The first attempts at colonization of the New World, the modern continents of North and South America, were the results of European powers seeking gold, riches and other avenues to power. Christopher Columbus' return marked the beginning of a frenzied colonization period that would last for several hundred years.
Christopher Columbus sold the idea of an expedition across the ocean to the Spanish monarch by relaying the rumors of a land brimming with gold. He found no golden cities and very little gold at all during his time in the Americas. Columbus' discovery of a subservient indigenous race, the Native Americans, and vast amounts of land that Europeans could easily claim by force, however resulted in a mandate for colonization from Spain and Portugal. France and then England followed suit, hoping, at least to open up trade.