During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries many different factors peaked interest in colonization and exploration for Europeans. As a continent, Europe was changing rapidly. Nationally Spain, France, and England each had their own reasons for growth. All of Europe dealt with the excitement and uncertainty of new places.
Europe began evolving as early as 1095 with the beginning of the Crusades. These Europeans began to trade with the Orient, swapping knowledge, food, and crafts. This newfound wealth was reinvested in what is known as the Renaissance. All subjects were being studied again, including geography. Educated people know realized that the earth was round, and even estimated its circumference. New navigational and ship building techniques were developed.
The evolution continued as nation-states were formed. Unity was necessary to exploration and westward expansion. The forming of joint-stock companies made financing easier also, as some royalty were reluctant to come up with funds for voyages.
Finally, freedom from religious persecution and the dreams of prosperity eased people into the idea of migration.
The idea of national unity was sparked when Isabella of Castile was wed to Ferdinand of Aragon. These two knew of Portugal's success with Prince Henry's navigational school. So when young Columbus asked for financing, they considered, then agreed to his terms. He discovered San Salvador, Cuba, and Hispaniola. Vespucci, de Balboa, Ponce de Leon, Cortes, and many others followed, claiming places such as Florida, Tenochtitlan, New Mexico, and Texas for Spain. New Spain, as it was called, did not attract many migrators very quickly. The colonization of New Spain was a learning experience in how to deal with the natives. They were abused, exploited, and eventually killed by European diseases. As an alternative to native laborers, the Spanish began importing African slave labor into New Spain. While church...