- Published: November 25, 2021
- Updated: November 25, 2021
- Language: English
- Downloads: 30
Columbus was hardly the hero that he was later portrayed to be, and like Cortez and Pizarro was ruthless in his treatment of Native Americans. Like all of them, he was insatiable in his desire for gold and silver, and began the practice of treating the indigenous peoples as slave labor. Due to warfare, disease epidemics and slavery in the 16th and 17th Centuries, the Native population fell by 80-90%, and in some areas was so decimated that African slaves were imported as replacement labor. Columbus himself was already familiar with the African slave trade from his time as a merchant and introduced this practice to the Americas. It became most-important in the sugar-producing areas like Brazil and the islands of the West ideas, and of course for the production of tobacco, cotton and rice in the southern areas of North America.
In the 16th Century, France and Britain employed explorers to find new sea routes to Asia as well, including John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Henry Hudson and Walter Raleigh, which gave them later claims in North America by right of ‘ discovery’. Their early attempts at founding colonies like Roanoke and Gaspe were failures, and the North American continent seemed more like a wilderness that was of interest manly to fisherman and fur trappers. Jamestown, Virginia, the first English colony that endured, was founded in 1607 in the hopes that merchant adventurers would find gold and silver as the Spanish had in their colonies. Their venture almost failed die to famine, disease and conflict with the Native Americans, and would have collapsed completely had it not been taken over directly by the English government in the 1620s. Eventually the colony was stabilized and became a major exporter of tobacco to Europe. Quebec, founder in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, had similar problems are barely survived its formative years. New France never offered economic opportunities sufficient enough to attract large numbers of European immigrants, although eventually it claimed all of present-day Canada except the British trading posts on Hudson Bay and the interior third of North America down the length of the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Because of its powerful alliances with Native American tribes, Britain was unable to conquer New France completely until 1783.
In New England, the first colony at Plymouth was founded by a group of English Calvinists or Separatists who were also known as Puritans. Their motives were not material wealth or trade so much as finding a location where they could separate from the Church of England and be left alone to practice their own version of strict Protestantism. They had originally intended to settle in Virginia rather that the North, but in the end decided to remain where they landed. Like most early colonies, they barely survived the early years, but in the end proved to be highly durable. In the decades ahead, North America also attracted many other Calvinist dissenters and other persecuted religious minorities like the Quakers, who in fact were a majority in the 13 English colonies on the mainland and gave this area its distinctive version of culture and politics. In fact, its intense Protestantism made it quite hostile to the Catholic powers of France and Spain, and there were four major wars in North America in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Britain’s colonies were mostly agricultural and heavily populated by small white farmers—at least outside of the southern plantation belt—and this also made them quite distinctive compared to New France and New Spain.