The Colonial era began in the 1400s. They were planning to sail to Asia, but ran into the Western Hemisphere instead. Independence was declared by the U.S. in 1776 and by most Latin American states in the early 1800s. European states then conquered parts of Africa and Asia. This is referred to as Imperialism, which is control of territory already occupied and organized by an indigenous society. The UK assembled the largest colonial empire to date. Britain controlled colonies on every continent in existence. Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and Canada were controlled by Britain. Both Britain and France also conquered a large number of strategic islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. France controlled the second largest colonial empire. Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium all established colonies outside of Europe.