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The European Invasion of the Americas


  • What factors led Europeans westwards?
  • What were the key differences between Spanish, Portuguese, English and French colonisation efforts in the Americas?
  • Why were Native Americans unable to resist the European invasion?



Map showing Sir Francis Drake's West Indian voyage of 1585 [Leiden 1589]



Elliott, J.H. Empires of the Atlantic world: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 (2006), chap. 1



Canny, Nicholas, ‘The ideology of English colonisation’, William and Mary Quarterly, 30 (1973), 575-97

Robert Brenner, ‘The social basis of English commercial expansion, 1550-1650’, Journal of Economic History, 32 (1972), 361-84
Schwartz, Stuart B., ‘The Iberian Atlantic to 1650’ in Nicholas Canny and Philip Morgan (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic world, c.1450-c.1850 (2011)

Thornton, John K., A Cultural History of the Atlantic world, 1250-1820 (2012), chap. 5



Abulafia, D., The Discovery of Mankind: Atlantic Encounters in the Age of Columbus (2008)

Anderson, Virginia, New England Generation: The Great Migration and the Formation of Society and Culture in the Seventeenth Century (1991)

Armitage D., and M.J. Braddick, eds., The British Atlantic World, 1500-1800 (2002)

Daunton, M., and R. Halpern, eds., Empire and others: British encounters with indigenous peoples, 1600-1850 (1999)

Hassig, Ross. Mexico and the Spanish Conquest (Harlow, 1994).

Lockhart, James. Spanish Peru, 1532-1560: A Social History. 2d ed. (University of Wisconsin Press, 1994).

Morgan, Edmund, American Slavery, American Freedom: the ordeal of colonial Virginia (1975)

Quinn, David B., England and the discovery of America, 1481-1620 (1974)

ADDITIONAL: Podcast (15 mins) on Walter Raleigh and Virginia



John Carter Brown Archive of Early American Images

America's Historical Imprints

[Search full-text early American books, pamphlets, broadsides, government documents and rare printed materials. ]

 America’s Historical Newspapers

Series 1, 1690-1876

European Views of the Americas: 1493-1750

Index and comprehensive guide to printed records about the Americas written in Europe before 1750 containing more than 32,000 entries. It covers the history of European exploration as well as portrayals of native American peoples

The Caribbean:

Columbus, Christopher, Journal of the First Voyage, 1492-3. 

Christopher Columbus and the Enterprise of the Indies: A Brief History with Documents, ed. Geoffrey Symcox and Blair Sullivan, Palgrave (2005). [e-book at Library]


Cortés, Hernán, Letters from Mexico (New Haven, 2001), pp. xxxix-lxxi; 160-281: ‘Introduction’ and ‘Third Letter’. [e-book at Library]

León-Portilla, Miguel (ed.) The Broken Spears: An Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Beacon Press, 2006 [e-book at Library]


Guaman Poma The First New Chronicle and Good Government (or El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno, c. 1615). 

Titu Cusi Yupanqui. An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru. University Press of Colorado, 2005. [e-book at Library]

Francisco Xeres, Narrative of the Conquest of Peru (1547)


North America:

John White's paintings of North America 1585-6

John Smith The generall historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer Isles [1624]