The history of European Immigration to America began following the discovery of the 'New World' by Christopher Columbus in 1492 which led to the Golden Age of Exploration during the Renaissance era of 1500's.
History of European Immigration to America: The First Immigrants
The discovery of America led to a great power struggle for control of the new lands primarily between the three most powerful countries in Western Europe at the time: Spain, England, France. These European countries financed the voyages of the early explorers for many reasons:
These great Western European powers made various claims on the lands of America and by the 1600's the first explorers were followed by settlers - the immigration to America by the Europeans began in earnest. Other immigrants form European powers such as the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries joined the adventurous men and women in the perilous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to begin new lives and establish new colonies and cultures in America. The American colonies were seen as an extension of the European homelands and were responsible for the basic American cultural features such as law and language which are still evident today.
History of European Immigration to America: The Reasons for European Immigration to America
Why did the Europeans want to leave their homes and undertake the dangerous 3000 mile journey to an unknown life in America? The reasons for the first waves of European Immigration to America were at first based on obtaining profit from the new lands but quickly changed as people decided to move from Europe to escape religious and political prosecution. The prospect of starting a new life and owning some land was also a major reason for the first European immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Spanish Immigrants
Spain established the Spanish colonies in America known as New Spain (Nueva España) between 1519 to 1821. Spain controlled the south Atlantic coast, Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean. The first Spanish settlement was in Florida, followed by other Spanish colonies in areas now known as New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana. The objectives of the Spanish were to gain wealth and prestige for the Mother Country' and spread the Catholic religion. The Spanish established religious missions, military installations (presidio) and founded towns (the pueblos). For additional facts, history and stats refer to Spanish Immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The First English Immigrants
European Immigration to America began in the late 1500's when Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) led expeditions to North America in order to search for gold found new settlements. In 1585 several shiploads of English colonists to America settled on Roanoke Island where Virginia Dare, the first child born of European parents, was born in America. These first English immigrants mysteriously disappeared and Roanoke was given the nickname of "the Lost Colony". Other English colonies were soon established by the Pilgrims and the Puritans. The Jamestown settlement was established in the Virginia Colony in 1607 and the Plymouth Colony was founded in 1620 by the Mayflower Pilgrims. In 1630 a religious group of Puritans left England in search of religious freedom in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
History of European Immigration to America: The 'Great Migration' and the 13 British Colonies
The 'Great Migration' was the term used to describe the wave of over 50,000 of English immigrants to America between 1620 and 1640 which led to the establishment of the first 13 Colonies: Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The colonies need cheap and plentiful labor. Most of the immigrants were poor and it is estimated that 80% of immigrants came as Indentured Servants. The British controlled the northern Atlantic coast of America. For additional facts, history and stats refer to English Immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The French Immigrants
The early French Immigration from Europe to America was dictated by the establishment of the colonies of New France (Gallia Nova) between the time periods of 1534 to 1763. France concentrated its efforts in gaining the Northern lands of the New World and established its dominance via the areas surrounding the St. Lawrence river, eventually claiming the entire Mississippi River Valley. The five colonies of New France consisted of Canada (1534), Arcadia (1604), Plaisance (1662), Hudson Bay (1663) and the French colony of Louisiana (1682). The massive area claimed by the French in New France eventually covered over 3 million square miles but ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763 when all New France east of the Mississippi, except the area surrounding New Orleans, was ceded to Great Britain. For additional facts, history and stats refer to French Immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Dutch Immigrants
Holland (Netherlands) claimed land which became known as New Netherland (Nieuw-Nederlandt) which covered areas of the Mid Atlantic States which eventually became known as New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Connecticut. Due to trading alliances immigrants from Scandinavia joined the Dutch immigrants and travelled across the Atlantic Ocean on Dutch ships and settled among the Dutch in the lands of New Netherland. The Dutch in New Netherland chose the island of Manhattan as its capital and its major port was named New Amsterdam (which would later be changed to New York). The first wave of Dutch imigrants was during the 1600's when the Dutch West Indies Company established the Patroon land grant system. The lands of New Netherland was lost to the English but Dutch settlers continued to emigrate. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Dutch Migration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Swedish Immigrants
