Americas, between 1492 and the Civil War

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1. The English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Swedes all controlled parts of the Americas between 1492 and the Civil War. How did these Europeans gain control of the Americas in the first place? Where in the Americas did each build their empire, and what were their differing goals (economic, political, etc)?

“The start of the European colonization of the Americas is typically dated to 1492.[1] However, L'Anse aux Meadows in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is much older. Dating from 1000AD, it is the only known site of a Norse or Viking village in Canada, and in North America outside of Greenland. L'Anse aux Meadows remains the only widely accepted instance of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact and is notable for its possible connection with the attempted colony of Vinland established by Leif Ericson around the same time period or, more broadly, with Norse exploration of the Americas. In 1492, a Spanish expedition headed by Christopher Columbus sailed to America to sell, buy, and trade rich spices and other goods. European conquest, large-scale exploration and colonization soon followed. This first occurred along the Caribbean coasts on the islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and after 1500 extended into the interiors of both North and South America. In 1497, sailing from the north on behalf of England, John Cabot landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus's third voyage reached the South American coast. France founded colonies in much of eastern North America, on a number of Caribbean islands, and in South America. Portugal colonized Brazil. Eventually, the entire Western Hemisphere came under the control of European governments, leading to profound changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life. In the 19th century alone over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas.[2] The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange. The first explorations and conquests were made by the Spanish and the Portuguese, immediately following their own final reconquest of Iberia in 1492. In the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, ratified by the Pope, these two kingdoms divided the entire non-European world into two areas of world exploration and colonization, with a north to south boundary that cut through the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern part of present-day Brazil. Based on this Treaty and on early claims by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean in 1513, the Spanish conquered large territories in North, Central and South America. Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes took over the Aztec Kingdom and Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire. As a result, by the mid-16th century, the Spanish Crown had gained control of much of western South America, Central America and southern North America, in addition to its earlier Caribbean territories. Over this same timeframe, Portugal colonized much of eastern South America, naming it Brazil. Other European nations soon disputed the terms of the Treaty of Tordesillas. England and France attempted to plant colonies in the Americas in the 16th century, but these were a failure. However, in the following century, the two kingdoms, along with the Dutch Republic, succeeded in establishing permanent colonies. Some of these were on Caribbean islands, which had often already been conquered by the Spanish or depopulated by disease, while others were in eastern North America, which had not been colonized by Spain north of Florida. Early European possessions in North America included Spanish Florida, Spanish New Mexico, the English colonies of Virginia (with its North Atlantic off-shoot, The Somers Isles) and New England, the French colonies of Acadia and Canada, the Swedish colony of New Sweden, and the Dutch New Netherland. In the 18th century, Denmark–Norway revived its former colonies in Greenland, while the Russian Empire gained a foothold in Alaska. As more nations gained an...
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