account_circle Log in
add Create
cancel Log out
settings Settings
Email address


British colonial America

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

▶︎ View related▼︎ Tap to hide
There were many motivations for England to colonize America: mercantilism, land and religion.
England needed more land to fuel domestic agricultural consumption and wool cloth exports.

Driven by mercantilism, in the 16th century many English landowners had converted their agricultural lands to sheep pastures. Wool was spun into wool cloth, which was exported primarily to Antwerp. Agricultural output fell while the English population grew enormously by a third. Agricultural land was scarce. To compound misery, the Antwerp cloth market began to collapse in the 1550s. England believed colonies would solve their land and market problems.

England first attempt at colonization was with Ireland, where the English brutally subjugated the Irish, avoided miscegenation and sought to replace the population with English immigrants. This precedent was largely repeated in America, in sharp contrast to Spain and Portugal's attitude toward intermarriage that led to the rise of a mixed-race mestizo majority in their colonial territories.

Later, religion would also drive colonization.

Against the backdrop of the English Reformation, various religious groups in England believed that America offered freedom from harassment. Most Puritans were happy with Anglican services; their desire to purify (hence their name) what they deemed frivolous Catholic ritual and adornment was sated by the trimmed-down Anglican service. They wanted to remain under the Anglican umbrella. However, radical Puritans called Separatists established separate congregations with especially ascetic, Calvinist services.

English king James I favored Catholic rites, and Anglicanism shifted away from Protestantism. To compound their dismay, James I directly ostracized the Puritans with taxation and by favoring Catholics when granting charters and other favors. The Puritans were eager to leave England for the New World, where they would seek to establish a society built on their ideals. Similarly, Catholics also established New World settlements.

England would issue a group a charter, grant or patent for a specific American region, exclusively permitting that group certain rights for that region.

English exploration


John Cabot's voyage


Just five years after Spain first contacted America, so did England when John Cabot made his voyage.

Queen Elizabeth I

1558 - 1603

Gilbert gets patent


Sir Humphrey Gilbert's voyage obtained from Queen Elizabeth a six-year exclusive right "to inhabit and possess any remote and heathen lands not already in the possession of any Christian prince."

Gilbert's voyage


After several setbacks, Gilbert led an expedition to America to establish a profitable colony, but en route the ship disappeared in a storm.

Raleigh's voyage


Gilbert's half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh received his own six-year grant from Queen Elizabeth and sent a small expedition to explore North America. When they returned, Raleigh named the region they had explored Virginia after Queen Elizabeth, known as the Virgin Queen.


est 1585
English crown

Sponsored by Queen Elizabeth and spearheaded by Raleigh, a failed Lost Colony was founded on Roanoke Island.

The first English voyage to America was sponsored by King Henry VIII and lead by John Cabot.

England's first documented contact with the New Wold came only five years after Spain's. In 1497, John Cabot (like Columbus, a native of Genoa) sailed to the northeastern coast of North America on an expedition sponsored by King Henry VII, in an unsuccessful search for a northwest passage through the New World to the Orient. But nearly a century passed before the English made any serious efforts to establish colonies in America. Brinkley, p 19

However, England was checked by Spanish hegemony and did not make intrusions into America for almost a century.

Through much of the sixteenth century, the English had harbored mixed feelings about the New World. They were intrigued by its possibilities, but they were also leery of Spain, which remained the dominant force in America. In 1588, however, King Philip II of Spain sent one of the largest military fleets in the history of warfare -- the Spanish Armada -- across the English Channel to attack England itself. The smaller English fleet, taking advantage of its greater maneuverability, defeated the armada and, in a single stroke, ended Spain's domination of the Atlantic. This great shift in naval power caused English interest in colonizing the New World to grow quickly. Brinkley, p 24

However, Queen Elizabeth sought to expand English penetration in America's potential. England's first American colony was established on Roanoke island.

Sir Walter Raleigh spearheaded England's first colony in America, but its failure and his own political miscalculations at home led to his fall from favor. In the early 17th century he assigned his charter rights to a London merchant group and they sponsored exploratory voyages to Virginia. A rival merchant group from Plymouth sponsored voyages north of Virginia. However, England colonization would remain on hiatus until King James I.

In 1585, Raleigh recruited his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, to lead a group of men to the island of Roanoke, off the coast of what is now North Carolina, to establish a colony. Grenville deposited the settlers on the island, destroyed an Indian village as retaliation for a minor theft, and returned to England. The following spring, with long-overdue supplies and reinforcements from England, Sir Frances Drake unexpectedly arrived in Roanoke. The dispirited colonists boarded his ships and left.

Raleigh tried again in 1587, sending an expedition to Roanoke carrying ninety-one men, seventeen women, and nine children. The settlers attempted to take up where the first group of colonists had left off. John White, the commander of the expedition, returned to England after several weeks, in search of supplies and additional settlers. Because of a war with Spain, he was unable to return to Roanoke for three years. When he did, in 1590, he found the island utterly deserted, with no clue to the fate of the settlers other than the cryptic inscription "Croatoan" carved on a post. Brinkley, p 24

English colonization

The English immigrants to America found a world populated by Native American tribes; by colonists, explorers and traders from Spain, France and the Netherlands; and by immigrants from other parts of Europe and, soon, Africa. ... All of British North America was, in effect, a border-land, or middle ground, during the early years of colonization. ... Middle grounds survived well into the nineteenth century in much of North America, but increasingly in the borderland in the interior of the continent. These were communities in which Europeans had not yet established full control, in which both Indians and Europeans exercised influence and power and lived intimately, if not uneasily, with one another. Brinkley, p 28

In 1606, James I issued a charter that split North America: the London Company had exclusive rights to the south; the Plymouth Company, the north.

These companies' efforts led to the first permanent English colonies in America. However, the Plymouth Company was slower in its efforts than the London Company, and thus the north (later known as New England) did not get settled quite so rapidly. However, the Plymouth Company did sponsor explorers in the region. After leaving Jamestown, Captain John Smith was sponsored to explore the north. He wrote an enthusiastic pamphlet about the lands and called them New England.


King James I

reign 1603 - 1625

Virginia colony

est 1607

Jamestown was the first permanent British settlement in America. Thus, the Virginia colony was formed.



First African workers in Virginia


Virginia House of Burgesses meets.


The Virginia colony comes under royal control. Up to this point, 8,500 European had come to the colony and 80% had died.

1642 - 1677

Sir William Berkeley is royal governor of Virginia.


Bacon's Rebellion

Plymouth colony

est 1620

Pilgrims found Plymouth colony.

King Charles I

reign 1625 - 1649

Massachusetts Bay colony

est 1630

Puritans establish Massachusetts Bay Colony



Anne Hutchinson expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony.


