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Until the late 1400 's, Europeans did not know the existence of the two American continents (North and South America). To the European explorers, exploring the other side of the Atlantic was like exploring an entire different world, hence the name- the New World. In 1492, Christopher Columbus unknowingly discovered the new continent. His original motives for exploring was to find an easier route to Asia but instead, he discovered the New World. Thus; Spain, France and England began sending out conquistadors and explorers to the uncharted terrains of the new continent. Motives for the Spanish, French, and English explorers varied greatly, however, they were similar in some ways.
The motives of the Spanish explorers were acquisition of mineral wealth, spread of Christianity, search of El Dorado, search of Northwestern Passage, and thrill of adventure. The treasures that Columbus brought back to Spain enticed many adventurous explorers and sent them searching for gold and silver. Missionary clergymen sought to serve God by converting the natives to Christianity. By 1634, the area of present-day Florida and Georgia was home to 30 Spanish missionaries, 44 missionary stations, and 30, 000 Indian converts to Catholicism. Within a few decades, Spanish explorers became familiar with the northern coast of South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic shore of North America, the Isthmus of Panama, the Gulf of Mexico and conclusively- the general outlines of the New World.
Despite their knowledge, the Spanish persisted in searching for a Northwest Passage. Some individuals were attempting to escape from religious, political, economic oppression and the seemingly endless number of wars in Europe. The New World offered ownership of land and thrill of adventure. During the 16 th century, a great deal of exploring was spent on searching for the fabled El Dorado, ' which is defined as a place of vast riches or abundance.
Like the Spanish power, France was impelled by a desire to spread Christianity, to find wealth, and to counter the efforts of other nations. France also hoped to find a new water route to the East through the North American Continent. French explorers sailed down the St. Lawrence, across the waterways of Canada, through the Great Lakes, and finally to the Mississippi River and its vast drainage system. They did not find the Northwestern Passageway but found endless forests filled with fur-bearing animals and Indians eager to trade instead. Using the animals as a resource, the French became prominent in the New World mainly with fur trade.
Unlike explorers such as Soto and colonizers at Roanoke, the traders realized the importance of dealing with the Indians and was consequently more successful. And from the fur trade, trading posts were established. The friars brought Christianity to the Indians. The French missionaries had a less lasting influence on the native population than the Spanish. They did not find any major missions but instead had many temporary mission stations, where priests read masses and performed sacraments. Motives for English explorers were the Northwest Passage, riches from colonization, and more land.
Many of them were escaping from the religious wars that basically took over England in the 17 th century. Unique to the English were the motives of the need for more land for England's surplus population and colonization. Because of all the knowledge of the New World paved out already, England explored for the best possible places to colonize and was ready to establish settlements. Of all the European influences on the United States, those of the English were the most substantial and enduring.
Like Spain and France, England was also searching for the Northwest Passage. During the period 1576 - 1578, Martin Frobisher made three voyages to the northernmost part of the New World and it was thought that he had found, at long last, the Northwest Passage to the Orient. But after the failure of two more expeditions, the Company of Cathay went bankrupt. After England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, England became the leader of the three major European countries. Motives for the Spanish, French, and English were alike in that they all wanted to find the Northwest Passage and they all had the curiosity of what the New World held. However there were more differences in their motives than there were likenesses.
Spain was motivated by gold and silver, spreading Christianity, El Dorado, and the thrill of adventure. France was motivated by the successful fur trade and trading posts. England's motivation was riches from colonization, religious and political freedom and more land. From the search for gold and silver to wanting more land, it all boiled down to the countries being greedy. They all knew that they would profit, whether it be from gold (Spain), trading (France), or colonies (England). But from these three countries, America has been enriched by their heritage.
A source of strength, this heritage still lives today - centuries after the initial European exploration and settlement - a distinctive American civilization has been created. Bibliography:
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