DescriptionThose who study the age of discovery and conquest have theorized that early bands of hunter-gatherers migrated onto the North American continent approximately 13,500 years ago. New archaeological research dates the migration even earlier. Europeans later mounted their own exploratory expeditions to North America—where they conquered descendants of the first hunter-gatherers and built colonies. Motives for the European expeditions were mostly economic, although converting indigenous people to Christianity was a secondary purpose. Enslaving native populations and importing African slaves provided labor for many colonial economic activities. The colonies eventually developed into the United States, a nation shaped by its turbulent and volatile past.
At A Glance
- There's much debate as to when humans migrated to the Americas, with estimates ranging from 13,500 to 50,000 years ago.
- Vikings established the first European settlement on the coast of what is now Canada.
- Europeans mainly sought new sea routes to Asia and later searched the lands they discovered for riches.
- The Columbian Exchange—an extensive transfer of biological and cultural elements between Europe and the Americas—was a result of European conquest.
- Through the mid-17th century five European countries—Spain, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Britain—established settlements in North America.
- Encounters between Native Americans and Europeans were influenced by the mutual desire for trade and the Europeans' approaches to settlement.
- The transatlantic slave trade radically influenced the first two centuries of American history.
- The Middle Passage was part of one of the biggest forced mass migrations in history.