Spain Vs. Portugal: Which Colonial System Was More Effective?

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's May 2001

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Spain vs. Portugal: Which Colonial System Was More Effective? Spain and Portugal can be considered two of the greatest colonial powers in history, each having ruled their respective empires for more than three centuries. These imperial powers owed their accomplishments to different concepts of organization and ultimately the Spanish method was more successful. The Spanish administrative system was well organized, making land grants and getting labor more efficient. The Portuguese system, on the other hand, was more loosely organized thus less productive.

Christopher Columbus was a pioneer in setting up Spanish Colonies. His method was relatively simple. A grid pattern would be marked for a town, a municipal government set up, land would be divided among the colonists and Indians would be assigned to each settler to work on their land. Not surprisingly this system was used wherever the Spaniards went in the New World, as it was an effective show of force.

The Portuguese were not as strict in their method of establishing their colonies. The colonists did not all follow the same pattern thus there was a larger margin for confusion among them and it was harder for the Crown to keep tabs on every one. It was like establishing their own mini colonies, with their own set of rules created for individual needs. This made their colonies somewhat weaker.

The Spanish labor systems of encomienda and repartimiento were not entirely successful because the Crown did not fully approve of them or did so grudgingly. However they were more strongly enforced and most if not all the Spaniards used them. The Portuguese aldeia system resembled a combination of the encomienda and repartimiento. Like the encomeinda Indians were introduced to Christianity and European way of life in exchange for a portion of their labor which was in turn...