European Military Conquests, 1500–1900

The wars of European conquests occurred around the globe in primarily two “waves”—the first major period of expansion took place from approximately 1500 to 1800, whereas the second period of imperial conquest began in the second half of the 19th century. Although European empires continuously fought for influence and control over peoples and territories throughout history, European expansion increased notably during these two time periods. While scholars reject the notion of innate European “superiority” as an explanation for the European conquests, two key aspects of the European conquests are the role of cultural contact and exchange and the impact of technology.

During the first wave, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England, and France waged wars in North and South America, Africa, and the Indian Ocean to ...

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