It was in the fifteenth century that the people of Europe began to look for new lands in which they could find broader commercial scope and, later, personal freedom. The American continent had been discovered by Scandinavian seamen five centuries earlier, but no settlements had remained. Voyagers such as Christopher Columbus believed that a westward course would lead them to India, and so when they reached America they called it the Indies.
Settlement in North, South and Central America was rapid. The Spanish and Portuguese colonised the South, the French
and English the North. The struggles for power lasted for more than a century before the present boundaries and governments became settled. Britain at one time controlled all of eastern North America, but this direct government from London came to an end with the establishment of the United States as an independent nation during the War of 1775-1783 and the creation of Canada as a Dominion in 1867.
The development of the New World has been man’sgreatest achievement, for itrequired a mass migration of people, over a long period, from Europe and Africa to colonise such an enormous area as North America, which had previously been
inhabited only by wandering indigenous tribes, wrongly called Indians’. Two hundred years ago the United States was a group of British colonies on the Eastern seaboard, still struggling to win a living from a new country, to cut back the forests and plough the land in order to grow crops which would pay for their imports from Europe. Today the United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, with one of the highest standards of living. In material assets, it has more cars, telephones, television sets, radios, etc., per thousand of its population than any other nation. Canada, though slower to develop, has raised the standard of living in very much the same way.