Europeans came to America for a variety of reasons, but most arrived for economic or religious reasons. The New World offered riches to those who staked out their claims, and it offered established religions new populations to convert. Additionally, followers of minority religions migrated for the chance to worship as they pleased.Continue Reading
On a national level, the drive to colonize the Americas was almost entirely economic. Originally, the continent was discovered by explorers seeking a new route to India to facilitate the lucrative spice trade. Tales of mineral wealth in the New World quickly spurred extensive colonization. Spain and Portugal dominated the early colonization period, but many of the European powers soon gained a foothold.
The Catholic Church was a powerful force in the early colonization period because the native population of the New World was ripe for conversion. Native Americans were also seen as a potential slave labor force until European diseases and working conditions began to take their toll. African slaves were brought in as replacements, becoming unwilling immigrants to the new land.
Many European settlers saw the potential for entrepreneurship or an escape from a rigid social and political system. To encourage settlement, many powers made generous grants of land to colonists, offering even poor Europeans the chance to become wealthy landowners.Learn more about US History