Although the Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva, the event that gave rise to preparation of this data base, lasted less than three years—from late 1539 till fall 1542—the data cover a much longer period. Information about people who lived and events that transpired during the course of the sixteenth century is what comprises the core of the data base. That is largely because the lifespans of participants in the expedition generally fell within the period stretching from the final years of the 1400s to about 1590 or so. Because, however, vital statistics and records of activities of both forebears and descendants of the expeditionaries themselves are also included in the data base, its effective temporal coverage extends backward well into the 1400s and forward far into the 1600s and beyond in specific cases.
The timespan covered by the data base thus includes the periods that most directly stimulated the Coronado Expedition and that were most straightforwardly affected by it. In keeping with the precept that delineating context is an essential part of historical reconstruction and explanation, this data base was planned to include the ambit of time surrounding the expedition itself, that most likely embraces its motive context, both in origin and aftermath.
Similarly, the Coronado Expedition traversed a fairly narrow corridor linking Mexico City, Michoacán, Guadalajara, Compostela, Culiacán, the Río Sonora, Zuni Pueblo, the Rio Grande Pueblos, the Texas South Plains, and central Kansas, along with side trips and occasional areas of expansive presence away from the main corridor. The backers of and participants in the expedition came to the enterprise from a large, scattered array of European, African, and American places and they dispersed afterward to an even more widespread list of places, primarily in southern North America and Middle and South America, but also to Asia and back to Europe. As a consequence, many places on the globe were linked to the expedition in one way or another. Therefore, the data base contains information on a correspondingly large number of locales, concentrated in the globe-spanning Spanish Empire of the sixteenth century. Many of the major Spanish colonial population centers are among those: Mexico City, Puebla/Antequera/Oaxaca, Toluca, Colima, Acapulco, Taxco, Pátzcuaro, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Compostela, Purificación, Culiacán, Zacatecas, San Martín, Veracruz, Pánuco, Valladolid (Yuc), Santiago de Cuba, Santo Domingo, Santiago de Guatemala, Santa Marta, Cartagena, Panamá, Gracia a Dios, Honduras, Nicaragua, Veragua, Charcos, Quito, Lima, Cuzco, and Manila. There is also information on scores of indigenous communities, many held in encomienda.
It is clear that elements from the data base touch on many areas of the world. There are derroteros, or navigational guides, and travel accounts. There is information on Spanish Catholic missionary activities and Church hierarchy. And there is considerable information on relations between Native American groups and European and African newcomers, as well as on the administrative framework of Spanish imperial hegemony.