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Britain v. Spain

Who was the better colonizer?

 By Shawn Nelsen

They both seemed to have the same goal for the same reasons.  They both had the same destiny bestowed upon the fruits of their labor.  Furthermore, they were both from the same continent and both headed the same direction.  With all this being said though, the British and the Spanish colonial projects were completely different.  From the way that they regarded the Natives to the way they dealt with their own colonial subjects, Spain and England took two completely different routs during the conquest and colonization of the Americas. Although they were both successful in different ways, it was the difference in the manner Britain and Spain handled the massive job of colonization that lead to Spain being more triumphant in accomplishing the short, and much of the long term goals of colonization.

            To understand the dissimilarities between Spain and England in regards to their colonial projects, it seems important to understand their similarities.  Probably the most obvious and important aspect that Spain and England share in common is the fact that they are both European powers.  This being the case, they shared many cultural similarities such as a drive for money and some sort of Christian faith.  Additionally, they both had to travel a long distant across a huge ocean in order to reach their colonies.  Furthermore, they both looked upon the Native Americans as though the natives were a lesser class of human than the Europeans.  The list of similarities could go on for they also share much more in common.

 What truly makes the Spanish and English interesting in regards to this subject, though, is how they handled many of the problems that they shared in common in completely different ways.  For instance, the Spanish looked upon the Native Americans as a useful resource that could be exploited along with the rest of the new world, as where the English seemed to take the stand that the natives were a nuisance and should simply be avoided or killed. Another example is how they paid for the costly trips across the Atlantic Ocean.  The Spanish kept the cost as a royal expense, where as the British often took advantage of privet joint stock companies to pay much of the way across the ocean.  As a matter of fact, most of the problems that Spain and Great Brittan shared in common were handled in different ways.

There are many reasons why these two countries worked so differently, but one of the most central factors is the dissimilar form of Christianity that the two counties practiced.  Spain was, and still is, a Catholic country where as England was a Protestant country.  These two forms of Christianity are very different.  The Catholics follow the word of the pope in Rome, where as the Protestants simply seemed to fallow the word of their local priest.  Furthermore, the Catholics believe that one can earn his or her own way into heaven threw the way he or she lives while in the earthly realm, while many of the Protestants believed in predestination. 

One could say with much certainty that it was the religious factor that most influenced the different ways that the Spanish and the English treated the Native Americans.  Although neither of the two countries could be considered as friendly to the natives, it should be noticed that the Spanish at least handled the native population much more efficiently.  As the British seemed to have no use for the native population, being unwilling to compromise when it came to religious conversions, the Spanish didnít seem to have this problem.  The Spanish were much more open to compromise.  For instance the Spanish would take important aspects of the native religion and simply tell the natives that they were actually Catholic symbols.  If that did not work then they would simply force the natives to convert threw torture or other means.  Whatís amazing is that the Spanish method of conversion actually worked and as a result most of Latin America is still Catholic to this day.

Religion was also one of the most important factors in getting the Spanish and the English to go to the new world in the first place although for completely different reasons.  The English seemed to flock to the New World to escape religious prosecution.  People like John Winthrop brought whole congregations across the Atlantic.  This resulted in the English bringing their families and planning for a more permanent existence in America.  The Spanish, on the other hand, seemed to flock to the new world to cause religious prosecution.  The Spanish were going to the new world to convert the natives to Catholicism, but then head back home.   As a result of this dissimilar religious drive, life in the two different colonies was completely different.  The British colonies ended up with a much more stable western like life style.  Sense many of them had their whole family there, it created a need to stabilize the world around them and, for example, create an almost independent government within the colonies to help solve local, everyday problems.  The Spanish, meanwhile, who, for the most part, left their families at home, seemed to plan for a much more temporary existence in the New World.  They only needed to convert, conquer, and then head back home.

As a result of the way that the colonial lives turned out, it would appear that the Spanish were much more successful than the English in creating a colony that would benefit the mother country.  Sense, for example, most of the English who went to the New World went for good, it became easier for them to loose loyalty to their homeland.  The Spanish, on the other hand, wanted to return home creating a strong motivation to remain loyal to Spain.  Additionally, the Spanish were much more efficient at taking advantage of the local population as a labor force making the native an asset as opposed to the problem that the English made them out to be.  Lastly, the Spanish simply seemed to have invested less in, and gained more from, the colonies than did the British.  The Spanish simply needed to send military and nobility over to their colonies in order to conquer and rule.  The British in contrast had to basically build a country from scratch and then rule it.  Although the British approach made for a wonderfully successful independent country, time would show that a good independent country does not make for a successful colony.   It was the Spanish approach that made for the more perfect mercantilist colony.

 

© All words and music written and owned by Shawn Nelsen.