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Colonization of the Americas

An Outline of American History
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  • Dutch colonization of the Americas 
  • Viking colonization of the Americas

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    European colonization of the Americas

    The Vikings were the first Europeans to reach the Americas, starting but then abandoning a colonisation process. 

    This 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. 

    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 Iberia) replaced the Amerindian local oligarchies and impose a new religion: Christianity. Diseases and cruel systems of work (the famous haciendas and mining industry) decimate the Amerindian population under its government. On the other hand, the Spaniards will not impose their language in the same measurement and they even evangelize in Quechua, contributing to the expansion of the language of the Inca and equipping it with a writing system. 

    (See also: Conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Cortez, Francisco Pizarro, Spanish Conquest of Yucatan) 

    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 the northwest coast of North America. After the French and Indian War, Great Britain captured all French possessions in North America. 

    Slavery under European rule began with importation of white European slaves (or indentured servants), was followed by the enslavement of local aborigines in the Caribbean, and eventually was primarily replaced with Africans imported through a large slave trade as the native populations declined through disease. But by the 18th century, the overwhelming number of black slaves was such that white and Native American slavery was less common. 

    In the 19th century, the army of the United States massacred Native Americans and confined survivors into reservations. On the other hand, the descendants of the native Americans constitute the base of the population of the countries that long ago comprised the Spanish Empire in America, excepting Argentina, Uruguay and the Caribbean ones. Two of the Amerindian languages, Quechua and the Guarani have reached rank of co-officials in Latin American countries. 
     

    British colonization of the Americas

    The English established colonies along the east coast of North America from Newfoundland as far south as Georgia, and on islands in the Caribbean. Important early colonies included Jamestown, Virginia founded in 1607 (the first successful English colony in North America) and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England founded in 1620 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. There was also an early unsuccessful Scottish attempt at a colony at Darien, and the colonisation of Nova Scotia is also associated with Scotland. 

    England also took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York in 1664. Britain acquired the French colony of New France and the Spanish colony of Florida in 1763. New France became the Canadas. 

    In the north the Hudson's Bay Company actively traded for fur with the Indians, and had competed with French fur traders. The company came to control the entire drainage basin of Hudson's Bay. Britain also colonized the west coast of North America with British Columbia, founded in 1843. Along with the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and later Newfoundland, these would combine to make up modern Canada. 

    Danish colonization of the Americas

    Explorers and settlers from Denmark took possession of the Danish Virgin Islands which Denmark later sold to the United States. Beginning in 1721, they also founded colonies in Greenland, which is now a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark. 

    During the 17th century, the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea were divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Denmark started a colony on St. Thomas in 1671, St. John in 1718 and purchased St. Croix from France in 1733. Sugar cane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. They were also used as a base for pirates. In 1917, the US seized the Danish portion (going through a form of purchase), which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848. 
     

    French colonization of the Americas

    Explorers and settlers from France settled in what is now Canada, the Mississippi Valley and along the Gulf coast in what is now Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana founding the cities of Quebec, Montreal, St. Louis, Missouri, Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. 

    The French were very interested in the fur trade and purchased fur from and formed alliances with Native American tribes such as the Huron and Ottawa. They actively engaged in warfare with the traditional enemies of the Hurons and Ottawas, the Iroquois. 

    France once held vast possessions in North America including the Mississippi and St. Lawrence river valleys. However, as a result of the French and Indian War, all French territory on the North American continent was divided between the British and the Spanish. The French were able to briefly regain some of the Spanish possessions in North America during the Napoleonic Era. However, because France did not have the navy to resupply its North American holdings and because France did not want its possessions to fall into the hands of the British, Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States. The only remaining French possession in North America is Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a group of islands off the Canadian coast. 
     

    New Sweden

    New Sweden (Nya Sverige) was a Swedish colony in North America corresponding roughly to today's state of Delaware but also containing settlements in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The colony existed from March 29, 1638 to September 1655.) 

    The first Swedish expedition to North America was launched in late 1637. Samuel Blommaert assisted with the fitting-out and appointed Peter Minuit to lead the expedition. Minuit was formerly the governor of the Dutch colony of New Netherland. The expedition arrived in Delaware Bay, a location within the territory claimed by the Dutch, in late March 1638. They built a fort on the present-day location of the city of Wilmington which they named Fort Christina, after the Swedish queen. In the following years, some 600 Swedes and Finns settled in the area. 

