A History of Settlers in North America
North America has been a melting pot of cultures ever since the first settlers came to the land approximately 14,000 years ago. Let’s dive into the rich explorer history of this continent.
The Age of Discovery
North American exploration history dates back more than a millennium and involves people from all over the world. The non-indigenous people, originally European settlers, came to the continent in an effort to map out and explore the vast land and advance their economic interests. As with most exploring, seeking profit was one of the main motivators.
But the very first people to ever settle on American land weren’t from Europe. It’s widely accepted that the first settlers were hunter-gatherers that came to North America from the North Asia Mammoth steppe via the Bering land bridge. This land bridge was formed between northeastern Siberia and western Alaska due to lowering sea levels during the Last Glacial Maximum, the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period when ice sheets were at their greatest extent. These settlers spread throughout both North and South America approximately 14,000 years ago.
A lot has happened since then, to say the least. The timeline for the Age of Discovery presumably starts with the Vikings. Several timelines assume that Scandinavian Vikings discovered the continent during their maritime explorations of the late 10th century, which later resulted in the Norse colonisation of Greenland and of L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. This puts the Vikings in America around 500 years before Columbus. But their voyages did not become widespread knowledge, so the continent was still open for a historic discovery.
The Age of Exploration
You can’t talk about the explorer history of North America without mentioning Christopher Columbus. Traditionally speaking, the Age of Exploration starts with Columbus in 1492. When he and his crew realised that they had in fact found a completely new continent, numerous ships from Europe were sent there to explore, conquer and permanently settle in America.
The Age of Exploration typically refers to the time between the 1500s and the 1800s. During this period of time, major colonisation programs were launched in the Americas by several European empires, including Spain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain. While most empires intended to settle in America, the Spanish had a different motive upon entering the new continent: to make a fortune off the new land and bring it back home to Spain. It’s said that they defined three goals: Conquer, convert, or become rich. By conversion, they believed that they had to save the natives from eternal damnation by converting them to Christianity.
Portugal claimed lands in North America as well as colonising much of eastern South America, naming it Santa Cruz and Brazil. The French colonies included the eastern parts of North America that Spain had not conquered, a number of Caribbean islands and small coastal parts of South America. Approximately 16,000 French people came to the Americas during the colonisation, and the great majority of them became subsistence farmers along the St. Lawrence River.
The British were late to the game and started their colonisation almost a century after Spain. Their first successful permanent settlement was in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, after several failed attempts. The Dutch did less colonising in North America than the rest of the empires, but they did found the colony New Netherlands on today's east coast of the United States. It was later established that the southern tip of Manhattan Island was to serve as the seat of the colonial government, and it was named New Amsterdam. In 1664 the English took hold of New Amsterdam and renamed it New York City after the Duke of York.
While cruising with us, you’ll get the chance to actually sail the famous routes that these brave explorers sailed all those years ago. Join us on an adventure into the “Land of the Free”!