Spanish Empire > Viceroyalty of Peru

Viceroyalty of Peru

Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration


The Viceroyalty of Peru was a Spanish colonial administrative viceroyalty created in 1542 and one of two in the Spanish Americas between the 16th and 18th centuries. While the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled the West Indies and Central America along with the East Indies the Viceroyalty of Peru was responsible for most of South America.

Initially the Viceroyalty had its eastern boundary along the line created by the Treaty Of Tordesillas however, the Portuguese did not respect this and continued to expand Portuguese Brazil further into the territory of the Viceroyalty of Peru. However, this was all meaningless as Spain controlled the Portuguese Empire between 1580 and 1640 following the Iberian Union.

The Viceroyalty of Peru would eventually be fragmented to create the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata which shifted regional hegemony from the city of Lima south to Buenos Aires. This also had negative effects on the Andean trade route and led to the fall of the mining and textile industries in this region.

While the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata was created to help stem the illegal trading occurring in Buenos Aires due to the problems arising from the Andean land trading route in reality the Bourbon Reforms accelerated the decline of the Viceroyalty of Peru which would culminate with the independence movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. These would lead to the formation of the modern day nation states of Peru, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago that at one point or another were under the territorial control of the viceroyalty.


Peru was the site of the ancient Incan empire. Emerging in the 15th century, the Incan Empire the prominent empire in the region. However in the 16th century Spanish conquistadors under Francisco Pizarro conquered the Empire and captured the Incan King Atahualpa.

Viceroyalty of Peru - Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro - Discovers & Explorers (1900)

In 1532 the conquistadors captured the Incan King after the Battle of Cajamarca. Offering Francisco Pizarro a massive room full of silver and gold in exchange for his life, Pizarro took the offer. Upon seeing the massive room filled with treasure Pizarro promptly cut the Kings head off with his sword. It took years for the Spanish to fully navigate and colonize the remnants of the Incan Empire. However when they finally finished in 1572, Peru stretched from the area of Colombia in Viceroyalty of New Granada and was bordered by the Portuguese colony of Brazil to the west.

Viceroyalty of Peru - Conquest of Peru

Conquest of Peru - 1531

Once conquered the Spanish discovered a massive amount of silver that ran along the mountains. In fact one of the mountains was named Potosi and was one of the most abundant silver deposits ever found in the New World. This mountain along with others such as Huancavelica enabled the Spanish to become so rich they actually created their own inflation which lead to their downfall.

Overall all of the silver that was processed in Peru using the natives as slave labor was eventually transported north to Viceroyalty of New Spain and more specifically Panama where it was loaded onto the ships of the Spanish Treasure Fleet and transported back to Europe.

Viceroyalty of Peru - Spanish Attacking Incas

Spanish Attacking Incas - Discovers & Explorers (1900)

The indigenous population of the Incan's would be killed off pretty quickly after the conquering due to foreign diseases to which they lacked natural immunity along with a result of slave labor until they collapsed due to exhaustion.

In the 1570's gold and silver mining were the principle economic activity in the region and forced the native tribes to be their work force. The silver that was mined out of Potosi was one of the most important sources of revenue for the entire Spanish Empire and was the result of an extremely complex system of trade between the different colonies.

Eventually as the natives were killed off or died out they were replaced with slaves from West Africa. Everyone that lived in South America was forced to adopt Catholicism so by the 17th century the culture was fully integrated into the Church as well.

Viceroyalty of Peru - Spanish Peru Map

Spanish Peru Map -

Churches were built in every city in Peru and they even destroyed many Incan temples to do so such as Coricancha in the city of Cusco. Remember this was during the time of the Spanish Inquisition so many people were tortured into believing at the time and the Church was there to make sure no one strayed.

Silver production skyrocketed during the 17th century which made raids on the New Spain settlements of Panama such great prospects during the buccaneering era. However by the 18th century silver mining had declined and the Spanish had pretty much depleted the entire region for mineral deposits.

Toledo Reforms

Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata


Spanish Empire






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