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Enlightenment: Trade and Discovery
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, South America and the Caribbean had been exploited by the Spanish for centuries, and more recently also by the British. In Central America, Maya and Aztec ruins presented tantalising glimpses of ancient civilisations. The eastern part of North America included a series of well-established British colonies fighting the French for control of Canada, and later for their own independence from Britain. Native populations were devastated by epidemics and warfare, and their culture was suppressed by Europeans.
The Enlightenment period saw an increase in the race for trade, wealth and knowledge. Two of the most energetic explorers of the late eighteenth century were Captain James Cook and the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. Their First Voyage of 1768 was limited to the south, but further voyages established important new contacts in the north.