In the Andes, the Spanish open up the largest silver mine in the world – and mint millions of pesos de ocho (pieces of eight). These coins transform the global economy. They fill the treasure chests of pirates. They fuel a stock market boom. They help pay for the Taj Mahal. As trade booms, millions of people come to the New World as slaves. But a handful of Pilgrims come as pioneers – looking for freedom.
About 8,000 BC, in a few select places some people begin to experiment with a new way of harvesting energy. They’re growing their own crops. An act so simple, it’s hard to believe it will kick start a revolution. But it will. These are the first seeds, literally, of the rise of civilization.
Through the mountains and jungles of Colombia, Cooper goes in search of the truth behind one of the greatest stories ever told - the legend of El Dorado. His journey takes him from Bogota to the Caribbean coast, through territories once dominated by two cultures, the Muisca and the Tairona, who flourished for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Cooper reveals forgotten peoples who valued gold in a way the Western world still struggles to understand, travelling to an astonishing lost city and meeting the last survivors of an ancient civilisation.
In the concluding part, Dr Jago Cooper argues that it wasn't simply a clash of arms that destroyed the Inca, but a clash of world views. He travels from Peru to the far north of Inca territory in Ecuador to reveal how the great strengths of the empire suddenly became factors in its rapid demise. The Spanish conquest of the Inca destroyed one of the most remarkable empires in the world, yet the Inca legacy leaves a great deal for modern civilisations to learn from.