The Pequot War between the Pequot tribes and the settlers in the Connecticut Valley saw the Indigenous there almost completely eliminated.


King Philip's War, the most prolonged and deadly war between Indigenous and whites in the 17th century.

Maryland colony

est 1634

Maryland founded by English Catholics.



Lord Baltimore received the charter for Maryland.


Act Concerning Religion codified, embodying Maryland's religious tolerance (stemming from its Catholic founders' desire to protect themselves as minorities.

Rhode Island colony


Roger Williams founds Rhode Island in New England.

English Civil War

1642 - 1651

The buildup and aftermath of the English Civil War meant that England established no new American colonies for thirty years. After King Charlies I issued Maryland's charter in 1632, the next charter was not until King Charles II began issuing them in 1661. (However, Rhode Island was established during this interim by a breakaway group within America.)

King Charles II

reign 1660 - 1685

Navigation Acts

1660, 1663, 1673

The three Navigation Acts were part of England's tightening of colonial trade, to bring the colonies under the royal yoke in a mercantilist ideal.

Carolina colony

chartered 1663

Carolina's proprietors chose the name in honor of King Charles II. It diverged into two distinct zones under one colony: the backwoods, egalitarian north; and the large, slave-driven southern plantations.



Charles II issued eight proprietors joint title to a vast territory, defined after a 1665 revision as spanning from Virginia to the Florida peninsula and west to the Pacific Ocean.


Fundamental Constitution for Carolina written, with aid from John Locke.


Anthony Ashley Cooper leads 300 people to Carolina; only 100 survive the voyage. They establish themselves at Port Royal.


These hardy colonists establish Charles Town (later Charleston).


Charles Town becomes the colonial capital.


Colonists seize control from the proprietors.


The king divides Carolina into two royal colonies: North Carolina and South Carolina.


The Stono Rebellion was a slave rebellion in South Carolina; it was the largest in English colonial America.

New York

chartered 1664


English capture New Netherlands.

Pennsylvania colony

chartered 1681



William Penn received a charter for the Quaker colony Pennsylvania.


Charter of Liberties establishes a representative assembly, limits Penn's absolute authority and permits the three southern counties to establish their own assembly.


The three southern counties establish their own assembly, effectively forming a separate colony known as Delaware.

Dominion of New England

1686 - 1689

A central government, based in Boston, with a royally-appointed governor. It replaced the New England governments (though Massachusetts had already been a royal colony since 1684) and later incorporated New York and New Jersey too. When William and Mary undid the Dominion, the colonies for the most part reverted to their previous colonial governments.

Glorious Revolution


King James II was exiled and William and Mary assumed the throne. Parliament continued to exercise growing power over the monarchy.


chartered 1732

Stono Rebellion


The largest slave rebellion in English colonial America, in 1739 in South Carolina.

Great Awakening

1730s - 1740s

The Great Awakening was the first major American religious revival, a response to declining piety. Jeremiads (emotional, despairing sermons) stirred people back to piety. Also, the Great Awakening activated the public with its message that everyone could break with their past and start a new life.

Seven Years' War

1754 - 1763

War erupted in North America in 1754 between French colonists, British colonists and the Iroquois. In 1756 it became a global war until its conclusion in 1763 (hence the name Seven Years' War). It was known as the French and Indian War to the English colonial Americans.

The War forced the colonies to cooperate for the first time. It was an extension of a long series of conflicts that emerged in Europe after the Glorious Revolution.



French and Indian War begins when the French attack Fort Necessity.


Albany Plan for inter-colonial cooperation rejected.


Seven Years' War begins


William Pitt brings the war under British control.


Assault on Quebec marks beginning of end of war.

The enormous debt that Britain incurred in the French and Indian War prompted those in the motherland to call for the colonies to come under stricter control and produce more tax revenue.

Atlantic seaboard

The region is divided various ways.

European family life in New England was much more stable and traditional than in the Chesapeake. The southern economy was focused on cash crops like tobacco, unlike the north (rice in South Carolina and Virginia). The south thus was less diversified and robust. Each new settlement in colonial New England drew up a covenant to formalize the settlers' commitment to unity and harmony. After the 1650s, the population increase was driven primarily by reproduction. Between 1650 and 1700, the population in New England quadrupled through reproduction alone (as opposed to immigration). An unbalanced sex ratio meant that women married young, were rarely unmarried and had lives consumed by childbirth (and often multiple marriages, as their husbands often died, if they themselves did not die during childbirth). From 1650 to 1775, the sex ratio improved because birth rates rose and more women chose to immigrate. Most slaves in North American colonies worked as field hands. North American slave culture was characterized by a synthesis of Christian and traditional African beliefs, and a strong family structure.

Primary eighteenth century religious groups included the Church of England (the official faith in many colonies), Baptists (a variety of sects that all believed in a full immersion baptism), Puritans (increasingly identified with Congregationalists and Presbytarians), and Dutch Reformers (a Calvinist denomination chiefly in New York and New Jersey).

Virginia colony



est 1607

The first permanent English settlement, Jamestown was located in Chesapeake Bay, Jamestown was a dismal failure initially and most of the colonists died, if they even survived the voyage. Captain John Smith took control in 1608 and succeeded in slowing Jamestown's precipitous descent to collapse. 144 aspiring colonists had left England; 104 arrived in America; and just 38 survived when Smith arrived.


begins 1610

The Virginia Company installed a governor over Virginia. Under strong gubernatorial leadership, the colony was able to begin ascending and making profit.

Tobacco farming

begins 1612

House of Burgesses

1619 Jul 30

American slavery


Virginia received the first African slaves or servants in British colonial America. A Dutch ship brought in about two dozen African captives. They may have been indentured servants to be released after a fixed time, or permanent slaves. However, wide-scale African enslavement in British colonial America did not develop until the 1670s.


Powhattans attack Virginia and 347 Europeans are killed.

Royal control


The Virginia Company had gone defunct, but Virginia was succeeded. English king James I revoked the Virginia Company's charter. Control over the colony was transferred to the king, and the monarchy retained control until 1776.

Governor Berkeley

1642 - 1677

Bacon's Rebellion


Jamestown was founded in 1607 by the London Company.

The London Company was a group of London merchants. Upon receiving a charter from English king James I in 1606, they quickly put together 144 men and three ships (the Godspeed, Discovery and Susan Constant) and set sail in early 1607. Only 104 men had survived the trip when the ships reached the American coast in spring 1607. They sailed into Chesapeake Bay and up a river they named the James. They established Jamestown colony on an inland, low, marshy swamp on a peninsula. It was surrounded by forest and hostile Indigenous. The colony suffered tremendously from disease, famine and assault.

