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Chapter 2 Introductory Essay: 1607-1763

Written by: W.E. White, Christopher Newport University

By the end of this section, you will:

  • Explain the context for the colonization of North America from 1607 to 1754


The sixteenth-century brought changes in Europe that helped reshape the whole Atlantic world of Europe, Africa, and the Americas. These events were the rise of nation states, the splintering of the Christian church into Catholic and Protestant sects, and a fierce competition for global commerce. Spain aggressively protected its North American territorial claims against imperial rivals, for example. When French Protestant Huguenots established Fort Caroline (Jacksonville, Florida, today) in 1564, Spain attacked and killed the settlers the following year. France, Britain, and Holland wanted their own American colonies, and privateers from these countries used safe havens along the coast of North America to raid Spanish treasure ships. But North America did not hold the gold and silver found in Spanish possessions in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Peru. In the end, Spain concentrated on these more profitable portions of its empire, and other European nation states began to establish their own claims in North America.

Europe’s political, religious, and economic rivalries were fought in both European wars and in a struggle for colonies throughout the Atlantic. England’s Queen Elizabeth I supported Protestant revolts in Catholic France and the Spanish Netherlands, which put her at odds with Spain’s Catholic monarch, Philip II. So did her support for English privateers such as Sir Frances Drake, Sir George Summers, and Captain Christopher Newport, who preyed on Spanish treasure ships and commerce. In 1584, Elizabeth ignored the Spanish claim to all of North America and issued a royal charter to Sir Walter Raleigh, encouraging him and a group of investors to explore, colonize, and rule the continent.

A timeline shows important events of the era. In 1492, Christopher Columbus lands on Hispaniola. In 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas divides the Americas between the Portuguese and the Spanish; the Cantino World map is shown. In 1517 Martin Luther publishes “Ninety-Five Theses,” thereby launching the Protestant Reformation. In 1521, Hernan Cortes conquers Tenochtitlan. In 1530, John Calvin strengthens Protestantism; a portrait of John Calvin is shown. In 1534, Henry the eighth breaks with the Catholic Church and establishes the Church of England; a portrait of Henry the eighth is shown. In 1565, the Spanish establish St. Augustine. In 1584 to 1590, English efforts to colonize Roanoke fail; a map of Roanoke is shown. In 1603, Samuel de Champlain founds New France. In 1607, the first permanent English settlement begins at Jamestown; a map of Virginia is shown. In 1610, the Spanish establish St. Santa Fe. In 1624, the Dutch found New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island; an image of the purchase of Manhattan Island is shown.

Sixteenth-century Europe was defined by the rise of nation-states and the division of Christianity due to the Protestant Reformation. Increased competition for wealth fueled by both developments spilled over into the New World, and by the early seventeenth century, Spain, Portugal, England, France, and the Netherlands all had a presence in North America.

England, France, and the Netherlands

By 1600, the stage had been set for competition between the European nations colonizing the Americas, and several quickly established footholds. The Spanish founded St. Augustine (in what is now Florida) in 1565. In 1607, English adventurers arrived at Jamestown in the Virginia colony (see The English Come to America Narrative).

The French established Quebec in what today is Canada, in 1608. Spanish Santa Fe (in what is now New Mexico) was founded in 1610. The Dutch established Albany (now the capital of New York) as a trading center on the Hudson River in 1614, and New Amsterdam (called New York City today) in 1624. English Separatists, now known as Pilgrims, established Plymouth Colony in 1620. Ten years later, in 1630, Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. European settlement grew exponentially. Seventeenth-century North America became a place where diverse nations—European and Native American—came into close contact.

By the 1650s, the English, French, and Dutch were well established in North America. French traders used the waterways to move ever deeper into the interior of the continent from their toehold in Quebec, trading with American Indians. French Jesuit priests lived peacefully with American Indians, learned their languages, recorded their society norms and customs, and worked to convert them to Christianity. Europeans traded imported goods to American Indians for beaver and other furs that brought high profits in Europe (see The Fur Trade Narrative). The American Indians’ economy and culture, and relationships with other native tribes, were changed by their new focus on the fur trade and by the metal tools and firearms the Europeans offered. By the mid-1700s, the French had claimed the St. Lawrence River Valley, the Great Lakes region, and the whole of the Mississippi River Valley.

