Goals of European Colonization

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Goals of European Colonization
Colonization has occurred throughout history, all the way back to the Greeks. The most influential colonizing powers of North America were the British, Spanish, and French. These three countries were driven by three basic motives: a desire for material gain, a desire to spread religion, and a desire to expand territory. Using these motives, they created long term effects in the culture, religion and economy of the areas they colonized.

One long term effect of colonization is a change in the culture of a colonized area or people group. In many instances an area was colonized by force, one example being the Spanish invasion of the Americas. An article put out by the London Business School describes the conquest of the Inca Empire. “…the Spanish had several powerful forces at their command: superior weaponry, gunpowder, and iron, and the cavalry…” In the 16th century the Spanish forces conquered the Inca and Aztec empires, which lead to the adaptation of the Spanish culture from Mexico to South America which still exists today. In North America a more sparsely populated Native population existed which allowed the French and British to establish colonies on the continent. At this point in history Europe had much advancement in technology and weaponry that allowed for a relatively easy conquest of the Native populations. In addition, Europeans brought disease for which the Natives had no immunity, such as smallpox. This resulted in untold death among the Native people.

A driving motive for colonization was often trade. The British Empire sought after trade with Asia, and during the reign of Queen Victoria I they developed the East India Trading Company. Another example is the French fur and trapping industry in Canada. “… a second natural resource increased in importance - fur. Demand in Europe for furs, especially beaver, was strong up to the early 1900s. To meet this demand, European trappers moved westward across Canada in search of the desired fur-bearing animals often entering traditional native Indian hunting and gathering territories.” (A. Hecht, “The Canadian Fur Industry”) The Spanish colonies in the Americas concentrated mostly on precious metals. “.... In these eras the precious metals of the New World came almost exclusively from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. The other countries did not have gold mines: for them the question was not how to keep hold of gold, but how to attract it.” (London Business School, “The Spanish Colonization of America”) The long-term effects established through trade consisted of natural resources revealed and used in the colonized lands, as well as a strengthened economy set up between England, France, and Spain and the land surrounding them.

Another long term effect on colonized countries comes through religion. Believing "The Lord is high above all nations..." (Psalm 113:4), the nations having the Lord sought to expand His reign "even to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). In some cases it becomes a driving motive for colonization in an attempt to spread the gospel. In other cases it is not the main motive, but a side-effect that is adapted by colonized peoples. A striking example is again found in the conquest of the Aztec empire. Before the invasion by Cortes, the Aztec people practiced their own religion, and had their own religious hierarchy. Now, however, the area which the Aztecs once occupied is predominantly Catholic.

During the late 1800’s many European powers struggled for control of Africa. The missionary David Livingstone was the first European to explore the interior and exposed tribes to Christianity. One final example can be found in the early colonists of America. Religion played a big part in the colonization of North America because many Puritans who came to settle in the New World did so for religious purposes. “English evangelism occurred through colonization and expansion. Various religious groups arrived at different times settling in different areas. Once settled, these colonists reached out within those areas.” (Christian Chronicler, “Anglicanism in America”)

British, French, and Spanish colonization affected all areas of the world. The Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia, and many other countries all experienced interaction with these three countries. Driven by either a desire to profit economically, to spread religion, or to expand their borders, these countries’ influence had long-lasting effects. They implanted their culture and religion in various parts of the world and developed trade with the areas they colonized. We see examples in our world today of their influence throughout history.
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