Fifteen years after the death of Columbus, Cortez dis covered Mexico. While he was conquering the Aztec ruler, Montezuma (1519-22), Magellan, a renegade Portuguese, took a small Spanish fleet through the frightful Straits since named after him, and then across the Pacific, an unknown sea; they were chewing leather before land was at last sighted. Magellan was killed in the Philippines, but his flagship, the Vittoria, reached Cadiz at last with thirteen men out of the 300 who had sailed three years before. They were the first circumnavigators of the globe, though the object of the voyage was a new route to the Spice Islands, not geographical discovery. Some ten years after Cortez, a ruffian named Pizarro discovered the kingdom of Peru, where the Incas with their stores of gold were conquered (1523-33). The enormous courage and endurance of the early Conquistadors were matched by the ruthless greed with which they squeezed gold and silver from the mines at the cost of countless Indian lives.

Portugal and Spain had the New World, East and West, to themselves, because they were strong enough at first to hang intruders. The French and English were left only the bleak north-eastern coasts of North America. Here, annually, fishermen came to catch cod and learn seamanship in a very hard school.