"the few settlement of Europeans, scattered thinly along the seaboard"

Though Europeans’ bids to colonize America are usually traced back to the continent’s discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1492, their incursions into this vast country were still relatively modest in the first half of the seventeenth century. Many early settlements had failed; prior to the 1600s, only Spain and Portugal were significant colonial powers. Thereafter, other European nations began to stake out their territories and by the 1640s, Spain had established eight colonies on American soil; Britain and the Netherlands had six each; France had two; and Norway, Portugal and Sweden all held one. With the exception of France’s hold on inland areas of Canada, all these settlements were clustered along the Atlantic seaboard: the forbidding land prevented any ventures deeper into the interior.