This is a map showing the English, Dutch, French, and Spanish colonies on the Atlantic coast and the dates of their settlement, as well as the names of Indian tribes inhabiting those areas. English colonies are New Hampshire 1623, Massachusetts Bay 1629 to 1630, Plymouth 1620, Rhode Island 1636 to 1643, Connecticut 1636 to 1639, New Haven 1636 to 1664, Pennsylvania 1681, Maryland 1634, Virginia 1606 to 1607, Carolina 1663, and Georgia 1732. Dutch colonies are New Netherlands 1624 and New Sweden 1638. French colony is New France 1534. Spanish colony is Florida 1513. Indian tribes inhabiting these colonized areas are Penobscot, Abenaki, Kennebec, Narragansett, Pequot, Mohawk, Oneida, Huron, Ottawa, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Iroquois, Tuscarora, Delaware, Western Delaware, Shawnee, Upper Cherokee, Middle Cherokee, Lower Cherokee, Catawba, Yamasee, Upper Natchez, Lower Natchez, Creek.

By about 1650, the Atlantic coast had all been claimed by rival European powers. American Indians resisted European encroachment in various ways and with varying degrees of success. Struggles between American Indians and European settlers continued throughout the colonial period and beyond. (attribution: Copyright Rice University, OpenStax, under CC BY 4.0 license)

The Dutch settled the Hudson River Valley and established New Amsterdam. They began with a fur-trading site established in 1614 near what is today Albany, New York. It grew steadily during the next several decades, and historians estimate that by the 1660s, about nine thousand people inhabited the Dutch colony.

Britain’s settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, which started as an entrepreneurial joint-stock company, struggled initially. Investors in the Virginia Company of London sent settlers with supplies and instructions to discover profitable commodities for trade. They were also to search for the legendary Northwest Passage to Asia and its lucrative trade. Gold, of course, was at the top of the Virginia Company’s list, but precious metals and jewels eluded the settlers. There were a number of schemes for making money, but it was not until 1617, when John Rolfe exported his first four barrels of Orinoco tobacco—a sweet-scented variety he obtained from the Caribbean and planted in Virginia—that the Virginia economy took off. By 1619, settlers were enjoying private property rights and had elected the House of Burgesses, the first representative assembly in the New World. Tobacco drove the Virginia economy until the twentieth century. A land- and labor-intensive crop, tobacco led the settlers to spread out and establish isolated plantations where indentured servants and later slaves toiled.

Watch this BRI Homework Help Video on The Colonization of America for a review of the differences among the European colonies in the New World.


Native nations in North America sought the advantages of trade and the help of European allies to counter their enemies. But they also strove to control and resist the growing European presence on their land, using both diplomacy and military strikes. During the winter of 1609–1610, for example, Powhatan, an Algonquin chief and the father of Pocahontas, stopped trading with and providing food to the Jamestown settlers. His warriors laid siege to Jamestown and killed all who left the fort. During that winter, described by Englishmen as the “starving time,” Powhatan came close to ending the colony’s existence. Indians again waged war in the Second Anglo-Powhatan War of 1622 and the Third Anglo-Powhatan War of 1644, but by that time, the English presence in Virginia was too strong to resist (see The Anglo-Powhatan War of 1622 Narrative).

In the New Amsterdam and New England regions, Dutch and English traders wanted to control the lucrative fur trade. So did American Indian groups. The Pequot began expanding their influence in the 1630s, pushing out the Wampanoag to their north, the Narragansett to the east, and the Algonquians and Mohegan to the west. But they also came into conflict with the English of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut colonies. Tensions came to a head in the Pequot War of 1637, when the Pequots faced an alliance of European colonists and the Narragansett and Mohegan Indians. The conflict ended in disaster for the Pequot: The survivors of the defeated tribe were given to their Narragansett and Mohegan enemies or shipped to the Bahamas and West Indies as slaves.

