European colonization of the Americas

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**European Exploration and Colonization**:
– Norsemen were the first Europeans to reach North America, establishing a colony in Greenland.
– L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland is a widely accepted pre-Columbian site.
Spain began systematic colonization in 1492, with Columbus landing in The Bahamas.
– Portugal established Brazil and claimed parts of South America.
– British, French, Dutch, and other European powers also established colonies in the Americas.
– Indigenous peoples fought to preserve their territories, leading to violent conflicts with European colonizers.
– European colonization had disastrous effects on indigenous societies.

**Spanish Colonization**:
– Spanish explorers sought material wealth, prestige, and the spread of Christianity.
– Military conquest in the New World was considered a spiritual conquest.
– The Treaty of Tordesillas divided the non-European world between Spain and Portugal.
– The native population of the Americas plummeted by an estimated 80% after European contact.
– The encomienda system, New Laws, and slavery were integral to Spanish colonization efforts.
– The conquests of the Aztec and Inca Empires were significant milestones.

**Economic Impact of Colonization**:
– Silver from Potosí transformed the world economy.
– Forced indigenous labor drafts, like the mita system, were used in the mines.
– The Council of the Indies and laws of the Indies asserted crown power.
– Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru were established to control conquest riches.
– Silver from the Americas accounted for a significant portion of Portugal and Spain’s budget.

**Portuguese and French Colonization**:
– Portugal claimed lands in North and South America, with Pedro Álvares Cabral claiming Brazil.
– Portuguese colonization in Brazil relied heavily on imported African slaves.
– French colonies in North America and the Caribbean impacted the political landscape.
– French territories in the Americas were significant and distinct from Spanish and British colonization efforts.

**British Colonization in North America**:
– British colonization began later than Spanish efforts.
– Jamestown, Virginia, and the Puritan movement in New England were key British colonial settlements.
– Discrimination against and separation from indigenous communities were common in English colonies.
– Economic aspects of British colonization included the shift to food security and reliance on African slave labor.
– Migration patterns saw Puritans, Pilgrims, and various religious groups seeking refuge in different English colonies.

During the Age of Discovery, a large scale colonization of the Americas, involving a number of European countries, took place primarily between the late 15th century and the early 19th century. The Norse had explored and colonized areas of Europe and the North Atlantic, colonizing Greenland and creating a short term settlement near the northern tip of Newfoundland circa 1000 AD. However, due to its long duration and importance, the later colonization by the European powers involving the continents of North America and South America is more well-known.

American Discovery Viewed by Native Americans, a 1922 painting by Thomas Hart Benton, now housed in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, United States

During this time, the European empires of Spain, Portugal, Britain, France, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden began to explore and claim the Americas and its natural resources and human capital, leading to the displacement, disestablishment, enslavement, sometimes even the genocide of the Indigenous peoples in the Americas, and the establishment of several settler colonial states. Some settler colonies, including New Mexico, Alaska, the northern Great Plains, the North-Western Territory, and Greenland in North America, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the Yucatán Peninsula, and the Darién Gap in Central America, and the northwest Amazon, the central Andes, the Guianas, the Gran Chaco, and Araucanía in South America remain relatively rural, sparsely populated with Indigenous people as of the 21st century.

Russia began colonizing the Pacific Northwest in the mid-18th century, seeking pelts for the fur trade. Many of the social structures—including religions, political boundaries, and linguae francae—which predominate in the Western Hemisphere in the 21st century are the descendants of those that were established during this period.

The rapid rate at which some European nations grew in wealth and power was unforeseeable in the early 15th century because it had been preoccupied with internal wars and it was slowly recovering from the loss of population caused by the Black Death. The Ottoman Empire's domination of trade routes to Asia prompted Western European monarchs to search for alternatives, resulting in the voyages of Christopher Columbus and the accidental re-discovery of the New World.

With the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, Portugal and Spain agreed to divide the Earth in two, with Portugal having dominion over non-Christian lands in the world's eastern half, and Spain over those in the western half. Spanish claims essentially included all of the Americas; however, the Treaty of Tordesillas granted the eastern tip of South America to Portugal, where it established Brazil in the early 1500s, and the East Indies to Spain, where It established the Philippines. The city of Santo Domingo, in the current-day Dominican Republic, founded in 1496 by Columbus, is credited as the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the Americas.

By the 1530s, other Western European powers realized they too could benefit from voyages to the Americas, leading to British and French colonializations in the northeast tip of the Americas, including in the present-day United States. Within a century, the Swedish established New Sweden; the Dutch established New Netherland; and Denmark–Norway along with the Swedish and Dutch established colonization of parts of the Caribbean. By the 1700s, Denmark–Norway revived its former colonies in Greenland, and Russia began to explore and claim the Pacific Coast from Alaska to California.

Violent conflicts arose during the beginning of this period as indigenous peoples fought to preserve their territorial integrity from increasing European colonizers and from hostile indigenous neighbors who were equipped with Eurasian technology. Conflict between the various European empires and the indigenous peoples was a leading dynamic in the Americas into the 1800s, although some parts of the continent gained their independence from Europe by then, countries such as the United States continued to fight against Native Americans and practiced settler colonialism. The United States for example practiced a settler colonial policy of Manifest Destiny and the Trail of Tears.

Other regions, including California, Patagonia, the North Western Territory, and the northern Great Plains, experienced little to no colonization at all until the 1800s. European contact and colonization had disastrous effects on the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their societies.

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