From the Pilgrim Fathers to the Founding Fathers

Italy and America

Authored by: Edoardo Tortarolo

The Routledge History of Italian Americans

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415835831
eBook ISBN: 9780203501856
Adobe ISBN:


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The American continent was discovered by seafaring powers that were looking beyond Europe for new spaces and opportunities for wealth in the second half of the fifteenth century. Spain and Portugal were the protagonists of the construction of empires in America that were linked to settlements in Asia. Competition with the Spanish and Portuguese over these territories came from the French, the English and the Dutch. The colonial struggle became all the more violent because commercial and strategic rivalry was reinforced for England and Holland by the confessional difference created by the Protestant Reformation. Spain and Portugal were the bearers to the New World of a Counter-Reformation Catholicism that was engaged in combat against heretics of all kinds. With the union of the Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms from 1580 to 1640 the American future appeared to lie entirely in the hands of the Spanish monarchy. Although there were voyages of exploration by the French and English throughout the sixteenth century, these resulted in no significant settlements on the Atlantic shore of North America until the beginning of the seventeenth century.

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