Columbus discovered America. Hernando Cortez conquered the
Aztecs. Francisco Pizzaro conquered the Incas. Two advanced
civilizations practically fell into Spainís lap. Within a
few short decades, the Spanish crown was awash with riches
beyond its wildest dreams. They took over operating gold and
silver mines. They decapitated and replaced the leadership
of vertically organized political and social hierarchies.
They inherited massive, ready-made, labor forces. Then they
looted and squandered that wealth like no empire before or
after. In contrast, for the British in the Americas, wealth
didnít come nearly as easily. Their colonies had to be built
from the ground up, taking more time, more capital, and more
ingenuity. As it turned out, though, the ultimate value of
Britainís hard efforts was far greater than the instant value
of Spainís grandiose riches. Britain vanquished Spainís armada.
Britain leaped ahead of Spain with its industrial revolution.
And Britain left Spain in the dust as a world power. America
"inherited" the British Empire and built it into
the new world order.