Their London bosses diverted the colonists on futile gold searches, and meager campaigns to acquire lumber, tar, pitch and iron for export. Meanwhile, they had a devastating shortage of food and agriculture. Also, there were almost no women; thus, there were no families, and by extension no real community.Only 38 of the 104 colonists was still alive when ships arrived in January 1608 with additional men and supplies.

With the colonists decimated and leadership bitterly divided, Jamestown was a disaster until Captain John Smith took control in fall 1608.

Captain Smith imposed work and order on the community. Also, he organized raids on neighboring Indian villages to steal food and kidnap a work force. The colony's second winter saw the death of less than a dozen colonists. By summer 1609, the colony showed promise.

Jamestown was initially a failure, but the London Company (renamed the Virginia Company) had grand dreams for its American enterprise.

It offered stock in the company to planters who were willing to migrate at their own expense. And it provided free passage to Virginia for poorer people who would agree to serve the company for seven years. In the spring of 1609, the Virginia Company dispatched a fleet of nine vessels with about 600 people aboard (including some women and children) to Virginia. Disaster followed. One of the Virginia-bound ships was lost at sea in a hurricane. Another ran aground on one of the Bermuda islands and was unable to free itself for months. Many of those who reached Jamestown succumbed to fevers before winter came. The winter of 1609-1610 became known as the "starving time." The local Indians killed off the livestock in the woods and kept the colonists barricaded within their palisade. The Europeans lived on what they could find: "dogs, cats, rats, snakes, toadstools, horsehides," and even the "corpses of dead men," as one survivor recalled. When the migrants who had run aground in Bermuda finally arrived in Jamestown the following May, they found only about 60 emaciated people still alive. The new arrivals took the survivors onto their ship and sailed for home. But as the refugees proceeded down the James, they met an English ship coming up the river -- part of a fleet bringing supplies and the colony's first governor, Lord De La Warr. The departing settlers agreed to return to Jamestown. New relief expeditions with hundreds of colonists soon began to arrive, and the effort to turn a profit in Jamestown resumed. Brinkley, p 29 - 31

Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr was appointed by the Virginia Company as part of its American ambitions and in 1610 he was shipped off to Jamestown. Under gubernatorial leadership, Virginia survived and even expanded.

New settlements began lining the river above and below Jamestown. That was partly because of the order and discipline the governors at times managed to impose and because of increased military assaults on the local Indian tribes to protect the new settlements. But it was also because the colonists had at last discovered a marketable crop: tobacco. Brinkley, p 31

Tobacco farming boomed. But it not only required enormous acreage, but also depleted the soil, demanding even more land. Also, it spiked demand for labor and the headright system was established.

Though African servants or slaves first arrived in 1619, the planters preferred European indentured servants until the 1670s. These indentured servants would toil for a fixed amount of time.

In 1612, the Jamestown planter John Rolfe began trying to cultivate the crop in Virginia. Tobacco planting soon spread up and down the James. ... English farmers began establishing plantations deeper and deeper in the interior, isolating themselves from Jamestown and penetrating farther into the territory of native tribes. ... To entice new workers to the colony, the Virginia Company established what it called the "headright system." Headrights were fifty-acre grants of land. Those who already lived in the colony received two headrights (100 acres) apiece. Each new settler received a single headright for himself or herself. This system encouraged family groups to migrate together, since the more family members who traveled to America, the more land the family would receive. In addition, anyone who paid for the passage of immigrants to Virginia would receive an extra headright for each arrival. As a result, some colonists were able to assemble large plantations. Brinkley, p 31

The Virginia Company nurtured the colony into a fledgling society.

The Virginia Company not only promoted tobacco farming, it also diversified the economy by bringing ironworkers and other skilled craftsmen to Virginia. In 1619, it even shipped 100 Englishwomen to the colony to provide wives for the male colonists.

[The Virginia Company] promised the male colonists the full rights of Englishmen (as provided in the original charter of 1606), an end to strict and arbitrary rule, and even a share in self-government. On July 30, 1619, delegates from the various communities met as the House of Burgesses, the first elected legislature within what was to become the United States. Brinkley, p 31

In 1624, as the Virginia Company collapsed, the English monarchy took control of the Virginia colony.
Sir William Berkeley was royal governor of Virginia from 1642 to 1677, with one brief interruption. He kept a firm grip.

Berkeley consolidated his power but permitting only white male landowners to elect delegates to the House of Burgesses (previously, all white males could do so) and keeping elections rare. This led to tension between the well-represented established planters from eastern Virginia, known as the tidewater region; and the poorly represented planters from western Virginia, the backcountry region.

Europeans learned much from the Indigenous. However, as Virginia expanded under control by the Virginia Company and then especially the English crown royal control, hostilities exploded.

Virginia's Indigenous were sedentary farmers, hunters and fishers, and the English quickly learned their well-adapted agricultural, hunting and fishing techniques. This enabled the English to tremendously expand their yields, and prosper. Battles were frequent and the death toll was high. Amid all this was the famous story of Pocahontas, who had mediated peace between the Europeans and her tribe. She was later kidnapped by the Europeans and, once Anglicized, paraded in England as the wife of John Rolfe.

In his [Sir William Berkeley's] first years as governor, he helped open up the interior of Virginia by sending explorers across the Blue Ridge Mountains and crushing a 1644 Indian uprising. The defeated Indians agreed to a treaty ceding to England most of the territory east of the mountains and establishing a boundary, west of which white settlement would be prohibited. But the rapid growth of the Virginia population made this agreement difficult to sustain. Brinkley, p 34 - 35

Virginia's tensions with tribes, and Virginia's internal schism between the tidewater and backcountry, erupted in 1676 with Bacon's Rebellion.

Nathaniel Bacon had a good backcountry farm and a seat on Governor Berkeley's council. But Governor Berkeley was tidewater, and did not support western expansion. Further, he personally chafed Bacon by not permitting Bacon to enter the Berkeley-controlled Indian fur trade. In 1675, the backcountry became consumed by a bitter conflict with local tribes. When Berkeley refused Bacon's request for intervention by the Virginia military, and even denied Bacon's request to organize his own backcountry militia, Bacon decided to ignore Berkeley. Bacon led campaigns against the Indigenous, and Berkeley retaliated by proclaiming Bacon's unauthorized military to be a rebellion.

Bacon's Rebellion ensued when Bacon led his army straight to Jamestown. The first time he entered Jamestown, Governor Berkeley issued a temporary pardon. When Berkeley failed his promises, Bacon returned to Jamestown. This time, he pillaged the city and forced Berkeley into exile. Bacon suddenly died of dysentery, and Berkeley regained control.

Despite Bacon's sudden death, his rebellion had enormous consequences: the Indigenous lost land, and the labor supply shifted to African slaves.

