Immigration | Stories of Yesterday and Today
A New Land 1492-1790
The beautiful land of the New World amazed the European explorers who arrived on North American shores around 1500. They realized the economic possibilities of the fertile soil and many natural resources. In the 17th century, Europeans established successful permanent settlements in what is now the United States. The European settlers soon dominated the Native American civilizations, which had existed for thousands of years. The major European powers (including England, Spain, and France) established colonies,
which are lands controlled by a faraway government. The people who lived in the colonies were called colonists. Enduring great hardship, the colonists built new communities in the New World
In 1492, Christopher Columbus,
an Italian explorer and excellent sailor, crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a shorter trade route to Asia. After more than two months at sea, he landed in the Bahamas in the Caribbean islands. Although Columbus never reached the mainland of North America, he had discovered the gateway to a vast continent unexplored by Europeans. Columbus returned to Europe believing he had reached previously unknown islands in Asia. Word of the new route spread in Europe. Over the next few decades, other explorers followed in Columbus's wake, hoping to take advantage of the shortcut to Asia. It would be another Italian explorer, named Amerigo Vespucci, who realized that what had actually been discovered was a continent unknown to Europeans. He called it the New World.