Colonization is a complicated topic, but it shaped North America as we know it. The European empires had a lot of people and a lot of money, but not a lot of land. The European rulers decided to send out explorers to find new land. They hoped this new land would be full of resources like gold that would make them richer and even more powerful. An important part of colonization was the individuals who who were willing to leave everything they’d ever known to try and live in a completely new place. There were many reasons people might go — like religious freedom and the hope of finding extreme wealth.

  • The first Europeans to find and colonize North America were the Vikings.
  • They arrived around 986 A.D. in what is now Canada, but their colonies did not last.
  • Christopher Columbus found America in 1492.
  • Columbus was sponsored by Spain.
  • He returned to the Americas three times.
  • Spain sent Hernando Cortez on a journey in 1519 with a small army to take over the gold and silver mines that the Aztecs had.
  • Hernando de Soto, another Spaniard, explored from Florida to the Mississippi.
  • Colonization was terrible for native peoples.
  • The English colonized the Northeast and grew tobacco.
  • The Spanish colonized the Southwest and found gold and silver.
  • The French settled in what is now Canada and the Northern U.S. They made money on the fur trade.
  • French is still spoken in parts of Canada.

Even though the shores of America were not lined with gold, the American colonies made a lot of money for many European nations. Where there wasn’t gold, they grew cash crops like tobacco, indigo and rice. A cash crop means that the farms do not support families with food. Instead they grow one crop that is then sold. Colonists used slaves to grow the crops cheaply that were then shipped to Europe and sold. The Spanish and the English colonies could be considered the most successful. They lasted for centuries and formed the basis of what is now America.

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