Berkeley had previously sought to maintain the westward boundary to avoid antagonizing the Indigenous. But now he saw to it that the Indigenous reluctantly ceded more backcountry land to the Virginians. Also, there was a social shift away from indentured European servants who could eventually rebel against Virginia's aristocracy. Instead, labor would be extracted from African slaves kept permanently subjugated.

Landed elites in both eastern and western Virginia began to recognize a common interest in quelling social unrest from below. That was among the reasons that they turned increasingly to the African slave trade to fulfill their need for labor. African slaves, unlike white indentured servants, did not need to be released after a fixed term and hence did not threaten to become an unstable, landless class. Brinkley, p 35

Maryland colony

George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, envisioned establishing a colony in America both as a great speculative venture in real estate and as a refuge for English Catholics like himself. Calvert died while still negotiating with the king for a charter to establish a colony in the Chesapeake region. But in 1632, his son Cecilius, the second Lord Baltimore, finally received the charter. Lord Baltimore named his brother, Leonard Calvert, as governor of the colony. Brinkley, p 33


St Mary's

est March 1634

In March 1634, the Ark and the Dove entered the Potomac River, carrying Leonard Calvert and 200 to 300 English colonists. They established St Mary's on a bluff along a tributary. Friendly Indigenous tribes befriended the settlers, gave them temporary shelter and donated corn.

House of Delegates


John Goode's revolt


Upon hearing of the Glorious Revolution, the Protestant John Goode led a revolt that overthrew Catholic Lord Baltimore's government.

Royal colony


Maryland became a royal colony. The colonial assembly established the Church of England as the colony's official religion and excluded Catholics from public office; this was the worst Catholic persecution in the colonies.

Proprietary colony


Maryland once more became a proprietary colony when the fifth Lord Baltimore became an Anglican.

Lord Baltimore had almost kingly power over his charter. He granted land primarily via nepotism and wealth connections, creating a distinct upper class.

At the insistence of the first settlers, the Calverts agreed in 1635 to the calling of a representative assembly -- the House of Delegates. But the proprietor retained absolute authority to distribute land as he wished, and since Lord Baltimore granted large estates to his relatives and to other English aristocrats, a distinct upper class soon established itself. ... The great landlords of the colony's earliest years remained powerful. Brinkley, p 33

A labor shortage necessitated a headright system similar to that in Virginia.

A severe labor shortage forced a modification of the land-grant procedure; and Maryland, like Virginia, adopted a headright system -- a grant of 100 acres to each male settler, another 100 for his wife and each servant, and 50 for each of his children. Brinkley, p 33

The economy was much like Virginia.

Tobacco was Maryland's cash crop, and indentured English servants provided labor. It was only by the end of the 17th century that these indentured servants were replaced with African slaves.

However, being founded by a Catholic minority, and remaining a minority even in the colonies, Maryland took a unique stance on religious freedom.

The Calverts needed to attract thousands of settlers to Maryland if their expensive colonial venture was to pay. As a result, they had to encourage the immigration of Protestants as well as their fellow English Catholics. The Calverts soon realized that Catholics would always be a minority in the colony, and so they adopted a policy of religious toleration, embodied in the 1649 "Act Concerning Religion." Nevertheless, politics in Maryland remained plagued for years by tensions, and at times violence, between the Catholic minority and the Protestant majority. Brinkley, p 33

Plymouth colony

Founded in 1620 by Puritan Separatists, Plymouth was the first enduring European settlement in New England.

Since 1608, a group of Separatists from the English hamlet Scrooby had been discreetly (and illegally) immigrating to the Netherlands. There, they could freely worship in their own congregations. However, they were horrified by how quickly their children assimilated and drifted into Dutch culture. So in 1620, the Scrooby group's leaders decided to create their own insular community in the New World. In 1620, the Virginia Company gave the Scroopy group permission to create their own colony in Virginia.

In September, 1620, the group boarded the Mayflower and sailed from Plymouth, England. The 102 persons on board thought of themselves as Pilgrims, among them thirty-five saints (Puritan Separatists) and sixty-seven strangers (those outside the congregation). In November, 1620, the Mayflower sighted land. However, they were much further north than intended and it was too late to sail south. They had arrived at Cape Cod, outside the London Company's territory.

Free from the London Company's rules, the Pilgrims created the Mayflow Compact: they would have their own government. On December 21, 1620, they stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock (incidentally named after their departure port, it had named so by John Smith during his earlier New England foray).

Conditions at Plymouth were harsh, but Indigenous assistance and William Bradford's remarkable governorship led the settlement to grow.

In the first winter, half the colonists died by malnutrition, disease and exposure. But local tribes traded with the settlers, providing the settlers with critical furs, corn agriculture, and hunting techniques. Thus, after their first autumn harvest, the settlers invited the Indigenous for a festival: the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims created a profitable fish and fur trade, though the sandy, marshy soil negated any large-scale agriculture.

Plymouth Plantation chose William Bradford to be governor, and he successfully guided the settlement. More colonists arrived from England, swelling the population to three hundred within a decade. However, thirteen years after the first Thanksgiving, the Indigenous were eradicated by a smallpox epidemic brought by Europeans coming to the settlement. Plymouth was very poor, but the people were happy to live their lives as they saw fit.

The first white settlers had generally friendly relations with the natives. Indians taught whites how to grow vital food crops such as corn, beans, pumpkins, and potatoes; they also taught them new agricultural techniques. European farmers also benefited from the extensive lands Indians had already cleared (and either abandoned or sold). White traders used Indians as partners in some of their most important trading activities. ... But as in other areas of white settlement, tensions soon developed -- primarily as a result of the white colonists' insatiable appetite for land. The particular character of those conflicts emerged as well out of Puritan attitudes toward the natives. The religious leaders came to consider the tribes a threat to their hopes of creating a godly community in the New World. Gradually, the image of Indians as helpful neighbors came to be replaced by the image of Indians as "heathens" and barbarians. Brinkley, p 40

Massachusetts Bay colony

In 1630, Massachusetts Bay colony was established by Puritans prompted by Plymouth's success and English king Charles I persecutions against Puritans.

The king permitted a Puritan merchant group to form the Massachusetts Bay Company, and granted them much of modern-day Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Some Massachusetts Bay Company members envisioned a Puritan refuge in New England: a "city upon a hill" for the corrupt world to see and emulate. These members bought out stakeholders who preferred to stay in England, and elected John Winthrop as governor before setting sail in 1630 with an enormous fleet of 17 ships and 1,000 people.

The Puritans were not grave, joyless people, but they were thrifty and hard-working. They made the Massachusetts Bay colony a theocracy where state and church were one and the same, a holy commonwealth embodying their ideals.

Winthrop carried with him the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which meant that the colonists would be responsible to no company officials in England. The Massachusetts migration quickly produced several settlements. The port of Boston became the capital, but in the course of the next decade colonists established several other towns in eastern Massachusetts: Charlestown, Newton (later renamd Cambridge), Roxbury, Dorchester, Watertown, Ipswich, Concord, Sudbury, and others. Brinkley, p 37

Though beset by the initial difficulties confronting other new colonies, Massachusetts Bay soon prospered.

