Skip to Content

European Colonization

Before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World the continents of North and South America were ruled by multiple empires. The Aztecs ruled the land of Mexica, The Inca Empire stretched from modern day Columbia to Chile, and the Mayan culture had influenced most of the New World. In North America the Iriquois, Shawnee, Souix, Cherokee, Seminole, and other tribes forged small city states and confederacies.

The arrival of the Europeans was the first event of many that set in motion the end of these civilizations. Europeans were different then the people of the New World and were of a different mentality. The European continent had been embroiled in hundreds of wars ranging from small conflicts to large scale invasions. The result was an advanced view of warfare with advanced technology. They had a mindset of empire no doubt handed down from their Roman ancestors and continued to search for ways to expand.

The Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, and English explorers would all lay claims in the New World and create a global empire. The Portuguese focused on a new trade route to India and colonized around Africa and the most eastern part of South America. The Spanish focused on the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. The French had colonies within the Caribbean as well as in Canada. The Dutch settled among the coastline of North America and the Caribbean, and the English founded colonies in North America and captured colonies within the Caribbean. Each had their own empires and would war with each other and the natives.

Early in the 16th century the Spanish were the most powerful. Their conquistadors had conquered the Aztecs and Incas and established strongholds throughout the Caribbean.  Militarily they were close to a hegemony, but their main strength lied in their economy. The trade brought in from the New World made Spain one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Their wealth was used to expand their empire and explore the world. However, by the end of the century their power began to wane. The feared armada had been soundly defeated by the English and other European countries had begun to colonize the New World.  This colonization would drive out the natives and create conflict between the European powers.

While the Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, and English were the main players in European colonization of the New World, they were not the only ones. Sweden, Courland, Norway, The Danes, Russia, and Scotland also colonized the New World. This colonization would not come to a close until the 20th century.

  • British America (1607– 1783)
    • Newfoundland (1583-1949)
    • Thirteen Colonies (1607- 1783)
    • Rupert’s Land (1670-1870)
    • British Columbia (1793-1871)
    • British North America (1783 – 1907)
  • British West Indies
  • New Courland (Tobago) (1654–1689)
  • Danish West Indies (1754–1917)
  • Greenland (1814 – today)
  • New Netherland (1609–1667)
  • Essequibo (1616–1815)
  • Dutch Virgin Islands (1625–1680)
  • Berbice (1627–1815)
  • New Walcheren (1628–1677)
  • Dutch Brazil (1630–1654)
  • Pomeroon (1650–1689)
  • Cayenne (1658–1664)
  • Demerara (1745–1815)
  • Suriname (1667–1954)
  • Curaçao and Dependencies (1634–1954)
  • Sint Eustatius and Dependencies (1636–1954)
  • New France (1604–1763)
    • Acadia (1604–1713)
    • Canada (1608–1763)
    • Louisiana (1699–1763, 1800–1803)
    • Newfoundland (1662–1713)
    • Île Royale (1713–1763)
  • French Guiana (1763-today)
  • French West Indies
  • Saint-Domingue (1659–1804, now Haiti)
  • Tobago
  • Virgin Islands
  • France Antarctique (1555–1567)
  • Equinoctial France (1612–1615)
  • Greenland (986-1814)
  • Vinland (Partly in the 1000s)
  • Dano-Norwegian West Indies (1754–1814)
  • Sverdrup Islands (1898–1930)
  • Erik the Red’s Land (1931-1933)
  • Colonial Brazil (1500–1815) became a Kingdom, United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.
  • Cisplatina (1808–1822, today Uruguay)
  • Barbados (1536–1620)
  • French Guiana (1809–1817)
  • Russian America (Alaska), 1799–1867)
  • Nova Scotia (1622–1632)
  • Darien Scheme on the Isthmus of Panama (1698–1700)
  • Stuarts Town, Carolina (1684–1686)
  • Darien, Georgia (from 1735)
  • Cuba (until 1898)
  • New Granada (1717–1819)
    • Captaincy General of Venezuela
  • New Spain (1535–1821)
    • Nueva Extremadura
    • Nueva Galicia
    • Nuevo Reino de León
    • Nuevo Santander
    • Nueva Vizcaya
    • Las Californias
    • Santa Fe de Nuevo México
  • Viceroyalty of Peru (1542–1824)
    • Captaincy General of Chile
  • Puerto Rico (until 1898)
  • Rio de la Plata (1776–1814)
  • Santo Domingo (last Spanish rule 1861-1865)
  • New Sweden (1638–1655)
  • Saint Barthélemy (1785–1878)
  • Guadeloupe (1813–1815)

Although it was an indirect effect, the colonization of the New World set the stage for the American Revolutionary War. Without the fall of the other empires and the lack of influence from the Native Americans the continent was easily overtaken and eventually became the United States of America.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.