Compare the distinguishing features of the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English empires in seventeenth-century North America.

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In the seventeenth century, the Dutch and French focused mainly on trade, while the Spanish focused on conquest and collecting bullion (silver and gold) and the English focused on settlement. The English overseas empire lasted longer than the others.

The Dutch conducted most of their imperial conquests through the Dutch West India Company and the Dutch East India Company, and their conquests were mostly comprised of trading posts in the New World (such as New Amsterdam), Africa (today's South Africa), and Indonesia. Their idea was to reap profits from trade, but they were largely displaced by the English after a series of wars. Similarly, the French conquests in North America, such as in modern-day Canada and the United States, were mainly along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, where they carried out trade in pelts. Most of the French settlers were trappers who often intermarried with Native Americans. The French did not settle in families or settle far beyond their trading posts. The French also had outposts in the Caribbean.

The English, on the other hand, focused on settlement and trade. Their early ventures in Virginia and New England, for example, involved the movement of entire families to the New World, some for religious reasons (such as the Puritans) and others for the purposes of trade. The English became involved in battles over land with Native Americans and often used brutal tactics to displace Native Americans from their land. Similarly, the Spanish conquests in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and what is now the southwestern and southeastern United States involved settlement of families and administrators to conquer native people, convert them to Catholicism, and extract gold from them. Over time, the cost of maintaining the empire overwhelmed Spain, which lost many of its overseas possessions. The English empire became the world's most extensive over time.

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