Nearly 200 peopled died in the first winter and many other returned to England. But the colony soon grew and thrived, with assistance from the nearby Pilgrims and neighboring Indigenous. More settlers arrived, bringing much-needed tools and other goods. The population was primarily families, giving Massachusetts Bay a strong, ordered community that could reproduce.

Massachusetts faced religious challenges by Roger Williams (who formed Rhode Island colony with his followers); and the Antimonians led by Anne Hutchinson (many of whom fled to New Hampshire, which later became a colony).

Anne Hutchinson was a forceful young woman from a powerful Boston family. Beginning in 1636, she argued that a person either did or did not have God's grace, and those who lacked it were not en route to salvation. These so-called elect could be distinguished from the rest by their actions. According to Hutchinson, many of the clergy failed the test and thus had no spiritual authority (and were going to hell). These Antimonian teachings gained a following, the Antimonians. In 1637, due to challenging not only religious institutions but the very role of women, Hutchinson was convicted of heresy and sedition and banished.

Anne Hutchinson, her family and some Antimonians moved to a point near Providence, then to New York (where in 1643, she and her family died in an Indigenous uprising). In 1639, John Wheelwright led some of his fellow Antimonians to the Exeter in New Hampshire, which had little European settlement. Others soon followed and New Hampshire became a separate colony in 1679 (meanwhile, Maine remained part of Massachusetts until 1820).

King Philip's War (1675 - 1678) was the longest and deadliest Indian-European war.

In 1675, the Wampanoag chieftain Metacomet (called King Philip by Europeans) led the Wompanoag and Narragnsett on a campaign in Massachusetts and killed over a thousand settlers. From 1676, however, the Europeans began to prevail with the help of Mohawk allies who ambushed and killed Metacomet. Without their leader, the fragile Wompanoag-Narragansett alliance collapsed and Europeans soon crushed the Indigenous. The Europeans had overwhelming number and firepower advantages.

The Indigenous used more European military technologies in the war, especially the construction of forts. This war also featured extensive Indigenous use of faster and more accurate flintlock rifles, versus the mathlock rifle that colonists still preferred. This was a direct cause of the unusually high casualty count of King Philip's War

The Narragansett, allies of the Wampanoag in King Philip's War, built an enormous fort in the Great Swamp of Rhode Island in 1675, which became the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war before English attackers burned it down. After that, a band of Narragansett set out to build a large stone fort, with the help of a member of the tribe who had learned masonry while working with the English. When English soldiers discovered the stone fort in 1676, after the end of King Philip's War, they killed most of its occupants and destroyed it. Brinkley, p 42

Connecticut colonies

Fertile land and relative isolation made the Connecticut River valley attractive to those who broke from Massachusetts.
In 1635, Newton (Cambridge) minister Thomas Hooker and his congregation established their own settlement in Connecticut. In 1639, the group ratified the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut to establish itself as Hartford colony.

In 1635, Thomas Hooker, a minister of Newton (Cambridge), defied the Massachusetts government, led his congregation west, and established the town of Hartford. Four years later, the people of Hartford and of two other newly founded towns nearby adopted a constitution known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which created an independent colony with a government similar to that of Massachusetts Bay but gave a larger proportion of the men the right to vote and hold office. Brinkley, p 38

In 1639, the the New Haven colony formed in response to perceived religious slackness in Boston. (In 1662, this colony was absorbed into the Hartford colony.)

Another Connecticut colony grew up around New Haven on the Connecticut coast. Unlike Hartford, it reflected unhappiness with what its founders considered the increasing religious laxity in Boston. The Fundamental Articles of New Haven (1639) established a Bible-based government even stricter than that of Massachusetts Bay. New Haven remained independent until 1662, when a royal charter officially gave the Hartford colony jurisdiction over the New Haven settlements. Brinkley, p 38

Rhode Island colony

Established in 1636, religious dissenter Roger Williams and some followers left Massachusetts and established the first European settlement on Rhode Island.

Williams was a confirmed separatist who argued that the Massachusetts church should abandon all allegiance to the Church of England. He also proclaimed that the land the colonists were occupying belonging to the natives. The colonial government voted to deport him, but he escaped before they could do so. During the winter of 1635-1636, he took refuge with Narragansett tribesmen; the following spring he bought a tract of land from them, and with a few followers, created the town of Providence. In 1644, after obtaining a charter from Parliament, he established a government similar to that of Massachusetts but without any ties to the church. For a time, Rhode Island was the only colony in which all faiths (including Judaism) could worship without interference. Brinkley, p 38


After receiving their charters in 1663, the eight joint proprietors initially failed at making a profitable Carolina colony.

Carolina's charter gave the proprietors almost kingly powers over their territory (like Lord Baltimore in Maryland). The proprietors reserved tremendous personal estates, then implemented a headright system (as in Virginia and Maryland) to distribute the rest. However, the proprietors hoped to attract settlers from existing American colonies, to avoid financing expensive expeditions from England. So they guaranteed religious freedom to all Christian faiths (despite being committed Anglicans) and created a representative assembly.

In fact, the earliest settlement in the Carolina territory had been Roanoke (est 1585). Also, some Virginia and New England colonists had created little settlements in what would be known as Carolina. However, the eight proprietors failed at creating a profitable, thriving colony. Many early settlers returned to England, and most of the proprietors themselves abandoned the effort.

Anthony Ashley Cooper (later 1st Earl of Shaftesbury) was one proprietor who persisted. He implemented the Fundamental Constitution, which arranged the social castes; and he convinced the proprietors to finance more expeditions.

In 1669, Anthony Ashley Cooper drew up the Fundamental Constitution for Carolina under the guidance of English philosopher John Locke. The Constitution envisioned a tidy stratification: at the top were the proprietors (known as seigneurs); beneath them, lesser nobles (landgraves, aka caciques) forming a local aristocracy; then ordinary settlers (leetmen); and at the bottom, poor whites (with few political rights) and African slaves (with no rights). Landholders had a voice in the colonial parliament, in proportion to their landholding.

Cooper's first expedition left in spring 1670 with 300 people. The 100 survivors established a settlement at Port Royal. In 1680, they established Charles Town (later Charleston) which in 1690 became the colonial capital. Cooper died in 1683 but his stewardship had put Carolina on a path to financial success.

Carolina soon diverged into two distinct regions: the prosperous, stratified, slave-driven southerners; and in the backwoods north, the relatively egalitarian small-time farmers.

Carolina was one of England's most divided American colonies. Not only was there tension between small northern farmers and wealthy southern plantation owners; but also in the south itself, between rich Barbadians and smaller landowners.

