In the sixteenth century, French and English monarchs had sponsored a few expeditions of discovery along the coasts of North America, and their captains claimed these lands for France and England. All attempts at establishing permanent colonies ended in failure, however, so that in 1600 the only signifi cant European colonies outside of Europe were those of Spain and Portugal, which at that time were ruled by the same Spanish monarch. In the seventeenth century, the English and French pushed further into North America, establishing successful permanent colonies. Dutch independence from Spain was recognized, and the Dutch established colonies and trading centers in North America, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. Private companies were established in England and the Netherlands to support these ventures, providing fi nancial backing, ships, and personnel. Desire to secure trade routes and access to commodities was the most important motivation for voyages of discovery, which searched for a northern passage to Asia and new lands in the southern hemisphere. Some explorers, especially Captain Cook, whose voyages were sponsored by the Royal Society, also gathered scientifi c information. In the Indian Ocean basin, fi rst the Dutch and then the British took over more and more trade. The Dutch United East India Company (VOC) dominated the spice trade, and used a variety of forced labor systems on spice and sugar plantations. In the eighteenth century the English East India Company handled the booming trade with India, made treaties with local rulers, and carried out military ventures that expanded its power further. In the Caribbean and the lands surrounding it, many European powers increasingly contested Spanish dominance, and established colonies where enslaved Africans worked producing sugar on large plantations. In North America, European countries, especially Britain and France, established settler colonies, and in the middle of the eighteenth century these were involved in a global war between Britain and France, the Seven Years War. Colonization involved the willing and coerced migration of millions of people, who carried their customs, languages, religious beliefs, foodways, and other aspects of their culture with them. These blended into new hybrid forms in many places, just as groups themselves blended through intermarriage and other sexual relationships. The Europeans who ruled the colonies developed systems of defi ning and regulating the various peoples under their control using changing conceptualizations of difference, in which a hierarchical system based on “race” became increasingly dominant. Colonization also spread Christianity around the world, carried in Catholic areas by missionaries to indigenous peoples and settlers and in Protestant areas by settlers. The development of colonies also had a powerful economic impact, though the degree to which it was the most important factor in the “rise of the west” is hotly debated.