The early Swedish colonists settled the colony in Delaware Bay that they called New Sweden (Nya Sverige) and famously introduced the log cabin to America. Conflicts developed between the colonies of New Netherland and New Sweden and in 1657 both the colonies fell to the English but the original colonists were allowed to remain. A major wave of Swedish immigration was sparked in the 1840's by economic factors, crop failure and a devastating famine. In the late 1800's nearly half a million Swedes immigrated due to the employment opportunities available during the Industrialization of the United States. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Swedish Migration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The German Immigrants
German Immigration to America initially centered in Pennsylvania and upstate New York during the 1700's. The early German immigrants were search of religious freedom and the opportunity for trade. The First major wave of German immigration occurred from the 1840's when Germany, like many other European countries, suffered from serious crop failures including the potato blight (1845-1849) and nearly 1 million Germans fled their home country to a new life in America. More German immigrants followed as German farmers were hit by the influx of cheap American wheat and over one million farmers and agricultural laborers left Germany for better farming prospects in the United States. Another great wave of immigration occured during the Industrialization of America during the late 1800's. For additional facts, history and stats refer to German Migration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Scottish Immigrants
Immigrants from Scotland, who adhered to the Protestant religion, joined the English in the first 13 Colonies. Scottish Immigration to America significantly increased during the 1700's following defeat at the hands of the English at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Many of the Scots settled in South Carolina and Virginia and worked in the tobacco trade. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Scottish Immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Scots-Irish Immigrants
The Scots-Irish trace their ancestry to the Scottish lowlands, but emigrated to Ireland. The term Scots-Irish originated in America to distinguish the Protestant Irish of Scottish ancestry with the Irish Catholics. The Immigration of the Scots-Irish to America was prompted by the Irish linen trade as Scots-Irish immigrants introduced flax growing and the production of linen to America. Many other Scots-Irish settlers left Ireland, tired of the tyranny of British rule, high rents and crop failures and settled in the 'Backcountry' that covered the Blue Ridge mountains and the Appalachian regions of America. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Scots-Irish Immigration to America.
History of European Immigration to America: The Irish Immigrants
The reasons for the early Immigration by the Irish to America started with the forced migration of the Irish race as involuntary indentured servants which lasted for a period of between 7 and 20 years. From 1641 to 1652, over 300,000 Irish people were sold as virtual slaves as a form of punishment to the first 13 colonies lasting from 7 to 20 years. The next major wave of Irish immigration was due to the devastation of the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849). During the period of the Irish Potato Famine the population of Ireland dropped from 8 million to 6 million due to death from starvation or immigration. The final great wave of Irish immigration was prompted by the beginning of the Industrialization of America and the age of steam power and many Irish gained employment working on the railroads, in construction and in the coal mines. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Irish Immigration to America.
History of Eastern European Immigration to America for kids: The Eastern European Immigrants
The late 19th Century and the early 20th century saw immigration trends change from immigrants from Western Europe to immigrants mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe. The numbers of immigrants rocketed and the United States began to pass laws restricting entrance to the country and the immigration center at Ellis Island was opened. By 1910, Southern and Eastern Europeans made up 70% of the immigrants entering the United States. Western Europeans were readily accepted as "Old Immigrants" because they shared the cultural heritage, history, language and ancestry of the immigrants who had initially populated America. Western European migrants were considered superior to the "New Immigrants" who came from Southern and Eastern Europe. The 1911 Dillingham Commission report on immigration had stated that the "New Immigrants" to the US were inferior, unskilled and uneducated workers who failed to integrate with Americans. For additional facts, history and stats refer to Italian Migration to America.
European Immigration to America for kids
This article contains a brief overview of European Immigration to America from the first Immigrants through the 1600's, 1700's, 1800's and 1900's. A helpful educational resource for kids on the subject of European Immigration to America.