In the 16th century, Portugal came todominate Brazil, while Spainestablished a colonial empire thatincluded parts of North, Central,and South AmericaThis region came to be known asLatin America Latin America was a multi-racial society; Spain allowed intermarriage between Europeans and Native Americas (their offspring were known as mestizos) In addition, as many as 8 million African slaves were brought into Latin America (the offspring of Europeans and Africans were called mulattoes Society was unique in Latin America because of the mixing of ethnicities
The Portuguese and Spanish both sought profit fromtheir colonies in Latin AmericaThere were abundant supplies of gold and silver, whichwere sent to EuropeFarming was also profitable; landowners createdimmense estates and created a class of dependentpeasants by using Native American laborTrade provided another area for profit; productsshipped to Europe includedsugar, tobacco, diamonds, and animal hides Trade was heavily regulated to prevent the British and French from invading their markets
Spain and Portugal ruled their colonies for over 300 years;however, because of the vast distance between Europe andLatin America, local colonial officials had considerable freedomin carrying out imperial policiesOne policy was the “Christianization” of the native population;this gave the Catholic Church a critical role in Latin America andincreased the church’s power thereCatholic missionaries used missions to help convert, teach, andcontrol the lives of the natives, who were taught to be obedientand docileThe Catholic Church built cathedrals, hospitals, orphanages, andschools in the colonies Schools taught the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic Women could become nuns and enter convents, rather than marry Many nuns ran schools and hospitals and some urged that women be educated
The United Kingdom of Great Britain came into existence in1707, when the governments of England and Scotland wereunitedIn 18th century Britain, the monarch and the Parliament sharedpower, with Parliament gradually gaining the upper hand The monarch chose ministers who were responsible to the Crown and set policy and guided Parliament Parliament had the power to make laws, levy taxes, pass the budget, and influence the ministersIn 1714, Queen Anne died without an heir; the crown wasoffered to her nearest relatives, the German Hanoverian kings King George I did not speak English and did not understand the British system very well; his chief ministers handled Parliament Robert Walpole served as the head of cabinet (and later Prime Minister) from 1721 to 1742 and pursued peaceful foreign policy The middle class grew enormously during this time period as a result of trade, and favored policies of expansion of trade and of Britain’s world empire
William Pitt the Elder became head of the cabinet in1757; he expanded the British Empire by acquiringCanada and India in the Seven Year’s WarIn North America, Britain controlled Canada and the13 colonies on the eastern coast of the AmericasBy 1750, the British colonies had more than 1 millionpeople and were prosperousThe colonies were run by the British Board ofTrade, the Royal Council, and Parliament The colonies had their own legislatures that tended to act independently Merchants in the port cities did not want the British government to run their affairs
After the Seven Year’s War, British leaders wanted to get newrevenues from the colonies They were supposed to cover war costs as well as pay the expense of maintaining an army to defend the coloniesIn 1765 Parliament passed the Stamp Act that required printedmaterials to carry a stamp showing that a tax had been paid toBritain; Opposition was widespread and violent and the act wasrepealed in 1766Crises followed throughout the rest of the 18th century The Colonies organized the First Continental Congress in 1774 Fighting finally erupted in 1775 in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts The Second Continental Congress met soon after and formed an army with George Washington as its commander in chief On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, marking the official start of the American Revolution
The Colonists were able to gain foreign supportwhich helped in their fight against the British France provided arms and money, and French officers served in Washington’s army Spain and the Dutch Republic also fought against Great Britain British General Cornwallis was forced to surrender at Yorktown in 1781 The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 and recognized the independence of the American colonies
The 13 colonies gained their independence and werenow states in a new unionThe states feared concentrated power and had littleenthusiasm for creating a strong central government,preferring to keep power at the state level The Articles of Confederation were the first attempt at nation-building by the American colonies; they were unsuccessful because the federal government lacked the power to deal with the nation’s problemsThe US Constitution proposed a federal system inwhich power would be shared between the federaland state governments The federal government was divided into three branches A Bill of Rights was adopted to ensure individual liberties were maintained by the new government
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