Viceroyalty of Peru

Because of its gold and silver, Peru was the most important of Spain's American colonies. The viceroyalty included all Spanish South America, as well as Panama, across which the Peruvian treasure was carried to be shipped to Spain. Indians were used as miners, and occasionally they revolted under the harsh Spanish rule. After a rebellion in 1571, Viceroy Francisco de Toledo had Tupac Amaru, the last surviving member of the Inca royal line, put to death.

Peru's wealth attracted buccaneers of many nationalities. In 1624 the Dutch East India Company laid siege to Callao for five months in an unsuccessful attempt to take Lima. By the middle of the 17th century, however, the mines of Peru were playing out, and the colony began to decline economically and politically.

The area to the north was made a separate viceroyalty, called New Granada, in 1717. In 1776 formation of the viceroyalty of La Plata detached from Peru the southeastern part of the continent, including Upper Peru (Bolivia), where the mines were located. The captaincy-general of Chile became independent of Peru in 1778.

The Indians were oppressed and badly treated by the Spanish. They were forced to work for low wages in the fields, mines, and textile mills, and were heavily taxed besides. In 1780 José Condorcanqui, who took the name of Tupac Amaru II, led an unsuccessful Indian rebellion that lasted for three years.