Europeans were searching for new routes to the east for spices, silk and gold. The previous routes through the Middle East and Asia were controlled by the Muslims who did not want to trade with the Europeans after the Crusades. The first explorer, Columbus, sailed from Spain in 1492 in effort to find the new trade route and instead found a "new world". This world had many items which the Europeans wanted - corn, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and gold. What developed was merchantilism - the colonies in the new world served as a consumer of the products provided by the mother country and the new colony provided the raw materials back to the mother country. In order to protect their trade balance the mother country would maintain high tariff on foreign good so that the colonists could only those from the mother country. After the sugar cane plantations were established by the Spanish, one clergyman allowed that the Native Americans were falling ill while working the fields and that slaves from Africa should be brought in given their knowledge of planting. This is how the Atlantic Slave trade began which resulted in the triangular trade network.
Cortes explored in Mexico and established a colony on behalf of Spain. Their territory extended into South America when Pizzaro conquered the Inca in Peru. John Cabot, representing England, explored much of the New England area. Eventually the settlement of Jamestown was established by the British government. The Dutch and French later established their own colonies within North America.