In the beginning of the 16th century all of the major European powers had essentially split up the New World, and had even attempted to set up colonies in the Oriental world, but were thwarted quickly and easily by the Japanese and Chinese merchants and military.
France had colonies in Africa, Canada, and along the Mississippi, as well as whole islands such as (now) Haiti, and Martinique. The British owned territories in Jamaica, Barbados, and most of the eastern coast of North America. Spain controlled Florida, California, New Mexico, and many sugar producing islands in the Caribbean, as well as a majority of mainland South America (except for Brazil which was populated and controlled by the Portuguese). After the Spanish War of Succession in the early 1700’s the Spanish monarchy set out to strengthen their grip on those particular colonies. The Dutch also had a sprawling colonial hold. They were in control of colonies in India and Africa, and many other islands, which are now a part of the Republic of Indonesia.
The colonies didn’t have much political power but they were indispensable to their controlling countries. And when the home countries have issues with one another, you can be sure that the colonists get involved. The rivals between the French and the British were the most intense. Other than the War of Spanish Succession, the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years Wars brought the European soldiers over to North America to settle a conflict that essentially had nothing to do with the colonies.
These conflicts led to the movement of the colonial boundaries in North America. For example the British captured the French city of Quebec, and a majority of the French islands in the Caribbean, as well as the Bengal province in India. By 1763 the French had only a portion of the land they originally controlled in 1754 when the conflict began in the Americas.