European in origin, the first generally accepted European colonists were the
Norse, starting but then abandoning a colonisation process. (For more on this,
The first phase of modern European activity in this region began with the
oceanic crossings of Christopher Columbus (1492-1500), sponsored by Spain, and
those of other explorers such as John Cabot, sponsored by England, and Giovanni
da Verrazano, sponsored by France and according to some the German Didrik Pining
and, the possibly mythical, Polish John of Kolno 1473, sponsored by Denmark.
This was followed, notably in the case of Spain, by a phase of conquest: The
Spaniards (just having finished a war against the Muslims in the Iberian
peninsula) replaced the Amerindian local oligarchies and impose a new religion:
Christianity. European diseases and cruel systems of work (the famous haciendas
and mining industry) decimated the Amerindian population. Black African slaves
were introduced to substitute the Amerindian. On the other hand, the Spaniards
did not impose their language in the same measure and the Catholic Church even
evangelized in Quechua, Nahuatl and Guarani, contributing to the expansion of
these Amerindian languages and equipping them with writing systems. One of the
first school for Amerindians was founded by Fray Pedro de Gante in 1523.
The Portuguese switched from an initial plan of establishing trading posts to an
extensive colonization of what is now Brazil.
(See also: Conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Hernán Cortés, Francisco
Pizarro, Spanish Conquest of Yucatan, Treaty of Tordesillas, Treaty of
In the British and French regions, the focus of economy soon shifted from
resource extraction to trading with the natives. This was also practiced by the
Russians in the northwest coast of North America. After the French and Indian
War, Great... [continues]
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