European colonization of the Americas actually started as early as in the 10th - 11th century, when West Norse sailors firstly explored and briefly settled quite limited areas on the shores of present-day Canada. Those Vikings appeared to be Norwegians who had settled Iceland, discovered Greenland and sailed up the Arctic region of North America and down alongside Canada just to explore and settle. As Icelandic Sagas state, fierce conflicts with the indigenous population made the Norse abandon those settlements.
Extensive European colonization started in 1492, when a Spanish expedition of Christopher Columbus sailed west in order to find a new trade route to the Far East, though inadvertently landed in what later became known to Europeans as the New World. Then, European conquest, a large-scale exploration, colonization as well as industrial development took place. Columbus' first two voyages (1492–93) reached the Bahamas as well as various Caribbean islands, such as Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. In 1497, sailing from Bristol on behalf of England, brave John Cabot landed on the North American coast, and just a year later, Columbus's third voyage got to the South American coast. As the number one sponsor of Christopher Columbus's sea trips, Spain appeared to be the first European power to settle and then colonize the vast areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America. By the way, Spanish cities were founded in 1496 there with Santo Domingo in today's Dominican Republic.
Other powers such as France also dared to found colonies in the Americas. For instance, they did it in eastern North America, in a number of Caribbean islands, as well as in small coastal parts of South America. Then, Portugal managed to colonize Brazil. This country also tried to colonize the coasts of present-day Canada. It settled for extended periods northwest of the River Plate. In fact, the Age of Exploration appeared to be the start of territorial expansion for several European countries. At that time Europe had been overwhelmed with internal wars, and it was slowly reviving from the loss of population provoked by the bubonic plague; therefore the rapid rate at which it grew in prosperity and power was fully unforeseeable in the early 15th century.
Eventually, the whole Western Hemisphere found itself under the ostensible control of European authorities, thus leading to deep changes to its population, landscape, plant as well as animal life.
European colonization of the Americas actually started as early as in the 10th - 11th century, when West Norse sailors firstly explored and briefly settled quite limited areas on the shores of present-day Canada.