The historical phenomenon of colonization is one that stretches around the globe and across time. Modern state global colonialism, or imperialism, began in the 15th century with the “Age of Discovery”, led by Portuguese, and then by the Spanish exploration of the Americas, the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia. The Portuguese and Spanish empires were the first global empires because they were the first to stretch across different continents, covering vast territories around the globe.
In 1492, notable Genoese (Italian) explorer Christopher Columbus and his Castilian (Spanish) crew discovered the Americas for the Crown of Castile. The phrase “the empire on which the sun never sets” was first used for the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, England, France and the Dutch Republic also established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other.