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Colonies #2: The Reasons for Colonization

There were many different ideas about why colonization was a good thing. The explorers had to persuade someone to pay for their trips, so they came up with reasons why it was a good idea. Here are some of the reasons they gave, including money, culture, and religion. 

Getting Things Cheaply

In the very beginning it was seen as a way to buy things cheaply. Once the explorers discovered how easily they could overpower the natives of most of the countries, they decided to take things rather than buy them.

A Market Place for Goods

The colonizers had a lot of goods they wanted to sell. They could produce far more things than they could sell to their own people. They were always fighting with the people around them, so they needed to find new people to sell their things to. They also saw it as a way to give the troublesome poor people jobs. They could be put to work making things for the expeditions, and things to trade and use in the "new" countries.

Spreading Religion and Culture

Most of the colonizing countries saw it as their duty to God, to convert the native people to their religion. They also thought that the natives were savages, and felt that it was their duty to teach them how to behave "properly".

Somewhere to Dump "Extra" People

There were more people in the European countries than the governments could handle. The poor people were always causing troubles, wanting food and clothes, and not wanting to pay taxes. The idea was that the countries could send these people to the colonies. Since they were poor, they couldn't afford to pay to go. They had their ticket paid for them by a trading company. Then they had to work for the trading company for a number of years, without pay, before they were free. This was a great way of getting rid of the troublemakers, and at the same time, a cheap way of setting up the colonies.

Another way of getting rid of people who were considered troublesome, was to send convicted prisoners to the colonies. The most famous example of this is Australia. These colonies were called "penal colonies". Although a few of the people sent to them were truly criminals, most were just poor people, accused of doing things like stealing food or clothes for their children.

Building Armies and Navies

The Europeans were a very troublesome lot. They were forever fighting with one another. Since the colonies had natives, who didn't want the colonists, they were going to have to fight. Colonists who had been fighting natives for years would make very good soldiers.

To get to the colonies they had to use ships, so more ships were built and more sailors trained. In times of war these ships and sailors could be used to fight in the Navy.

Glorification of The Country

At the time that these colonies were being founded, the European countries were all still ruled by Kings and Queens. The Kings and Queens had the final say on explorations and discoveries, since they paid for them. In order to persuade them to agree, the explorers told them how many new subjects (citizens) they would rule over, and how much land they would own. They were a pretty greedy lot, so they liked the idea.


If you look at all of the reasons that were given, you can probably see that the biggest reason was greed. They could buy, or get things cheaply. They could sell the things they made. They could take exotic woods and stones to build grand houses and other buildings. They could make themselves more important and powerful than their neighbors.

Perhaps the spreading of religion and culture were the only reasons not tied to greed. The colonizers really thought that they were doing something good for the native people. Even the spreading of religion was tied in some ways to power. The Europeans were busy fighting about the "true" religion. Each side thought that more people following their religion would prove that they were right.

Have you read part #1 A General Overview ?

Watch out for part#3, coming soon......The Effects of Colonization

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