As the famous story goes, the Americas were continents that were never meant to be discovered. Christopher Columbus set off on a journey to find India and pursue free trade. Instead, he landed up at the American coast in 1492. The rest, as they say, is history. This report discusses the discovery and colonization of America. In chronological order the facts leading up to the European occupation of the entire American area is discussed.
The time before Columbus’ discovery of America is known as the pre-Columbian era in the history of the two major continents. At this time, there were the indigenous people living there who consisted mainly of hunters or gatherers, simple farmers and complex farmers. Even after Columbus first landed in America during the 15th century, these people continued to live in large numbers and were spread all over the area.
The discoveries began when first Columbus had presented his ideas to the King of Portugal. The plan was to sail west in three ships, reach the orient and return back. After an initially unsuccessful funding campaign for his travels, Columbus finally found sponsorship from Italian investors and the Queen of Castile. His first travel after a series of setbacks finally led him to the new world as he called it somewhere in the August of 1492 . This second journey focused on the Caribbean islands and sowed the first seeds of slavery. It was his third journey that had lead to the maximum exploration of the Americas following which Colonization begun. It has been estimated that since America was first discovered, close to 50 million people had migrated to America from Europe for a variety of reasons .
THE ONSET OF COLONIZATION: 1600’S AND BEYOND
The first significant European arrivals in the Americas after its discovery and initial exploration happened from the early 1600s onwards. This time period was particularly unfortunate for both the visitors and the indigenous Americans because of the diseases that had spread. Many lives were lost on both sides because of some new diseases .
The Dutch had taken over the part of America that is today based in and around New York. This had happened around the late 17th century. They built the reformed church in America. The Spanish for their part had taken up the continental part of America and a major portion of South America too. By the mid eighteenth century, the French had also captured a major share of the central-east region of the North American continent .
The important event among all of European colonization of the Americas is the involvement of the British. Though they were not the first ones to establish colonies in the Americas, they played a key role in integrating the entire landscape under one umbrella. The key event which lead to this development was known as the French and Indian war which worked well to reduce the influence of all other European colonies in America, making the British reign supreme .
FEATURES OF BRITISH COLONIZATION
The British Empire went about setting up civilization in North America and had institutionalized many avenues including markets and transport. There was very active fur trade with the local and indigenous Americans. Religious flexibility had also gained a lot of importance in this time at North America. However there were major issues with regards to the tax laws and tax issues which led to the first signs of revolt .
Things came to a standstill when thirteen colonies of the British in North America openly revolted against the empire. By 1783, the revolt had started gaining some success and as British lost these key colonies, they lost some of their most populous lands and areas. Prior to this, the British had been riding on a high, having gained control even of the Dutch area of present New York. The British played a major role in continuing with slave trade and institutionalizing it across the whole of North America
A DIFFERENT STORY DOWN SOUTH
Mexico, Peru, Rio de la Plata and Paraguay are considered to the major conquest by the Spanish. Their governing style of the Spanish included the dominions which were split into north and south. The Spanish are known to have introduced Catholicism to the indigenous South Americans .
A NOTE ON SLAVERY
Slavery was an integral part of the history of colonized America. Both the Northern and the Southern continents were subject to import and export of human slaves. Primarily the system worked like this: The Europeans, who were creating a ruckus in coastal Africa in terms of treatment of the aborigines of that land, found that the black African men were inherently stronger than the white European. They, having the power of economy and machines on their side, captured the Africans in their home towns and transported them to the places where they thought they could extract work from them.
The Americas especially received the African Slaves in huge and unmentionable numbers. The very fact that a major part of today’s American population is black hints at the level of Slave import that was carried out in this era. Brought to the new world for menial and inhuman jobs, the Africans were treated miserably and had no means of freedom of expression or life. Treated like any animal would be only their basic need of food and water was taken care of by the white. The Africans were bought and sold, killed and played with like some commodity. The roots of these activities as we saw in the sections before were planted by the Europeans. The same Europeans who ended up settling in America continued the culture and lead to a massively wrong human situation in the continent. Today there is a major need for affirmative action just because these forces of the past need to be combated. The mark on the soul and the memory of the African American is so deep that no amount of plastering can remove that bias permanently. The entire episode of slavery forms an important part of the history of the American continent .
Above all, these stories of discovery and colonization of what today is the most powerful country in the world are lessons to be learnt. History as such teaches more than it tells and the Americas tell a story that has been never heard before. The colonization in the Americas was by far some of the shorter durations for the European colonies when compared to the rest of the world. The early exit of the colonial powers from this continent was due to the inner strength that the people of America, including first generation Americans who moved in, found so that they could revolt and throw away the empires that ruled them. Similar is the story of South America though the Spanish rule had left them a lot more impoverished than what the British had done to countries like the USA.
Out of the struggle against colonial powers was born great governance and a great constitution like that of the United States of America. The country had learnt the good parts of the people who had ruled them before and had intelligently parted ways with the parts that they did not think would suit their culture as it had evolved. Admirable in these governments is the pace at which they rose after the tumultuous beginning. The New World had lived up to its name and had served its citizens all the joys that were promised. In lands such as the Americas, the millions of men and women who migrated found freedom of speech and expression, freedom to earn and most of all, the freedom to use one’s mind freely. Even when the USA went into the cold war with the USSR, reminiscent activities of the colonized past of the country came to the fore. The factors that drove the country towards capitalism had their origins in the era when the land was first discovered and colonized .
It is only logical to conclude by mentioning about the journeys of Columbus; which the report started off with. Columbus, though himself having been accused of starting off the slave culture, was primarily an enthusiastic and adventurous sailor. The sprit with which he landed in the American land and the spirit with which he went about exploring the continent is the pillar on which the entire American culture of adventurous and successful innovation stands. Every great American scientist and thinker owes it to that man for the spirit with which he gave birth to many great nations that rest on the two huge continents. Had it not been for Columbus, such a colorful history of mankind would have been written.
Credit also goes to the people of America to have come out of the shackles of colonization, albeit from their own men, as fast as possible and to have etched a new history. This idea of a nation that stood up for itself and its people at a time when it was most needed did inspire many a state and many a leader. The history of the discovery and colonization of America will remain one of the special chapters in the diary of mankind. This is one story that had all the elements of true struggle and true rise from the ashes. Started off by one genius, it found its next beginning, the constitution, in the hands of another. The new world is special and not without reason.
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