Spanish and Portuguese Approaches to Colonization



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Spanish and Portuguese Approaches to Colonization:

  • For the Spanish and Portuguese, resource extraction, especially of silver and sugar, was of paramount importance.

  • Their treatment of the Native Americans, whether in Mexico, South America, or what is now the southern and western United States, tended to be harsh.

  • Until relatively recently, the Spanish and Portuguese were saddled with a reputation as the cruelest of European colonizers.

  • However, recent scholarship has shown that other nations were little better.

  • Still, the Spanish and Portuguese at first used Indians as slaves, then exploited them as cheap labor and kept them near the bottom of the Latin American social scale.

  • The importation of African slaves, particularly into Brazil (the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery) was massive.

  • Many more slaves were brought from Africa to Latin America and the Caribbean than to the United States.

  • Even though exploitation, not settlement, was the primary goal of the Spanish and Portuguese, the Spanish and Portuguese population of Brazil and New Spain grew steadily.

  • For missionaries and priests, the conversion of Native Americans to Catholicism became a high priority.

  • The settled presence of Spaniards and Portuguese, complete with major cities, was extensive enough to create permanent colonies.

French Approaches to Colonization:

  • Like the Spanish and Portuguese, the French focused on economic exploitation.

  • Their concern was mainly with the fur trade.

  • Unlike the Spanish and Portuguese, the French made little effort to create long-term settlements.

  • For example, from 1608 to 1763, only 11,000 French came to live permanently in North America.

  • Combined with English military successes against them during the 1700s, a smaller population meant that the French would be less able to maintain a viable colonial presence in North America (the same had been the case with the Dutch during the 1600s).

  • On the other hand, while the French remained in the New World, their hunters, trappers, and soldiers proved remarkably adept, more so than the people of any other European country, at adapting themselves to local customs and environment.

  • They came to know the woods and rivers of North America well.

  • They learned the languages of Native American tribes and even allied with several of them, especially the Huron and Algonquin, who joined the French in fighting English soldiers and settlers.

England and New World Colonization:

  • Of all the major European powers, the one that most encouraged long-term settlement in the New World was England.

  • Economic extraction was important, but the formation of viable, long-lasting colonies was also seen as desirable.

  • Despite initial difficulties during the early 1600s, English colonies thrived in North America.

  • They grew rapidly, becoming full-fledged communities, if not major cities, whose men, women, and children were in the Americas to stay.

  • England’s American colonies developed strong systems of local government.

  • Many English colonists went to the New World to escape religious persecution at home, some for new opportunities.

  • A number were convicts sentenced to exile in the Americas.

  • Perhaps the greatest number of English settlers, at least during the 1600s, were indentured servants, who agreed to work for their masters a set number of years to pay for their passage across the Atlantic.

  • Like other colonizing powers, the English used African slaves, especially in the tobacco- and cotton-growing southern settlements.

  • In the beginning, the relationship between the English colonists and Native Americans had been relatively peaceful.

  • During the French and Indian Wars of the 1700s, however, that relationship soured.

  • From that point onward, relations between English colonists and the Indians tended to be tense, if not hostile.

Anglo-French Competition in the New World:

  • Like the Spanish, but unlike the English (both of whom split North America with them), the French were primarily interested in economic extraction/

  • The asset they treasured above all was fur: the majority of French in North America were hunters and trappers harvesting skins and pelts for the European market.

  • During the 1700s, France lost control over most of its territory in the New World.

  • Its principal enemy was England, although Spain was a foe as well.

  • Despite having allied with a number of Native American tribes, French colonists lost a series of conflicts with English settlers, including Queen Anne’s War (1701 – 1714), King George’s War (1740 – 1748), and the French and Indian Wars (1756 – 1763).

  • As a result of the third conflict, the English took over Canada (the province of Quebec stubbornly retained its French heritage).

  • The large region of Louisiana was handed over to Spain, although the French would get it back again briefly during the late 1700s.

  • French culture remains important in eastern Canada, the northern fringe of the United States, and the state of Louisiana.

  • The Cajuns of Louisiana are descendants of the Acadians of Canada, who were expelled and forced southward by the English after their victory in the French and Indian Wars.

Ghost of King Leopold

By Padmore Enyonam Agbemabiese
they came like a whirlwind from the hillside
rushed into the mud houses and walked over
the corn fields with showers of hailstorm
we heard the startling sound with opened hearts
then all at once the air around us was stilled

where once baobab trees towered high


and mangroves tall and green danced
where once was the hollies and God’s home
the groves and grotto were never seen again
the spacious altar was littered with withered leaves

the elders sing it in songs when hailstorms drop


and withered leaves hop on village lanes
they remember those days where everywhere
they lost the nose for a breath of air
even beneath the shade of God’s home



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