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Eventually, most of the Western Hemisphere came under the control of European governments, leading to changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life.In the 19th century over 50 million people left Europe for the Americas.The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange, a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), ideas and communicable disease between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following Columbus's voyages to the Americas.A Norse colony in Greenland was established in the late 10th century, and lasted until the mid 15th century, with court and parliament assemblies (þing) taking place at Brattahlíð and a bishop located at Garðar.Kings and navigators began to dream oi the riches just across the sea.One of these dreamers was also a very practical man.Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés took over the Aztec Kingdom and Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire.As a result, by the mid-16th century, the Spanish Crown had gained control of much of western South America, Central America and southern North America, in addition to its earlier Caribbean territories.



The Vikings came to North America about a thousand years ago.Over this same timeframe, Portugal claimed lands in North America (Canada) and colonized much of eastern South America, naming it Santa Cruz and Brazil.Other European nations soon disputed the terms of the Treaty of Tordesillas.Some of these were on Caribbean islands, which had often already been conquered by the Spanish or depopulated by disease, while others were in eastern North America, which had not been colonized by Spain north of Florida.

Early European possessions in North America included Spanish Florida, Spanish New Mexico, the English colonies of Virginia (with its North Atlantic offshoot, Bermuda) and New England, the French colonies of Acadia and Canada, the Swedish colony of New Sweden, and the Dutch New Netherland.

Systematic European colonization began in 1492, when a Spanish expedition headed by the Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in what came to be known to Europeans as the "New World".