A. Early English Experiments
1. Attempts to establish colonies in Newfoundland (1583) and on
Roanoke Island (1587) ended in failure.
2. In the seventeenth-century hope that colonies would prove to be
profitable investments, combined with the successful colonization of
Ireland, led to a new wave of interest in establishing colonies in the
B. The South
1. The Virginia Company established the colony of Jamestown on an
unhealthy island in the James River in 1606. After the English Crown
took over management of the colony in 1624, Virginia (Chesapeake Bay
area) developed as a tobacco plantation economy with a dispersed
population and with no city of any significant size.
2. The plantations of the Chesapeake Bay area initially relied on
English indentured servants for labor. As life expectancy increased,
planters came to prefer to invest in slaves; the slave population of
Virginia increased from 950 in 1660 to 120,000 in 1756.
3. Virginia was administered by a Crown-appointed governor and by
representatives of towns meeting together as the House of Burgesses. The
House of Burgesses developed into a form of democratic representation at
the same time as slavery was growing.
4. Colonists in the Carolinas first prospered on the fur trade with
Amerindian deer-hunters. The consequences of the fur trade included
environmental damage brought on by over-hunting, Amerindian dependency
on European goods, ethnic conflicts among Amerindians fighting over
hunting grounds, and a series of unsuccessful Amerindian attacks on the
English colonists in the early 1700s.
5. The southern part of the Carolinas was settled by planters from
Barbados and developed a slave-labor plantation economy, producing rice
and indigo. Enslaved Africans and their descendants formed the majority
population and developed their own culture; a slave uprising (the Stono
Rebellion) in 1739 led to more repressive policies toward slaves
throughout the southern colonies.
6. Colonial South Carolina was the most hierarchical society in
British North America. A wealthy planter class dominated a population of
small farmers, merchants, cattlemen, artisans, and fur-traders who, in
turn, stood above the people of mixed English-Amerindian or
English-African background and slaves.
C. New England
1. The Pilgrims, who wanted to break completely with the Church of
England, established the small Plymouth Colony in 1620. The Puritans,
who wanted only to reform the Church of England, formed a chartered
joint-stock company (the Massachusetts Bay Company) and established the
Massachusetts Bay colony in 1630.
2. The Massachusetts Bay colony had a normal gender balance, saw a
rapid increase in population, and was more homogenous and less
hierarchical than the southern colonies. The political institutions of
the colony were derived from the terms of its charter and included an
elected governor and, in 1650, a lower legislative house.
3. Without the soil or the climate to produce cash crops, the
Massachusetts economy evolved from dependence on fur, forest products,
and fish to a dependence on commerce and shipping. Massachusetts’s
merchants engaged in a diversified trade across the Atlantic, which made
Boston the largest city in British North America in 1740.
D. The Middle Atlantic Region
1. Manhattan Island was first colonized by the Dutch and then taken
by the English and renamed New York. New York became a commercial and
shipping center; it derived particular benefit from its position as an
outlet for the export of grain to the Caribbean and Southern Europe.
2. Pennsylvania was first developed as a proprietary colony for
Quakers, but soon developed into a wealthy grain-exporting colony with
Philadelphia as its major commercial city. In contrast to rice-exporting
South Carolina’s slave agriculture, Pennsylvania’s grain was produced by
free family farmers, including a substantial number of Germans.
E. French America
1. Patterns of French settlement closely resembled those of Spain and
Portugal; the French were committed to missionary work, and they
emphasized the extraction of natural resources—furs. French expansion
was driven by the fur trade and resulted in depletion of beaver and deer
populations and made Amerindians dependent upon European goods.
2. The fur trade provided Amerindians with firearms that increased
the violence of the wars that they fought over control of hunting
grounds. When firearms reached the horse frontier in the early
eighteenth century, they increased the military power and hunting
efficiency of the indigenous peoples of the American West and slowed the
pace of European settlement.
3. Catholic missionaries, including the Jesuits, attempted to convert
the Amerindian population of French America, but, meeting with
indigenous resistance, they turned their attention to work in the French
settlements. These settlements, dependent on the fur trade, were small
and grew slowly. This pattern of settlement allowed Amerindians in
French America to preserve a greater degree of independence than they
could in the Spanish, Portuguese, or British colonies.
4. The French expanded aggressively to the West and South,
establishing a second fur-trading colony in Louisiana in 1699. This
expansion led to war with England in which the French, defeated in 1759,
were forced to yield Canada to the English and to cede Louisiana to