The motives for the exploration and colonization of the New World did not differ much from country to country. Though different motivations may have been emphasized more heavily in certain counties, most explorations were spurred by religious reasons, commercial causes, and the desire for expanded power around the globe. The population of Europe resurged during the years following the Black Death, which was responsible for killing approximately one third of the population between 1347-1447 (Brinkley 9).
This resurgence caused a strain on already-scarce resources, a rise in land values and a general rise in interest in economic and commercial concerns. The newfound wealth in turn caused the people to desire more and different goods, and the surge in population caused a desire for more land to expand upon. As a result of the waning power of the Holy Roman Empire, the governments of the nation-states were becoming more centralized and localized. The natural result of this centralization of power was competition, both economic and logistical.
The beginnings of economically successful exploration by Marco Polo and the Portugese were encouraging to those wishing for more availability of goods and possible expansion of power into new lands. With few exceptions, the early explorers were very successful. Many, such as Marco Polo, returned with great riches and tales of far-away lands. Spurred by these tales of wonder and success, the Spanish began many exploration programs, headed by different explorers, and with different purposes.
The Conquistadors, headed by Hernando Cortez, were primarily concerned with conquering and enslaving the peoples who inhabited the lands that they encountered and gaining riches through searches for silver and gold, thus earning the reputation as being both vile and cruel invaders. The religious motivations for exploration and colonization were varied: some cultures and explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, saw exploration as fulfilling their god-given destinies, while others, such as the missionaries, wished to spread their religions.
Still others, such as the English, chose to explore the new world in hopes of establishing colonies in which they would experience religious tolerance. In many cases, such as the English, the new world offered a new start. For some, the exploration and colonization was a source of national pride and a symbol of success. For others, the new colonies held the promise of riches and new economic opportunities. In any case, exploration and colonization held worlds of promise for the different countries. The relations between the colonies and the Indians were an entirely different story.
Virginia, Maryland, and the Massachusetts Bay were all colonized very differently, and all had different relations with the Native Americans. The original colonists of Virginia had an extremely high mortality rate due to illness and starvation, and their initial attempts at colonization were largely unsuccessful. In fact, the earliest settlers, who were in fact replacements for the original settlers, had given up hope and were heading south out of Virginia in hopes of finding more friendly and viable territory, when they met a supply ship heading the other way.
Had it not been for that particular ship, they never would have returned to Virginia because it was such difficult territory. Relations between the Virginians and the Indians were atrocious. They saw themselves as superior to the Indians and refused to think that there was very much that they could learn from the natives. There were many different instances of battles, and the bloodshed by both sides was plentiful. The kidnapping and subsequent marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe did not make any improvements in the relations, although Pocahontas was well on her way to improving Indian-Settler relations.
The settlers at Maryland had a much easier time of it. They were able to colonize the land with few problems, probably because they were able to learn from the Indians. They adopted many of the Indians’ ways, conceding that there was probably a lot to learn from the native farmers of a country. As the text puts it, “the early Marylanders experienced no Indian assaults, no plagues, no starving time” (Brinkley 38). Maryland did experience quite a bit of religious tumult, however, when the originally Catholic colony was forced by financial concerns to admit Protestants. This caused quite a bit of controversy and struggle.
The settlement in the Massachusetts Bay was not completely free of controversy, but on the whole, they did not have much of a problem with the Indians. Their experience with the Indians was mostly limited to amicable concerns such as the Indians selling their land to the settlers and the Indians converting to Christianity. This did not mean that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was free of troubles; the settlers experienced quite a bit of hardship in their first winter on the American soil, and the religious structure alienated those who were not the staunchest members of the church.
Despite these factors, or in some cases because of them, the colony at Massachusetts Bay managed to flourish. The colonization of America was not an easy one. Settlers were met with starvation, violence and death in more instances than not. The perseverance and desire to colonize the new world was of great asset, however, and the settlers in the new world who survived were rewarded with a new world of opportunity.