].

However, de Soto’s legacy is not without controversy. His methods were often ruthless, and his treatment of native populations has been a subject of criticism[4†][8†]. His expeditions have become associated with the destruction of Native American groups in North America as a consequence of European contact[4†][8†].

Despite these negative points, de Soto proved himself as a brave and ruthless conquistador[4†][8†]. His daring, horsemanship, and chivalrous qualities (towards fellow Europeans only, it seems) were noted by his contemporaries[4†][7†].

In the context of his time, de Soto was a successful explorer and conquistador who grew rich through slavery and his conquests of the Inca and other Native Americans[4†][7†]. His explorations significantly impacted the course of history and continue to be studied and analyzed today[4†][7†].

Personal Life

Hernando de Soto’s personal life was closely intertwined with his professional pursuits. In 1537, he married Isabel de Bobadilla, the daughter of his mentor Pedro Arias Davila[4†][1†][3†][9†]. This union further solidified his ties to the world of exploration and conquest.

In 1538, de Soto embarked on a significant expedition to North America[4†][1†][3†][9†]. This journey would become one of his most notable achievements, but it also marked the final years of his life. While staying in the village of Guachoya during his explorations, de Soto fell ill[4†][1†][3†][9†]. He died on May 21, 1542[4†][1†][3†][9†].

Despite the brevity of his life, de Soto’s impact on the world of exploration was profound. His personal life, marked by ambition and daring, mirrored the era of exploration in which he lived.

Conclusion and Legacy

Hernando de Soto’s legacy is multifaceted. As an explorer and conquistador, he played a significant role in the Spanish conquest of Central and South America[4†][1†]. His expeditions led to the discovery of the Mississippi River[4†][1†], a significant milestone in the history of exploration[4†][1†].

De Soto and his men were the first to thoroughly explore most of the southern half of the modern United States[4†]. His explorations and mappings of parts of nine states in the southeastern part of the United States have been recognized for their historical significance[4†][5†].

However, it is important to note the unfortunate negative impact made by the Spanish explorer[4†]. His expeditions often resulted in conflicts with Native Americans, and his practices during these explorations, including the enslavement of Native Americans, have been criticized[4†][1†].

Despite these controversies, de Soto’s contributions to the era of exploration are undeniable. His daring and ambition mirrored the era in which he lived, and his explorations significantly expanded European knowledge of the New World[4†][1†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Hernando de Soto: Spanish explorer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Hernando de Soto [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - Hernando De Soto Biography [website] - link
  4. History - Hernando de Soto: Accomplishments & Facts - HISTORY [website] - link
  5. The Mariners' Museum & Park = Ages of Exploration - Hernando de Soto [website] - link
  6. Have Fun With History - 10 Facts About Hernando de Soto [website] - link
  7. World History - Hernando de Soto [website] - link
  8. Quick-Advices - Did Hernando de Soto have a positive or negative impact? [website] - link
  9. MetaUnfolded.com - Hernando de Soto Bio, Early Life, Career, Net Worth and Salary [website] - link
  10. Heimduo - What is Hernando de Soto legacy? [website] - link
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