From the 16th to 18th century, European nations invaded and settled large areas of North America. The colonists often attacked and dispersed the American Indians, and fought each other for control of the territory.
The Spanish reached Florida in 1513, and in 1565 founded St. Augustine, the first European settlement in what is now the US. They were the first Europeans to see the Mississippi River and to reach Kansas. The Spanish also extended Mexico northward into Texas, New Mexico, and California. These territories would become part of the US in the 19th century.
Europeans settled in the New World for many reasons. Some were religious refugees, such as the Quakers, who were unable to worship freely in their own lands. Some were convicted criminals, sent to work in the colonies as a punishment. Some were outlaws or pirates. Others were farmers or business people looking for good land and opportunities.
In 1682, the French explorer Robert de la Salle claimed all the lands around the Mississippi River for France. The region was named Louisiana, after King Louis XIV of France. Most of the eastern part passed to Spain and then to the US, while the western part was purchased by the US from the French in 1803.
The English seafarer Sir Walter Raleigh organized three expeditions to North America after 1584. He named Virginia after Elizabeth I of England, known as the “Virgin Queen” because she never married. In 1607, Jamestown in Virginia became the first British settlement on the Atlantic coast and became wealthy through the export of tobacco.