In these and other conflicts, American Indian nations and European nations competed among themselves and with each other for land, trade, and dominance. In the end, however, Europeans kept arriving and growing in numbers. Even more devastating was that American Indians had no immunity to European diseases like measles and smallpox, which caused 90 percent mortality rates in some areas. Epidemics spread across North America while Europeans steadily pushed American Indians farther west.

A drawing shows five depictions of an Aztec smallpox victim. The victim, who is covered with spots, is shown sleeping, vomiting, and being examined by a healer.

This sixteenth-century Aztec drawing shows the suffering of a typical victim of smallpox. Smallpox and other contagious diseases brought by European explorers decimated native populations in the Americas.


Enslavement of Africans was introduced early in the settlement of the Americas. In the early 1500s, Spain imported enslaved Africans to the Caribbean to meet the high demand for labor. The Dutch played a key role in the Atlantic slave trade until the 1680s, when the English gained control and allowed colonial shippers to participate. The Atlantic slave trade consisted of transporting captives from the west coast of Africa to the Americas in what became known as the “Middle Passage.” The Middle Passage was one leg of a profitable triangular trade in the Atlantic. Ships transported raw materials from the Americas to Europe and then shipped manufactured goods and alcohol to Africa, where they were used to purchase human beings from the West Africans. Ships’ captains packed their human cargo of chained African men, women, and children into the holds of the ships, where roughly 10 to 15 percent died.

Several illustrations of a slave ship are shown, including longitudinal and cross-sections, as well as depictions of how many slaves could be transported.

Slaves were literal cargo on board ships in the Middle Passage, as this cross-section of the British slave ship Brookes shows. Ships’ decks were designed to transport commodities, but during the Atlantic slave trade, human beings became the cargo. This illustration of a slave ship was made in the late eighteenth century, after the American Revolution.

Despite high mortality rates, merchant financiers and slave-ship captains made significant profits. More than ten million Africans were forcibly brought to the Americas during the three-century–long period of the slave trade. Most were destined for Brazil or the West Indies. About 5 percent of the African slave trade went to British North America.

The first Africans in British North America arrived at Jamestown aboard a Dutch ship in 1619. Historians are not certain about their initial status—whether they were indentured servants or slaves. What is clear, however, is that over time, a few gained freedom and owned property, including slaves. During the next several decades, laws governing and formalizing the racial and hereditary slave system gradually developed. By the end of the seventeenth century, every colony in North America had a slave code—a set of laws defining the status of enslaved persons.

In Maryland and Virginia, enslaved persons provided labor for the tobacco fields. Farther south, in the Carolinas, indigo and rice were the cash crops. A southern plantation system developed that allowed wealthy landowners to manage many slaves who cultivated vast land holdings. Most whites were not large landowners, however. Many small farmers, businessmen, and tradesmen held one or two slaves, while others had none. Some paid a master for a slave’s labor in a system known as hiring out. By 1750, almost 25% of the population in the British colonies was enslaved. In Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, the percentages were higher than in the North. In those southern colonies, slaves accounted for almost half the population. In South Carolina, almost two-thirds of the population were slaves.

This is a 1670 painting showing bare-chested, barefoot black men in knee-length pants, doing various tasks associated with tobacco drying. Some stand in sheds hanging the leaves up to dry.

In this 1670 painting by an unknown artist, slaves work in tobacco-drying sheds.

No one escaped the brutality of the slave system. Ownership of another human being as chattel property—like a horse or a cow—was often enforced by violence, and violence was always at hand, though masters also provided a variety of incentives such as time off or small gifts at Christmas. Masters and overseers used physical and mental coercion to maintain control. The whip was an ever-present threat and used with horrific results. A master was not faulted or legally punished for killing a rebellious slave. But perhaps one of the most powerful threats was the auction block, where fathers, sons, daughters, and mothers could be sold away from family. The children of enslaved mothers inherited the condition and were born into a life of servitude. Under the law, they were property a master could dispose of as he saw fit.

