What Were the Differences Between British and Spanish Colonization of America?

British and Spanish colonization of America differed in terms of their approach and backing, as well as in their religious and social standing. Spanish explorers were authorized by their monarchy to conquer new territory for the Spanish empire in order to increase trade and spread Catholicism. British colonists, on the other hand, had little interest in establishing a bond with the natives, continuing the English tradition of expansion through colonization and trade and concentrating on enhancing their wealth via plantations and the tobacco industry.

The Spanish colonies settled in Central and South America. Referred to as the “empire of conquest,” their colonization was somewhat brutal when it came to dealing with the indigenous people, but ultimately involved integration. This was achieved by intermarriage, assimilation of the natives into the Spanish religion of Catholicism and teaching the natives how to behave according to the social norms of the Spanish.

The British colonies settled in North America and have been referred to as an “empire of commerce.” With little, if any, involvement from the Crown, the colonists strived to settle and establish their own way of life, independent of restrictions from their homeland but in accordance with what they believed to be their rights. Instead of integrating with the natives, they viewed them as savages, using them only for trade, such as exchanging furs for firearms, and for their land, which they bought and settled on.

With no royal supervision or uniform protection for Christianity, diverse colonies emerged concerning their religious, social and political status. In the mid-1600s, Puritans set up “praying Indian” towns to convert the natives to Christianity, but on the whole, this did not prove as successful as the Spaniards’ attempts at religious conversion. The natives also died in large numbers from European diseases, such as smallpox, which kept the two factions apart from each other.