In the South, fertile lands and the good harbor at Charles Town promoted a more prosperous economy and a more stratified, aristocratic society. Settlements grew up rapidly along the Ashley and Cooper rivers, and colonists established a flourishing trade, particularly (beginning in the 1660s) in rice. Southern Carolina very early developed close commercial ties to the large (and overpopulated) European colony on the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the first ten years of settlement, in fact, most of the new residents in Carolina were Barbadians, some of whom established themselves as substantial landlords. African slavery had taken root on Barbados earlier than in any of the mainland colonies, and the white Caribbean immigrants -- tough, uncompromising profit seekers -- established a similar slave-based plantation society in Carolina. Brinkley, p 43

In 1719, Carolina's colonists seized control from the proprietors. In 1729, the king divided Carolina into two royal colonies: North Carolina and South Carolina.

New York

In 1664, Charles II granted the territory between the Connecticut and Delaware rivers to his brother James, the Duke of York (later King James II).

The Dutch already had already claimed and settled the area, with New Amsterdam being their administrative capital. In 1664, Richard Nicolls commanded some English navy vessels to New Amsterdam. Nicolls extracted a surrender from Governor Peter Stuyvesant. The Dutch contested against English rule in 1673 and reconquered New Amsterdam, but in 1674 the English permanently defeated the Dutch.

James called the land New York. It was an ethnic and religious mix of Indigenous tribes, Dutch, English, Scandinavian, German and French nationals, with a large population of African slaves imported by the Dutch West India Company. James was a Roman Catholic, but he wisely did not try to impose his religion on the colony.

Under James' control, New York remained a stratified society.

James delegated powers to a governor and a council, but there was no mandate for a representative assembly. Indeed, land and power was highly concentrated among Dutch patroons, English landlords, wealthy furriers and James' own appointees. James confirmed the Dutch patroonships, large estates amassed like the English headrights but more biased toward the Dutch aristocracy. English aristocracy also set root in New York as James granted his own political supporters with large estates. In 1663, James had even carved out the New Jersey colony for two of his political supporters.

Nonetheless, New York thrived. In 1685, James ascended from Duke of York to become English king James II. Since he took control, New York's population had quadrupled to about 30,000.

New Jersey

Upon receiving his charter, James carved out a territory from southern New York. He gave this land to Sir John Berkeley and Sir George Cateret, two of his political allies who had also been joint proprietors over Carolina.

Cateret named this land New Jersey. Like the rest of the region, New Jersey had been part of New Netherlands, but the Dutch ceded control when the English navy advanced. The weak colonial government failed to turn much profit in New Jersey, and in 1674, Berkeley sold his half. The colony divided into East Jersey and West Jersey, and they existed in tension until 1702, when they were reunited again into one colony.

New Jersey was diverse like New York, but it was not as stratified. It lacked an established, landowning aristocracy.


As political pariah, the Quakers could not receive a grant for the American colony they wished to establish. They succeeded in 1681 when William Penn used his leverage to obtain an enormous grant.

The Society of Friends was an offshoot of English Protestantism that originated in mid-17th century England under the leadership of George Fox and Margaret Fell. They held a variety of distinct beliefs, stemming from a profound egalitarianism: there was no predestination; no original sin; no formal church government; no paid clergy; and reduced gender and class distinctions. All people had the potential to attain salvation, and anyone in the congregation could speak. A few had already immigrated to America, but the Quakers wanted to establish their own American colony as an asylum. However, they were loathed in England and unable to get a royal charter for any territory.

William Penn was a wealthy, aristocratic Quaker convert who was repeatedly imprisoned for his Quaker evangelism. He and George Fox spearheaded the effort for a Quaker colony in America. When Penn's father died in 1681, and Penn extracted an enormous grant of American territory from the king to settle a debt the king had owed his father. At the king's insistence, the territory was named Pennsylvania after Penn's father.

Mild climate, fertile soil and Penn's own excellent proprietorship, ensured that Pennsylvania succeeded from the onset more than any other colony.

Penn recognized the Indigenous' sovereignty and reimbursed them for their land. In turn, they respected Penn and during his proprietorship their was peace with the Indigenous. In 1682, Penn arrived in Pennsylvania to plan the city Philadelphia, meaning brotherly love.

In 1701, Penn responded to colonial resentment toward his absolute power by signing the Charter of Liberties.

In 1701, shortly before his final return to England, Penn agreed to the Charter of Liberties. This established a representative assembly, which absorbed much of the authority that Penn had previously held. (Perhaps reflecting Quaker egalitarianism, Pennsylvania had only colonial assembly with one house.)

Also, the Charter permitted the three southern counties to establish their own representative assembly. In 1703, they did so and in effect a separate colony was formed, albeit under Pennsylvania's gubernatorial control until the American Revolution.


Delaware was established in 1703, after the Charter of Liberties (1701) had permitted a portion of Pennsylvania to establish its own representative assembly.

Despite being in essence a separate colony, Delaware remained under Pennsylvania's governor until the American Revolution.


Georgia was founded by General James Oglethorpe as a hedge against Spanish claims in the region, and as a refuge for the poor in the rest of English colonial America.

In 1732, Georgia was granted to General James Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees. Georgia was the last English colony established in what would become the United States. It was a much-needed military buffer to protect the colonies from the Spanish lands to the immediate south. But Oglethorpe deeply viewed Georgia as a new territory flung open for the English colonies' poorest to start anew: the poor could form a new colony of farmer-soldiers, rather than slide into debtors' prison.

However, only a few debtors were released from jail to settle Georgia. Instead, impoverished tradesmen from England and Scotland and religious refugees from Switzerland and Germany (including some Jews) were brought to settle Georgia. There was a smaller English proportion in Georgia than any other English colony.

They limited the size of landholdings to make the settlement compact and easier to defend against Spanish and Indian attacks. They excluded Africans, free or slave; Oglethorpe feared that slave labor would produce internal revolts and that disaffected slaves might turn to the Spanish as allies. The trustees strictly regulated trade with the Indians, again to limit the possibility of wartime insurrection. They also excluded Catholics for fear they might collude with their coreligionists in the Spanish colonies to the south. Brinkley, p 51

Oglethorpe proved to be a poor leader, and Georgia came to resemble the rest of English colonial America.

Oglethorpe was a heavy-handed ruler to ensure his vision of military and social success. However, his military campaigns were disappointing; and anyhow, the Spanish threat was fading, and with it the imperative for his strict control. An elected legislature took much of his power and disposed of Oglethorpe's heavy regulations. Georgia came to resemble the other colonies, especially the plantation aristocracy in South Carolina.

