Type: Economics
Pages: 6 | Words: 1561
Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Colonial institutions have been thought to be crucial determinants of the post-independence levels of stability, as well as of the political and economic growth of a country. Many scholars suggest that British colonial institutions due to the country culture were more conducive to poverty alleviation and growth compared to colonial institutions of France and Spain. This paper focuses on the ways the British, French and Spanish colonies in America differed, reasons for these differences and their importance. In addition, the paper highlights the roles played by diseases in each country during the colonization efforts (Morison 45).

The history of colonialism in America is primarily centered on the struggle of Britain, France and Spain to control the continent. Settlers from these European countries crossed the Atlantic ocean to reach America for this reason. Furthermore, their governments had different approaches towards the colonization process. These differences in approaches have been found to create profound disadvantages and advantages that have essentially affected fates of these countries. For instance, Spain and France were by then under the autocratic sovereign rule that was absolute. Therefore, they went to America to establish new colonies there as servants of the crown (Morison 67).

On the other hand, British colonies had more freedom and autonomy, hence were able to have internal governance as long as they were following the British common laws. Furthermore, unlike the Spanish and French, British colonies actually encouraged migration from other countries to their colonies in America in order to boost the population in their colonies. By the late 1750s and early 1760s, Britain had established dominance in North America after defeating Spain and France. However, those territories in America that had been colonized by Spain and France still retain the national characteristic imparted to them by their colonialists (Morison 89).

There are other notable differences between the British, French and Spanish colonies in America. For instance, British colonies were established through the royal charter form England. Most of the areas occupied by British in America were Massachusetts and Virginia, but they eventually expanded their territory to reach the coast of Atlantic ocean, stretching from Georgia to Maine. To the interior, the territory extended to Mississippi river. In contrary, the first French colonies were essentially trading posts in the Newfoundland, while most French colonies settled in Montreal and Louisiana. Unlike British and French ones, Spanish colonies were mainly crown sponsored conquests; in fact, they helped to expand the Spanish empire. They settled in California coast, Florida, Texas and New Mexico. The influence of Spain in these areas is still evident (Steele 34).

Another difference in the analyzed American colonies was the source of population. The British colonialists in America that were recruited included artisans, middle class farmers, tradesmen and other specialists. In addition, convicted criminals from other countries were also incorporated. The main aim of the British in these colonies was to exploit the untapped natural resources that were rather vast. In contrast, for French, their population initially composed of the merchants, traders, missionaries and soldiers. Peasant farmers and protestants were not allowed to migrate to these colonies. The main aim of the French was to extend their civilization to the new colonies. In case of Spanish, their population was composed of solders, farmers, and traders. Their main aim was to conquer more colonies and establish permanent residence, as most of them were trying to escape from the obsolete rule of the crown (Steele 65).

The three European colonialist systems of governance in their colonies across America were also different. British legislation system allowed the British colonies to establish local representative assemblies as a form of government in order to harmonize the tax collection process in these colonies. This was permitted as long as it did not deviate from the royal crown rule. In the case of the French, the colonies were fully subjected to the authority of the king. Political autonomy, rights and representative government in the French colonies was not permitted. In addition, public meeting in these colonies could not be held without the prior permission of the king. Unlike French and British, The Spanish colonies were fully governed by the governors and viceroys, who were appointed by the crown. The whole population in the Spanish colonies was subject to the king’s laws with no autonomy and no right to establish local rules (Steele 97).

The economy of the French, British and Spanish colonies also had a number of differences. To be specific, the British economy in the colonies consisted of diverse activities that included exports, fishing and farming. For instance, tobacco was the main source of revenue in the North Carolina and Virginia colonies. In comparison, even though the French administration emphasized on farming activities as the main economic activity, fur trade proved to be more lucrative in the French colonies. Similarly, Spanish colonies largely depended on trading as main economic activity. Trade activities in the Spanish colonies were principally regulated by the Spanish board of trade with the aid of the Spanish military (Steele 54).

Another important difference is the population growth in the British, French and Spanish colonies. Indeed, British colonies experienced a rapid population growth because of its liberal immigration policies. By the late 1620s, the colony of Virginia had more than 1000 settlers. By early 1750s, the population in the British colonies, which by then mainly composed of a considerable proportion of French and German, had grown to more than 1.5 million people. In contrary, French population growth rate was extremely slow, as by 1670s the population was barely 5000 people in the New France colony. In Louisiana, the settler population was about 10,000 people by late 1760s. Unlike British and French colonies, The Spanish colonies had the slowest population growth rate. This was basically because of overemphasising on the military conquest and constrained relationships with the Native American population. Other factors that contributed to the low growth rate in the Spanish colonies were the initial failures in the establishment of permanent residence (Bolton 87).

The differences among the three colonies portrayed above were essential since they determined the overall success of the colonialists in their mission. For instance, the British approach fundamentally helped the British to expand their influence to their American colonies. Moreover, the impact of their presence is still evident today. For instance, the British approach was initially very friendly to the locals. Therefore, colonialists relied on the Native Americans in trade and administrative issues. However, their later greed for land led to a great conflict. In contrast, the Spanish colonialists had a different approach, they mainly approached the Native Americans with hostility as a result of their conquest policy. This led to massive resentment and conflicts with the locals. The influence of the Spanish culture on American colonies is lower in comparison with the impact of the British. In addition, the British allowed the immigrants to settle in their colonies, a condition that increased the population. This eventually made the British have a significant dominance in the America. This extraordinary dominance later enabled the British to defeat the French and Spanish. Furthermore, the distinct British colonial approach enabled it to achieve a considerable higher degree of social equality in the region. This is because all colonialists in America are normally remembered because of their authenticity that helped to shape America to the way it is today (Bolton 45).

However, this useful and significant process started with an unpleasant episode. The colonization of America by European nations such as British, French and Spanish was aided by the diseases outbreak, which killed thousands of native Americans. The European way of life that involved living with domesticated animals, has essentially resulted in the epidemic diseases that were introduced to native Americans. When the European colonialist arrived in America during the 14th century, they introduced new germs to the indigenous people. Diseases such as smallpox, typhus, diphtheria and measles, as well as venereal diseases killed a large number of the native Americans.

The population loss due to these diseases significantly enhanced the process of colonization by the European nations such as British, French and Spanish. For instance, the Spaniards introduced communicable diseases to the native Americans, diseases that the natives never had immunities for. A tragedy was witnessed among the Native Americans as the diseases ravaged the killing of millions of local people. This made it easier for the Spanish to conquer a new territory without much resistance (Bolton 76).

There is a theory that these new diseases were deliberately introduced by the European colonialists so as to weaken the population of the native Americans. This weakened the native Americans’ capability to wage an effective resistance against the European colonizers. Furthermore, since the diseases wiped a large section of the local population, some European colonizers, such as British ones, enacted a liberal migration policy so as to ensure there is an adequate supply of labor in the colony work on the large plantations.


The finding of this paper suggests that differed approaches employed by Britain, France and Spain during colonization of America fundamentally left an influence that still lingers today. However, a large section of America was essentially colonized by British due the superiority of their colonial institutions that enabled them to exert dominance over other European colonialists, such as French and Spanish ones, operating in the region. Furthermore, it is evident that diseases were deliberately introduced to the native population in order to weaken their resistance capability (Bolton 96).

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