How were the commercial incentives of the Spanish, French Dutch and English colonists similar and/or different?
I really don't understand the nation's reasons for colonization, and please leave any sources I could use for some more information.
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The Spanish came to the Americas not so much to colonize as to seek gold and glory. A decidedly secondary reason was to Christianize the Indians, although this was frequently overlooked, and demonstrated more by destroying Indian artifacts as "idolatry" than demonstrating Christian virtue. They had no intention of establishing permanent colonies other than to protect their gold and silver interests. Spain at the time was the poorest country in Europe, and gold and silver from its Empire was used not only to bolster the economy in Spain but also as a source of bullion for trade in Asia. In fact, the first successful settlement in North America, St. Augustine, Florida, was established to guard Spanish shipping against British privateers.
Profit was also the motive for the British colony at Jamestown, although the profit was for the Joint Stock Company, the London Company. Those who settled, however had plans to remain, not to exploit the countries resources and then leave. Profits for the company were made by the sale of lands and the cultivation of staple crops, primarily tobacco. The settlement there was also considered a way to keep an eye on (and harass) Spanish interests further South. An original source you might consider is Richard Hakluyt's Discourse on Western Planting in which he offers reasons for Britain to establish commercial interests in the New World. Although there was another British Settlement in New England, it's interests were religious, not commercial.
The Dutch at the time were the most powerful mercantile economy in Europe and also possessed the most powerful navy. Their colony at New Amsterdam was established to further Dutch commercial interests, much like the British. They were not that successful, however; after a lengthy war, the Dutch exchanged New Amsterdam (which was soon re-named New York, after the King's brother and the future James II) for the island of Run in Indonesia, a source of nutmeg and other spices. So their interests were primarily to promote their mercantile empire. An excellent book on this subject is Nathaniel's Nutmeg by Giles Milton.
The French also came for commercial reasons, primarily to trade with the Indians for furs. The French were ultimately far more successful in establishing a successful trade relationship with the Indians than any of the other three European powers. Many French married Indian wives and wore Indian clothes in an attempt to win the loyalty of the Native Americans. They were also hugely successful until the Seven Years War when France lost all its North American possessions to Britain.
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