Abstract: The explanations offered for the contrasting records of long-run growth and development among the societies of North and South America most often focus on institutions. The traditional explanations for the sources of these differences in institutions, typically highlight the significance of national heritage or religion. We, in contrast, argue that a hemispheric perspective across the wide range of colonies established in the New World by the Europeans suggests that although there were many influences, factor endowments or initial conditions had profound and enduring effects on the long-run paths of institutional and economic development followed by the respective economies.