    In May 1654, the Dutch Fort Casimir was conquered by the Swedish, led by governor Johan Rising. The fort was taken without force since no gunpowder was present, and the settlement was renamed Fort Trinity. As reprisal, the Dutch -- led by governor Peter Stuyvesant -- moved an army to the Delaware River in the late summer of 1655, leading to the immediate surrender of Fort Trinity and Fort Christina. 

    The Swedish and Finnish settlers continued to enjoy a degree of local autonomy, having the right to their own militia, religion, court, and lands. This status lasted until the English conquest of the colony (October 1664) and its subsequent inclusion in Pennsylvania (1682). 
     

    Portuguese colonization of the Americas

    Portugal was the leading country in the European exploration of the world in the 15th century. The Treaty of Tordesillas split the New World into Spanish and Portuguese zones in 1494. 

    Explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral landed on April 22, 1500 in what is today Porto Seguro, Brazil. Permanent habitation did not begin until São Vicente was founded in 1532 although temporary trading posts were established earlier to collect brazilwood, used as a dye. With permanent settlement came the establishment of the sugar cane industry and its intensive labor demands which were met with Indian and later African slaves. The capital, Salvador, was established in 1549 at the Bay of All Saints. The first Jesuits arrived the same year. 

    In 15651567 Mem de Sá led Portuguese to destroy the 10 year old French colony at the Bay of Rio de Janeiro. He then founded the city of Rio de Janeiro. 

    Between 1638 and 1640 the Netherlands comes to control almost half of Brazil, with their capital in Recife. The Portuguese win a significant victory in the battle of Guararapes in 1649. By 1654, the Netherlands has surrendered and returned control of all Brazilian land to the Portuguese. 
     

    Russian colonization of the Americas

    After the discovery of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska in 1741 during the Russian exploration conducted by Vitus Bering and Aleksiei Chirikov, it took over forty years until the founding of the first Russian colony in Alaska in 1784 by Gregory Shelekov of The Russian-American Company who was hunting sea otters for their fur. 

    Subsequently, Russian explorers and settlers continued to establish trading posts in Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and as far south as Fort Ross in northern California. 

    The colony was never very profitable, because of the costs of transportation. At the instigation of Secretary of State William Seward, the United States Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 on April 9, 1867. 

    Since start of Perestroika in Russia there was speculation in the Russian mass media that Alaska was not in fact sold, but was instead leased to the USA for 99 or 150 years and has to be returned to Russia. 
     

    Spanish colonization of the Americas

    Spanish colonization of the Americas began with the "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus in 1492. 

    Early settlements by the Spanish were on the islands of the Caribbean. On his fourth and final voyage in 1502 Columbus encountered a large canoe off the coast of what is now Honduras filled with trade goods. He boarded the canoe and rifled through the cargo which included cacao beans, copper and flint axes, copper bells, pottery, and colorful cotton garments. He took one prisoner and what he wanted from the cargo and let the canoe continue. This was the first contact of the Spanish with the civilizations of Central America. 

    It was 1517 before another expedition from Cuba visited Central America landing on the coast of the Yucatan in search of slaves. This was followed by a phase of conquest: The Spaniards (just having finished a war against the Muslims in Iberia) replaced the Amerindian local oligarchies and impose a new religion: Christianity. (See also: Conquistador, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Cortez, Francisco Pizarro, Spanish Conquest of Yucatan) 

    Diseases and cruel systems of work (the famous haciendas and mining industry) decimate the Amerindian population under its government. African slaves began to be imported. On the other hand, the Spaniards will not impose their language in the same measurement and they even evangelize in Quechua, contributing to the expansion of the language of the Inca and equipping it with a writing system. 

    In 1720 a small expedition from Santa Fe met and attempted to parley with French allied Pawnee in what is now Nebraska. Things did not go well and a battle ensued; the Spanish were badly defeated, only 13 managing to return to New Mexico. Although this was a small engagement it is significant being the furthest penetration of the Spanish into the great plains setting the limit to Spanish expansion and influence there. 

    Nowadays, the descendants of the native Americans constitute the base of the population of the countries that long ago comprised of the Spanish Empire in America, excepting Argentina, Uruguay and the Caribbean ones. Two of the Amerindian languages, Quechua and the Guarani have reached rank of co-officials in Latin American countries. There was Latin American President from Indian origen, as Benito Júarez, in Mexico or Alejandro Toledo, in Peru. 


     

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