What cultural, social, political, and economic impact did the Europeans have on the New World?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The political, economic, cultural, and social impact of the European settlements in North America were enormous.  From the early 17th Century when English pilgrims arrived in modern-day Massachusetts and at the settlement at Jamestown, the transformations that occurred in the “New World” were profound and wide-ranging. 

The indigenous tribes that had settled North and Central America, as had occurred earlier with the arrival of the Spanish, witnessed social and cultural disruptions that would reach full fruition during the 19th Century.  The ancient traditions and customs that guided Native American life for many centuries were now increasingly sublimated to the introduction of foreign cultures and political and economic practices that had developed over a thousand years across the Atlantic.  Socially, the European concepts of community and the development of “westernized” colonies stood in marked contrast to the tribal structures that existed among the indigenous peoples.  The introduction of European economic practices, not entirely alien to the indigenous peoples, who were familiar with the concept of trade, were somewhat less impractical from the Native American perspective than the social traditions introduced with the Europeans’ arrival.  For many years, the Native tribes traded freely with the European trappers and hunters, with the trade in fur particularly prevalent in modern-day Canada.  The main change involved the extent to which such practices were increasingly institutionalized.  As the number of European settlers and trappers increased and expanded across the continent, competition for resources would eventually become more intense and the usurpation of indigenous lands more common and pernicious. The introduction of currency was another major change.  While the importance of precious metals like gold and silver had long been established, the introduction of a formal currency represented a major transformation in the economies of North America. 

Politically, the English settlers brought with them the legacy of hundreds of years of political evolution.  Such innovative political developments as the philosophies born in ancient Greece and during the Roman Empire and the signing of the Magna Carta were all deeply ingrained in the thought processes of the early European settlers.  The concept of modern political thought represented a major transformation for North America.  The structure of indigenous tribes was considerably simpler, but was not without a formal hierarchy and a deliberative decision-making process.  European political thought, especially among the early settlers who emigrated to the “New World” to escape persecution, was the product of many years of struggles against the tyranny of monarchies, but there were also many who did not reject the political systems of the nations they left but who had set out in search of more profitable livelihoods and more fertile agricultural opportunities than were available in the more austere climates of northern Europe.

North America before the arrival of the Europeans was entirely different than after the proliferation of English-speaking settlements and the arrival of French and Spanish colonizers.  Societal structures that were introduced to the “New World” were very different, as were the political, cultural and economic practices that were introduced. 

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laurto's profile pic

laurto | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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The arrival of Europeans in the New World brought many cultural, social, political, and economic changes. The Europeans introduced forced slavery, something that already existed in Europe) and new disease. The diseases they brought were new to the Natives and they were not immune to them, which meant a huge indigenous loss. There were interracial relations between the Europeans and natives and there were children born with a mixture of races (white + native). 

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