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Motives for American Colonization

The “discovery” of the New World by Christopher Columbus led to a new chapter in history that no one at the time could have anticipated. For many Europeans, it offered a better life than the one they were living, which led to the colonization of the Americas. Motives that fueled European colonization were that the New World offered religious freedom, a fresh start for those who were impoverished and in debt, and better opportunities to acquire large amounts of land and wealth.

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The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century led to conflict between Catholics and Protestants who sought to reform the Catholic Church.

At the start of the 17th century, Puritan Separatists became subject of harassment, which made many flee to the New World where they could establish Separatist communities away from any persecution. Christian missionaries also went to the Americas in search of new converts. They saw the indigenous people of the New World as savage and uneducated, taking it into their own and making it their duty to bring them into the Christian faith. Another motive for European colonization of the Americas was for a fresh start in a new land. England in the 17th century had little job opportunity and low wages, leaving many young men looking for work.

Those who opted to go to the New World were given a chance to clear their debts along with a chance at life in the colonies, in exchange for a set amount of labor as an indentured servant. These people were promised their freedom , small parts of land, tools to farm, and clothes once their time as indentured servants was up. To the thousands of jobless, bachelors in England, this was an offer to sweet to resist. Many other Europeans in search of economic opportunity made the long trip to the Americas, not to become indentured servants escaping their debts, but rather to make their fortunes in the fertile soils of the colonies.

This was especially true in the Caribbean, and in the southern region of the English colonies, where sugar and tobacco could be grown in abundance. These were commodities that went into high demand in Europe, making plantation owners fabulously wealthy. Those who had the most money also held the most influence in politics around the colonies. With this in mind, along with the relatively low prices to acquire vast amounts of land, middle and upper-class Europeans alike found the New World to be very attractive.

There were many different motives for Europeans to leave their lives behind and come to the America. One of these was the promise of religious freedom, being able to practice a faith and establish religious communities without fear of persecution, or to seek coverts to the Christian faith. Other motives were for economic opportunity, whether it was to start over in the New World without debt, or to establish oneself as a successful plantation owner. These and countless other reasons drove thousands of European men and women to the Americas.