In the wake of Christopher Columbus, Europeans crossed the Atlantic to stake a claim in the New World. The Spanish arrived first. Fanning out from the Caribbean, they found precious metals, climates conducive to the cultivation of sugar cane, and the labor to exploit both. The methods of the conquistadors and exposure to Old World diseases decimated indigenous societies.

The French, after failed attempts to colonize Brazil and Florida in the mid-sixteenth century, headed north and developed a lucrative fur trade with the Huron on the Saint Lawrence River. In the early seventeenth century, the English established tobacco plantations in Virginia and family farms in New England. Official policy dictated cooperation with Native Americans, but these agricultural pursuits inevitably led to conflict.

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Map of the Old World by Claudius Ptolemy, Geographie. [Argentine (i.e., Strassburg): I. Schotti, 1513.]

Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History (A 1513 .P76)