The arrival of Crisobal Colón's ships to America marks the beginning of the installation of Europeans in America. The Spanish were followed along the next two centuries by the Portuguese, the English, the French, and the Dutch. All of them had contact with the pre-existing populations, who were submitted to sovereignty and deprived of a good part of their territories. At the same time, the territorial occupation was combined with a display of the institutional mechanisms, that on one hand guaranteed the political domain, the economical exploitation, and the imposition of the European cultural guidelines; while on the other, it ensured the cohabitation between the occupants themselves, the maintenance of the bonds with the metropolis, and the defense of their interests against other powers present in the region.
The solutions given to the questions appearing along this process where several depending on the geographic conditions, the populations found, the moment of arrival, the circumstances of the emigration, and the political culture of each of the European nations. This way, the common elements of an occupation and colonizing process (with its global phenomenons of biological, agricultural, commercial, and cultural exchanges) are insufficient to include the diverse variations, which are very dependent (but not exclusive) on the origin of the colonizers, so it is easier to reconstruct each of the fundamental models than attempting to present extremely general characteristics for the entire continent, or alternatively establish comparisons that always end up precisely showing the differences, that existed even between different regions of origin in a same colonizing power.