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European Colonial Powers From Sixteenth To Eighteenth Century Portugal, Spain, Holland, And Britain

2227 words - 9 pages

In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed between Spain and Portugal with the mediation of Alexander VI, and the world was divided by Spain and Portugal (Fitzler, as cited in Hamilton, 1948, p. 37; Brandel, as cited in Hamilton, 1948, p. 37). Spain and Portugal seemed to be the two most powerful European countries in their oversea expansion in the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, later Netherland gained their independence from Spain and started their overseas expansion at the end of the sixteenth century (Weststeijn, 2012, p. 492). The Dutch progressed so rapidly, as it reached a dominant place in world trade few decades after its independence, and “soldiers and settlers of the East and West India Companies occupied extensive territories from Java to the Cape of Good Hope and from Recife to the estuary of the Hudson” (Ibid, p. 492). In the end of the eighteenth century, the East India Company of Dutch no longer existed (Hamilton, 1948), which may be a sign of the decline of Netherland. In the same time, Britain still remained “the leading colonial power”, as it was and would be (Hamilton, 1948). As we can see from the history, all of the four countries, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and Britain, to some extent, had once dominated the world outside Europe in the period from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century. All the four countries had been powerful and prosperous in this period, and therefore it is valuable and reasonable to make a compare among the identities of the imperialism and colonialism of the four countries from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century.
This paper aims to analyze the identities of the overseas expansion of four European countries, Portugal, Spain, Holland, and Britain, from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century. The paper will be divided into two sections. The first section aims to analyze the internal motives and ideology behind the real acts and policies in the process of the world expansion of the four countries in order to describe a general identity of the expansion of the four countries. The second section is going to discuss about the monopolistic identities of the four countries, which largely depends on the arguments of Hamilton (1948) on the monopoly of European colonial powers. The whole paper will examine the similarities and differences in the methods and ideologies of the world expansion of Portugal, Spain, Holland, and Britain.
Motive and Ideology
By examining the motive and ideology of the colonial countries in their world expansion, one can understand the policies these countries took in their overseas territories. The explicit motive is the desire for wealth. According to McAlister (1984), the business of spice made up 27 percent of the royal income of Portugal in 1506 (p. 252). Hamilton (1948) argued that Columbus, who was supported by Spain, was largely motived by economic reasons. Hamilton also argued that many believe that “almost the only purpose of the...

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