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The culture of Ancient Greece, from the period of around one thousand years ending with the rise of Christianity, is considered the foundation of Western civilization (read more)

Featured Article: Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés
Hernán(do) Cortés, Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca (1485 – December 2, 1547) was a Spanish explorer, military commander, and colonizer whose daring conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico for Spain in 1521 led to the eventual subjugation and effective elimination of native American culture in Mesoamerica.

Cortés adopted methods in the conquest of Mexico like those of other Conquistadors, including torture, the capture of indigenous leaders, and large-scale destruction of lives and property in the quest for gold and other riches. Nevertheless, many argue that he dealt with the natives more humanely than did his successors. Cortes was an efficient soldier and administrator who demonstrated relative restraint during the conquest, sought to make peace with Indian tribes, resisted slavery, issued edicts against human sacrifice, and sought peaceful conversion of Indians to the Christian faith. Cortés hoped to acquire a productive province informed by Christian principles, not a slave state administered by rapacious overlords.

Spanish conquest of the New World was justified morally through self-serving arguments for Christianizing indigenous peoples and politically through the grandiose division of the known world between Spain and Portugal by Pope Alexander VI at the Treaty at Tordesillas in 1494. Later Spanish colonial administrations largely dismissed Mesoamerican cultural achievements, while dispossessing them of their lands, languages, and heritage. Conquest was also aided by the diseases the Spanish introduced for which indigenous Americans had no immunity.

While acknowledging the widespread human suffering and cultural destruction of the colonial process, one can nevertheless assess protagonists like Hernan Cortes on the basis of their motives and deeds within the given context in which they played their part.

Popular Article: Appalachian Mountains

The Monongahela National Forest from slopes of Back Allegheny Mountain
The Appalachian Mountains are a vast system of North American mountain ranges. They lie partly in Canada, but mostly in the United States, forming a zone, from 150-500 kilometers (approx. 90 to 300 miles) wide, running 2,400 km (1,500 miles) south and westward from Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada to central Alabama in the United States, with foothills in northeastern Mississippi. The northernmost mainland portion ends at Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula. The Appalachians are some of the oldest mountains on the planet, predating the formation of the North American continent. The mountain chain system is divided into a series of ranges, with the individual mountains averaging a height of 900 m (3,000 feet). The highest of the group is Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina at 2,037 m (6,684 feet), which is the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River, as well as in all of eastern North America.

The Appalachians have played and important role in the American history. Long a natural barrier to westward expansion of European colonial immigrants, the mountains were a theater of war during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and most prominently, the American Civil War. They are known for their ecological diversity and breathtaking natural beauty. The mountain chain is a favorite destination for vacationers.