Caribbean islands

The Chesapeake was the site of the first permanent English settlements in the New World. Throughout the first half of the seventeenth century, however, the most important destinations for English immigrants were the islands of the Caribbean and the northern way station of Bermuda. More than half the English migrants to the New World in the early seventeenth century settled on these islands. The island societies had close ties to English North America. Brinkley, p 46

In the 16th century, the Indigenous were mostly eradicated by European diseases. The English thus contested with rival Europeans for Caribbean control.

Spain had claimed the entire Caribbean, but only substantially settled the largest islands: Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Thus, despite Spanish claims, the smaller islands began to host settlements by English, French and Dutch traders. When the Thirty Years' War embroiled Spain in 1621, their navy was distracted and English colonization in the Caribbean increased without retaliation. By the mid-17th century, the English had substantial Caribbean settlements, the largest being on Antigua, Saint Kitts, Jamaica and Barbados.

However, many European settlers in the Caribbean came solely to extract fortunes from plantations, then returned to England and left their plantations with overseers. European families, communities and cultures did not thrive like on the mainland.

Sugarcane soon became the dominant cash crop in the Caribbean, causing a quick demand for African slaves.

At first, English settlers in the Caribbean grew cotton and tobacco. But sugarcane was in high demand, and planters soon converted almost all their agriculture to sugarcane. However, sugarcane was very labor-intensive. As in the Chesapeake, the plantations used English indentured servants. But the uniquely harsh labor led Caribbean plantations to switch to African slave labor much sooner than their Atlantic seaboard counterparts.

By the late 17th century, there were four times as many African slaves in the Caribbean as there were European settlers.

Caribbean slavery was especially brutal and deadly.

Few African slaves survived more than a decade in the Caribbean. And it was of little concern to the plantation owners, who found it cheaper to replace than to nurture their slaves. The slavery institutions created in the Caribbean served as a model for those on the Atlantic seaboard. Also, the Caribbean was the source for most of the slaves imported to the Atlantic seaboard.

Seven Years' War

The French and Indian War saw French cede Louisiana to Spain (west of the Mississippi) and Britain (east of the Mississippi), and Spain cede Florida to Britain.

Imperial reorganization

England's American colonies thrived, and their growing success prompted more direct London control.

In the 1650s, Parliament passed laws to keep Dutch ships out of English colonies (the English did not vanquish New Netherlands until 1664). Later, Parliament passed the Navigation Acts. Passed in 1660, the first Navigation Act forbade any colonial trade except that carried by English ships, with all exports going only to England or English possessions. Passed in 1663, the second Navigation Act required all goods sent from Europe to the colonies pass through England on the way, where they were subject to English taxation. Passed in 1673, the third Navigation Act imposed duties on coast trade between the colonies; and customs officials were put in place to enforce the Navigation Acts.

The Navigation Acts ended an era. Until then, the colonies (except Virginia) had existed largely independent from England's bureaucracy. English politicians had previously exerted little control for fear that it would threaten commerce, and because provincial governors were generally inept at what laws were passed.

London increased its interference in the American colonies in an effort to enforce laws and consolidate control.

The colonies were run by governors (either appointed by proprietors or elect by the colonists) and representative assemblies. In 1675, King Charles II created the Lords of Trade to advise how to consolidate the empire. In 1679, the king followed their advice to strip Massachusetts of its authority over New Hampshire, which was chartered as a separate with a royally-appointed governor. In 1684, based on Massachusetts' defiance of the Navigation Acts, the king revoked the Massachusetts charter.

In 1685, King James II created the Dominion of New England was established as a central government to enforce London's laws more zealously than the independent colonial governments.

The New England colonies (and later New York and New Jersey too) were now all under a single Boston-based government with a single royally-appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros. The colonists loathed Andros; he strictly enforced the Navigation Acts and trampled the colonists rights.

The Glorious Revolution replaced the Catholic James II with the Protestants William and Mary. This power transfer was a vulnerable moment and colonial politics erupted in a frenzy.

Once news of the Glorious Revolution reached New England, Andros was imprisoned by the colonists. Captain Francis Nicholson was Andros' lieutenant governor in New York; he was exiled by his opponents, led by Jacob Leisler, as soon as they heard of the Glorious Revolution in May 1689. Leisler held a tenuous grip on New York's politics until William and Mary appointed a new governor. Leisler briefly resisted and was executed on grounds of treason. But Leislerian and anti-Leislerian factions continued to dominate New York politics for many years. In Maryland, the Catholic proprietor Lord Baltimore lost control. He lived in England, so it was his officials who bore the brunt when the Protestant John Goode led a revolt that drove out Baltimore's government.

The new monarchs ended the Dominion and the colonies reverted to their colonial governments. However, in 1691, the monarchs did combine Massachusetts and Plymouth into a single colony. This new colony was subject to a royally-appointed governorship; and property ownership (not church membership) was the criterion for suffrage and political office. Also in 1691, Maryland became a royal colony until 1715, during which time the colonial assembly established Anglicanism as the colony's official religion and excluded Catholics from office.

Colonial society

African slaves dominated the immigrant arrivals. The primary European stream was from German palatinates, arriving into the middle colonies, then spreading into the western backcountry. The other major stream was the Scots-Irish, who arrived primarily into the Chesapeake, also spreading into the western backcountry. The Scots-Irish suffered civil and political vulnerabilities. They could not swear the Church of England oaths required for many civic duties, and even university enrollment.

Harvard was the Europeans' first American college. Yale was founded by congregationalists. Princeton was a university that emerged from the Great Awakening as the College of New Jersey. William and Mary was established by Anglicans in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Several basic and distinctly American communities formed, including plantations in the south and towns in the north.

Also, cities were part of the English colonial American experience: New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Charles Town were walking cities, the major population centers. Sharp social distinctions existed, but Europe's rigid castes were absent.

New England towns

New England was very different. Puritans resisted sprawl: they preferred close-knit towns.

These New England towns had community obligation and strict social constraints (and also help from the community, when needed). There was little expectation of privacy. Puritans were highly literate, valued education and valued close access to churches. Their community centered on the township, and the town meeting was very important. The town meeting was a relatively egalitarian place where issues big and small were discussed and brought to a consensus. Also, colonial courts were very important. They were less focused than modern United States courts. They dealt with a variety of issues and even had some executive power.

By the later half of the 17th century, they saw that younger generations' piety was diminishing. Simultaneously, flareups with the Indigenous, and smallpox epidemics, were viewed as evidence of damnation. Witchcraft, the devil itself, was viewed as having invaded New England.

Indentured servants

English colonial America developed indentured servitude, which provided free or low cost voyages to America in exchange for a fixed term of labor.

