How did geopolitics come to affect the colonies from exploration through the start of the 18th century?
For the course of the semester, we have noted how geopolitics have informed the colonial process. England, France, and Spain were engaged in a rivalry for dominance on the European continent that extended into the Americas. Specifically for us, these events greatly informed the formation of the 13 British colonies in North America and influenced their development to 1700.
The first major event that impacted colonial development was when England won a war with France in 1688. This war ushered in an era of peace and prosperity for England, which led them to develop their colonial empire more quickly than they had previously been able to do. It also allowed them to expand their influence throughout Europe by colonizing territories such as India and Canada.
In 1699, England sent some ships down along what would become known as Cape Fear River in North Carolina where they found gold veins that could be mined easily due to their high quality iron content. This discovery sparked interest in other colonists who wanted to find more gold veins so they could sell them at higher prices back home (Mignolo, 2018). The result was that many new settlements were established all over what would eventually become known as “The Back Settlements.”
England, France, and Spain were engaged in a rivalry for dominance on the European continent that extended into the Americas. Specifically for us, these events greatly informed the formation of the 13 British colonies in North America and influenced their development to 1700.
The nations of England and France were rivals dating back to the Crusades. In 1585, James I of England declared war on Spain in what became known as the “Wars of Spanish Succession.” The conflict ended when Philip II died in 1598 at which point his daughter Mary took over as queen of Spain. This effectively ended any hope England had of defeating Spain militarily. But this did not stop them from trying!
In 1605, Queen Elizabeth I died and was replaced by her son James VI who became James I of Scotland upon becoming King of England (1603). This meant that Scotland would now have an interest in what happened in Europe and that it could have an impact on its own future.
The 17th century was a time of great political and military strife in Europe. The English, French, and Spanish were engaged in a rivalry for dominance on the European continent that extended into North America. This rivalry was particularly important for our discussion because it affected the development of the first 13 British colonies in North America.
In 1603, Spain established its first colony in what is now Florida by sending over 300 settlers to establish St. Augustine. This colony was later attacked by indigenous people and forced to relocate further inland.
In 1607, England established Jamestown as its first permanent colony in North America. It was also at this time that France established Quebec and claimed all land west of the Appalachian Mountains as its territory (which later became known as New France).
Meanwhile, Spain had established colonies along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, but these settlements were soon attacked by Native Americans and forced to relocate further inland. They were eventually able to establish two major settlements: Pensacola (1698) and Mobile Bay (1702).
France’s claim on land west of the Appalachians led it into conflict with Spain over which nation had rightful claim over what is now Ohio.
In the time period between 1492 and 1700, there were a series of events that greatly affected the development of the colonies in North America (Dittmer, 2019). England, France, and Spain all had a hand in shaping these colonies, which have come to be known as British North America.
The English began their colonization efforts in what is now called Virginia by establishing Jamestown in 1607. The French followed suit with Quebec in 1608 and Acadia (now Nova Scotia) in 1621. Spain was also interested in colonizing new lands and established Florida as a base for their overseas expansion efforts.
These three countries’ colonization efforts were fueled by competition for dominance on the European continent. England and France competed with each other for power while Spain sought to expand its empire into areas where they could establish settlements and gain political control over them.
Mignolo, W. D. (2018). Decoloniality and phenomenology: The geopolitics of knowing and epistemic/ontological colonial differences. JSP: Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 32(3), 360-387.
Admiral James Stavridis, U. S. N. (2018). Sea power: The history and geopolitics of the world’s oceans. Penguin.
Dittmer, J., & Bos, D. (2019). Popular culture, geopolitics, and identity. Rowman & Littlefield.