Major Issues in Colonization: Comparing Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands

How did the Broad Trends in Europe (and Where These Europeans Went in the Americas) Lead to Differences in How the Europeans Dealt with the Americas? This table provides a way for you to think through the differences in the colonies. Look at each row in the table. For example, ask yourself what is the difference in the practical consequence if the Europeans are predominantly male or come with their families? Few in number and spread out or concentrated in one place? Doing agriculture or trading with the native population? Are individual farmers or large-scale (with many laborers needed) agriculture? Believe they must convert the Indians or not?







Where they went?

Central and South America

Canada and down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of New Mexico

Atlantic sea coast 

Area later called New York (Most of their colonies are in the Far East.)

Demographics of the colonies?

450,000 through mid-1600s

Mainly male

15,000 by 1700

Mainly male


> 2,000 in early 1600s

50,000 by mid-1600s


> 300 in early 1600s

Demographics of the colonies? (Why would ordinary people come?)

Catholicism dominated Spain, so mainly men, came not families



Protestants lived safely in France until the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, so until that time mainly men came, not families



As the link showing the English kings and their religions reveals, there was regularly some group whose religion was rejected by the crown. With persecution, families have a reason to take the risk of taking women and children across the Atlantic and of living in a wilderness.

Although the initial settlers were some Protestant refugees,[1] once the Spanish–those persecuting the Protestants—were forced out of the Netherlands, Protestant families were safe without moving to colonies

Economy of colonies?



Agriculture, large scale

Fur trade—the coureurs de bois




Fur trade


Agriculture [2]

Large landholdings?  (feudal landholdings)


Yes, attempted but fails 

Attempted, fails as feudalism but occurs with slavery in the South

Yes, called patroonships [3]

Local governance?

Primarily a Spanish administration although your textbooks refers to some region governance

Primarily a French administration

Local governance in the colonies, particularly in New England with its town meetings. (Covered with the English settlement.)

No, a Dutch administration

Missionary effort?

Yes, sometimes by forced conversion 

Yes, but they adapt the religion to the Native Americans


Some, but generally separate from the Native Americans


Mix with the native population, including intermarriage?

Yes. Mainly a male population migrated.

Yes. Mainly a male population migrated.

Rarely. Among the reasons, migration of families in all areas but the South.





Copyright C. J. Bibus, Ed.D. 2003-2012


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[1] This and the remaining entries in the column are from the Oxford Companion to United States History, p. 199.

[2] This and the remaining entries in the column are from the Oxford Companion to United States History, p. 199.

[3] This and the remaining entries in the column are from the Oxford Companion to United States History, p. 199.