Viceroyalty of Peru

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Viceroyalty of Peru (1542–1824)
Colored area as a whole: De-jure expansion at the time of foundation (1542)
Dark-tinted area: effectively controlled area at the time of greatest expansion (around 1650)
Light-tinted areas: theoretically claimed but effectively never controlled areas of
brown Area: expansion at the fall of the viceroyalty

The Viceroyalty of Peru ( Spanish Virreinato del Perú ) was a Spanish colony in South America . It was founded in 1542 as the Viceroyalty of New Castile ( Virreinato de Nueva Castilla ) and initially comprised all Spanish possessions in South America including Panama, with the exception of Venezuela , which belonged to the viceroyalty of New Spain . The viceroy's seat was Lima .

With the establishment of viceroyalties New Granada (1717/1739) and River Plate (1776), large areas were separated; the remaining viceroyalty comprised the present-day states of Peru and Chile . The end of the viceroyalty came with the independence of Chile (1818) and Peru (1821/1824).


Pre-Columbian period

The area of ​​the later viceroyalty includes the territories of various pre-Columbian societies, some of which had a simple tribal organization, but in the case of the Chimú and Inca empires also a pronounced statehood. In the second half of the 15th century, the Inca Empire expanded so much through the subjugation of neighboring tribes (including the Chimú) that at the time of its fall it covered the area from Quito to the Río Maule in Chile and from the Pacific to the primeval forests of the marañón included.

Beginning of the Spanish colonization

The Spanish expansion into the areas of the later viceroyalty of Peru began on the Caribbean coast. In 1510, Nombre de Dios, the first Spanish settlement on the American mainland, was founded, and in 1525 Santa Marta in present-day Colombia. In 1519, Panama became the first city on the Pacific coast to be founded.

Conquest of the Inca Empire

From Panama the conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro began the exploration of the Inca empire, which the Spaniards called Peru. The empire had only expanded to its enormous size a few decades earlier and was weakened by epidemics and, above all, by a bloody civil war. In 1532 a small force led by Pizarro succeeded in capturing the Inca ruler Atahualpa in a coup. Sections of the Inca nobility, which were defeated in the civil war, and peoples subjected to the Inca, supported the Spaniards, who were able to gain control over the entire empire in a short time.

Founding of the Viceroyalty

The rule in New Castile (Peru) was initially exercised by the conquistadors. Between them there were bloody conflicts over the division, in the course of which Almagro in 1538 and Pizarro in 1541 were murdered. The Spanish crown then took over the administration and in 1542 declared the Spanish territories of South America, including Panama, a viceroyalty . The Viceroyalty of New Castile was later renamed the Viceroyalty of Peru . The area bore this name until independence in the 19th century.

The first governor, Cristóbal Vaca de Castro, and the first viceroy, Blasco Núñez de Vela , met with strong opposition from the conquistadors. The conquistadors had divided Peru among themselves as encomiendas and were primarily interested in the exploitation of its riches and its inhabitants. The main conflicts were laws to protect the Indians ( Leyes Nuevas ) and the stipulation that encomiendas should not be passed on for more than one generation; they culminated in open rebellion against the king, in which Núñez de Vela was killed. Francisco Pizarro's brother Gonzalo led the uprising. The king sent Pedro de la Gasca as president of the real audiencia of Lima with extraordinary powers. De la Gasca managed to regain the loyalty of most of the Spaniards and put down the uprising in 1548. In the following years the viceroyalty stabilized.

A remainder of the Incas still existed for a few years, with periods of peaceful coexistence and struggle against the Spaniards alternating. With the conquest of the fortress Vilcabamba and the capture of the last Inca Túpac Amaru in 1572, this state ceased to exist.

Further expansion

At the same time, the Spanish expansion in the South Atlantic took place: Buenos Aires was founded in 1536 and Asunción inland in 1541 . In the years that followed, the conquistadors established the connection between Paraguay and today's Bolivia.

At the same time, today's Colombia and Ecuador were colonized: Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada moved from Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast into the interior and founded Bogotá in 1538 . As early as 1534, Sebastián de Belalcázar had conquered Quito , which belongs to the Inca Empire, from Peru .

Pedro de Valdivia also moved from Peru to Chile and founded Santiago and other cities from 1541 . This is where the Spanish expansion reached its limits: The Mapuche succeeded in permanently driving the Spanish out of the areas south of the Bío Bío river and the city of Concepción and maintaining their independence until the end of the colonial era. Only the island of Chiloé further south and later the city of Valdivia remained in Spanish hands as outposts.