In the South, the average immigrant was a thirty-something male; there were six male immigrants to each female. He was landless and relatively poor. He received a free or low cost voyage to America, and in exchange labored for a fixed term. Length of service was determined by the amount borrowed (for the voyage), and the indentured servant's age (the younger, the longer); but the average term was four to seven years. Indentured servitude predominated in the South. To the north it was primarily families who immigrated. New Englanders had sometimes brought servants, but recorded servants grow very rare after a few decades.

English indentured servants were eventually replaced with African slaves by the late 17th century. The primary factor was the expansion of large plantations cultivating very labor-intensive cash crops. However, it also coincided with England's improving economy. Less English were willing to become indentured servants. Also, African slaves went down in price. By 1675 the balance had tilted and African slaves was the norm for satisfying agricultural labor needs.

Southern plantations

The plantation system arose from major cash crops, with some regional variation.

Tobacco was the cash crop in the northern South, where slaves socialized with one another while working; and rice and even cotton in the coastal South, where slaves were organized into sex-segregated slave gangs that did not engage in much socialization while working.

The Great Awakening

Major figures included John and Charles Wesley, Methodism's founders and powerful evangelists who visited Georgia and other colonies in the 1730s; Jonathan Edwards, a New England congregationalist who attacked the idea of easy salvation and spewed vivid descriptions of hell; and George Whitefield, an outdoor preacher who made several tours through English colonial America. The terms Old Light and New Light referred to traditionalists and revivalists.

The Great Awakening penetrated New England, but had less impact in the South. As an evangelical movement, it placed the church above all else -- even the family. However, European and African Southerners placed their family before the church and their community. Further, evangelism often had muted protests against slavery.

African slavery

Slaves were forcibly removed from Africa; their migration was forced. The slave trade by Africa was controlled by Africans, mainly tribal rules (local rulers) who controlled coastal regions where slave traders were based. Many slaves were either captured or sold into captivity. Planters who grew tobacco, rice, cotton or sugarcane preferred slaves from particular regions with relevant agricultural practices.

Slave women not only had to labor, but also had to reproduce. Reproduction helped ensure that they were not sold. Oftentimes, their children did not arise from consensual sex; slaveowners often forced themselves on their slaves. No law recognized this rape of black women (though there was for white women). Further, a child born to a slave was also a slave.



Albany Plan

A plan proposed by Benjamin Franklin to set up a "central government" to manage relations with the Indigenous. This was the first real plan for a unified colonial government.

Anne Hutchinson

Charismatic person who antagonized Massachusetts Bay Colony's leaders by arguing that some in the clergy had no spiritual authority.

Bacon's Rebellion

A major conflict that arose from Indian-European, tidewater-backwater and rich-poor tensions.

Cotton Mather

Puritan theologian who promoted smallpox immunization.


White immigrants of French descent.

Dominion of New England

James II combined the Massachusetts government with the other New England colonial governments, and later also included New York and New Jersey.

George and Cecilius Calvert

Father and son, the first and second Lord Baltimore, who were instrumental in Maryland's founding.

George Whitefield

An English evangelist and preacher who made several highly successful tours through English colonial America. He was an important figure in the Great Awakening.


Fifty- or hundred-acre land grants available in various ways to new settlers.


These French Calvinists were the first mainland Europeans to migrate to the English colonies in America.

Humphrey Gilbert

Sir Humphrey Gilbert spearheaded English colonization of America. Half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh.


British military practice of forcibly enlisting colonists.

Indentured servants

After serving for a fixed time, upon release an indentured servant often did not receive what they had been promised and found themselves unprepared and ill-equipped for independence. And compared to their male counterparts, female indentured servants often faced an even worse social standing with poor prospects.

Iroquois Confederacy

Five Indigenous nations that had formed a defensive alliance in the fifteenth century. The most powerful Indigenous group in the Ohio Valley.

Jacob Leisler

Man who raised a militia in 1689 and proclaimed himself the head of the New York government.

James Oglethorpe

Leader of the first colonial expedition to Georgia. Had a grand vision about how the colony should be organized and governed.


Charleston, South Carolina and Newport, Rhode Island were colonial cities with significant Jewish populations.

John Peter Zenger

New York publisher who was tried for libel in 1734 - 1735. It was determined, however, that one could not be sued for libel if the supposed libel was true.

John Smith

Famous world traveler and writer who arguably saved Jamestown from extinction.

John Winthrop

Elected by owners of the Massachusetts Bay Company as governor; went on to dominate colonial politics.

King Philip's War

A war beginning 1675 and led by Metacomet, known as King Philip among his people.

Massachusetts Bay Company

Group of Puritan merchants in England who organized a colonial venture in America.

Mayflower Compact

Document which the Pilgrims signed to establish a government for themselves.


The name by which King Philip was known among his people.

Middle Ground

Historians use this term for a place where disparate people encounter and shape one another.

Middle Passage

Route from Africa to the New World, the second ("middle") leg of a triangle between the New World, Caribbean and Africa.


More popular than physicians, midwives dealt with additional health issues beyond childbirth. They were an important part of the community and one of few career opportunities for colonial women.

Patrick Henry

Famous for fiery oration and British defiance. He spoke at Virginia's House of Burgesses and published his resolution as the Virginia Resolves, but the House of Burgesses his more extreme proposals. In the end, the Virginia Resolves declared that Americans had the same rights as the English and that only the Virginia assembly could tax the Virginians.

Pequot War

1637 war in Connecticut between English settlers and Indigenous in the region.

Plymouth Plantation

Name which the Pilgrims chose for their settlement.


A formidable Indigenous chief and Pocahontas' father.


England followed primogeniture, whereby estates passed in entirety to the firstborn son. This result in landless sons, and English colonial America was a fertile opportunity for them to achieve their own estates.

Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when he railed against Catholic abuses, and John Calvin continued it and advocated for a complete break from the Catholic Church.


Protestants who sought to purify the Church of England beyond its limited break from Catholicism.


Also known as the Society of Friends, the Quakers were a religious group originating in mid-seventeenth century England.

Roger Williams

Religious and political dissenter who argue that the Massachusetts government should abandon all allegiance to the Church of England. Went on to found Rhode Island colony with his followers.

Saugus Ironworks

Though a financial failure, the Saugus Ironworks were the first attempt to establish a significant metal industry in English colonial America.


Scots-Irish were Scottish Presbyterians who had settled in northern Ireland in the seventeenth century, and became the largest group of non-African immigrants to colonial America in the 18th century.


Agricultural estates in French colonial America.


Radical Puritans who sought to have their own separate congregations.

Sir William Berkeley

Royal governor of Virginia, in office from 1642 to 1677.


A society in which church and state are indistinguishable.

Triangular Trade

Commercial relationships that connected three points of a triangle: Europe, America and Africa. However, it was not as neatly organized as many books like to imagine.

Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh spearheaded English colonization in America. Half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

William Bradford

Puritan leader who was repeatedly chosen as governor of Plymouth Plantation.