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European nations came to the Americas to increase their wealth and broaden their influence over world affairs. Many of the people who settled in the New World came to escape religious persecution. The Pilgrims, founders of Plymouth, Massachusetts, arrived in 1620.
Europe sent manufactured goods and luxuries to North America. Europe also sent guns, cloth, iron, and beer to Africa in exchange fro gold, ivory, spices and hardwood. The primary export from Africa to North America and the West Indies was enslaved people to work on colonial plantations and farms.
Few people in the 1400s had traveled far from Europe. Then, in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed to North America. Other explorers followed. They used special navigation tools to help them cross the ocean. They brought back things of value.
In the late 1500s, European explorers discovered potatoes in South America and transported them to Spain, where the plants spread throughout Europe. Within about 50 years, Europeans transported the spuds back across the ocean to North America. Other plants moved from Europe to the New World.
However, native peoples were quickly disillusioned by treachery or mistreatment at European hands. The Europeans brought technologies, ideas, plants, and animals that were new to America and would transform peoples’ lives: guns, iron tools, and weapons; Christianity and Roman law; sugarcane and wheat; horses and cattle.
Other explorers introduced additional agricultural plants, and settlers followed with European plants that served to remind them of their faraway homes. Along with plant transportation, the Old World and New World exchanged many animal species.