The Vikings were the first Europeans to reach the Americas, starting but then abandoning a colonization process.

This first phase of modern European activity in this region began with the oceanic crossings of Christopher Columbus, sponsored by Spain, and those of other explorers such as John Cabot, sponsored by England, and Giovanni da Verrazano, sponsored by France.

The Portuguese also participated in the American colonization and went to the area of what's now Brazil.

In the British and French regions, the focus of economy soon shifted from resource extraction to trading with the natives. This was also practiced by the Russians on the northwest coast of North America. After the French and Indian War, Great Britain captured all French possessions in North America.

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