With that, the Spanish colonial empire in South America had essentially reached its final size. The south of what is now Chile and Argentina, as well as parts of the Gran Chaco and Amazonia, remained outside the control of Spain until the end of the colonial period and was only nominally part of the Viceroyalty.

Division of the Viceroyalty

The viceroyalty initially comprised all areas of the Spanish colonial empire in South America, including Panama, with the exception of Venezuela. In 1717 northern areas (today's states of Colombia, Panama and Ecuador) and Venezuela were added to the newly founded viceroyalty of New Granada . This division was revised in 1723, but then made permanent in 1739. In 1776, the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (roughly the present-day states Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina) with its seat in Buenos Aires was separated.

End of the colonial era

The first attempts at independence in Spain's South American colonies began in 1806 and were given a decisive boost by the Napoleonic Wars and the occupation of Spain (1808–1814). The viceroyalty of New Granada (1809 declaration of independence from Ecuador) and Río de la Plata ( May Revolution 1810) were pioneers on the continent .

In the viceroyalty of Peru, the independence movement first reached Chile (1808). There followed a long war with varying successes, on the patriotic side since 1813 under the command of Bernardo O'Higgins , who became the country's first president after the Chilean declaration of independence in 1818.

Until then, Peru had remained in Spanish hands. Since there was a risk of the Spanish recapturing liberated regions, José de San Martín and Bernardo O'Higgins set out in 1820 on the Argentine-Chilean expedition to liberate Peru . For a while Peru was divided into two parts: The coastal area with Lima and Callao was in the hands of the republican government installed in 1821, while the south (today's Bolivia) and the mountainous region remained under Spanish control. Only the intervention of Greater Colombian forces under Simón Bolívar and Antonio Sucre in September 1824 brought the military decision and led to the final success of the Peruvian patriots. After their victories in the Battle of Junín and the Battle of Ayacucho , the last Spanish viceroy José de la Serna surrendered in December 1824 and was sent back to Spain with the remaining royalist officers. The last Spanish possession in South America, the island of Chiloé , was taken by the armed forces of the Republic of Chile in 1826.


Audiencias of the Viceroyalty of Peru (numbering see text). Today's national borders are drawn in white

The capital of the Viceroyalty was the city of Lima , which Francisco Pizarro had founded in 1535 on the Pacific. Lima became the political, economic and cultural center of the viceroyalty and the seat of an archbishopric .

At the head of the viceroyalty was the viceroy, who was appointed by the king. The great distances to the motherland made it imperative that the king's representative should have extensive powers similar to that of a monarch. The viceroy was supported by the audiencia (government council), which had judicial as well as administrative powers . The audiencia initially consisted of four members, called oidores . The eldest of the oidores was the president of the audiencia and represented the viceroy when he was unable to attend . The viceroys as well as the highest officials were almost all Spaniards from the motherland.

During the 17th century, the viceroyalty comprised six provincial administrative units, the audiencias :

  1. Panamá (founded 1564)
  2. Bogotá (founded 1547)
  3. Quito (founded 1563)
  4. Lima (founded 1543)
  5. Charcas (founded 1561)
  6. Chile (founded 1565)


Trade routes of the viceroyalty

Peru was considered the richest of the Spanish colonies. The transfer from the office of Viceroy of New Spain to the office of Viceroy of Peru was considered a promotion.

The most important export goods of the viceroyalty were precious metals. Peru was rich in gold, and silver mining in Potosí produced immense amounts of silver. The trade was strictly regulated and only allowed with the motherland Spain and only via the port city of Seville . In the Viceroyalty only the port of Callao near Lima was permitted, as well as Cartagena and Panama for transit. This meant that even goods to and from Buenos Aires had to take the detour via Lima.

The labor of the Indians was of great importance. It is true that the crown had forbidden the enslavement of Indians as early as 1500 - in contrast to Africans - and the Indians were nominally considered underage, but free subjects. But the encomienda system was abused and often led to conditions similar to slavery. To protect the indigenous population, the Spanish crown decreed a separation of the European cities with their population of Spaniards, Creoles , mestizos and Africans from the residential areas of the Indians.

See also


  • José de Acosta : The gold of the condor. Reports from the New World 1590 and atlas on the history of its discovery. Edited and transmitted by Rudolf Kroboth and Peter H. Meurer . Edition Erdmann in K. Thienemanns Verlag, Stuttgart a. a. 1991, ISBN 3-522-60750-3 (Original edition: America, Or how mans to Teutsch nennet Die Neuwe Welt / or West India. By Mr. Josepho De Acosta in seven books / one partly in Latin / and one partly in Hispanic language / Described. Sutorius, Ursel 1605. Based on the copy in the State Library of Prussian Cultural Heritage, Berlin.)

Web links

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