A ledger entry shows the purchase, sale, and price of enslaved men, women, and children.

Enslaved people were treated like property and bought and sold on auction blocks. This ledger was used to track the sale of slaves sold in Charleston, South Carolina.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, most runaway slaves had no place to go. Before the American Revolution, some southern slaves ran away to Spanish Florida, but every British colony enforced slavery and slave laws, even as a few individuals and groups denounced the brutality of slavery and the slave trade (see the Germantown Friends’ Antislavery Petition, 1688 Primary Source). People of African descent could be arrested without cause anywhere they were strangers or unknown by the community. Even the few free blacks (probably no more than 0.5 percent of the African American population in 1750) stayed close to communities where they were known, where influential whites vouched for their free status. Law, society, and custom all suppressed the fundamental rights of blacks. This system, enforced by fear and violence, spawned revolts. Some were small; individuals ran away, broke tools, or damaged crops. Other revolts were larger and more violent, like the1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina (see The Stono Rebellion Narrative).

Watch this BRI Homework Help Video on the Development of Slavery in North America for a review of the main ideas covered in this section.


In 1620, a group of English separatists known as the Pilgrims settled at what today is known as Cape Cod Bay. The Pilgrims were “separatists” because they believed the protestant Church of England remained too close to Catholic doctrine, and they saw no other solution but to leave or separate from the church. Because they dissented from the established state church, they were persecuted, and they decided to leave England (see the Pilgrims to the New World Decision Point). The Pilgrims applied to the Virginia Company of London in 1619 and received a patent to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River. When they reached North America, poor sailing conditions and treacherous waters forced them to settle at Cape Cod Bay instead, where they established the colony they called Plymouth.

A painting depicts the landing of the Pilgrims on a rocky shore in the winter.

This 1805 painting by Michele Felice Corne depicts the landing of the Pilgrims in the winter of 1620. Note how the painter assumes that American Indians were watching the landing party.

In 1628, another group of English religious dissenters arrived in nearby Massachusetts Bay and settled there on behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Like the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth, these new emigrants believed the Church of England was too Catholic in its practices, but instead of separating, these migrants, known as Puritans, sought to purify or reform the Church from within. They hoped to establish a “city upon a hill,” as one of their leaders, John Winthrop, described it—a shining example to their brethren in England of a good and Godly community (see the A City Upon a Hill: Winthrop’s “Modell of Christian Charity,” 1630 Primary Source).

Puritans came to America in part for the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit. Therefore, they enforced a strict religious orthodoxy in Massachusetts and Connecticut. When Roger Williams advocated a separation between church and government and preached freedom of conscience, he was forced to flee Massachusetts. In 1636, he founded Providence, Rhode Island, which became a haven for Protestant religious dissenters. Anne Hutchinson challenged the established Massachusetts Bay clergy on doctrine, an act all the more presumptuous coming from a woman. Banished from the colony, she sought refuge in Rhode Island (see the Anne Hutchinson and Religious Dissent Narrative).

Puritan society was torn in other ways as well. In the 1690s, a group of teenage girls accused members of the community of Salem (today Danvers, Massachusetts) of consorting with the Devil, beginning a period of mass hysteria known as the Salem witch trials, during which several residents were executed. The factors that led to the flurry of accusations were complex and may have included a belief in supernatural forces, England’s control over New England, and economic tensions that made the accusations believable. The hysteria ended only when town leaders themselves were charged with witchcraft and turned against the accusers, leading the newly appointed royal governor to declare the trials over (see The Salem Witch Trials Narrative).

A book cover is shown of a guidebook for identifying witches.

Guidebooks for identifying witches were common in Europe and the colonies during the 1600s. This book, entitled Cases of Conscience concerning evil SPIRITS Personating Men, Witchcrafts, infallible Proofs of Guilt in such as are accused with that Crime. All Considered according to the Scriptures, History, Experience, and the Judgment of many Learned men, was written by Increase Mather, president of Harvard College and Puritan minister, in 1693.

Religion was a defining feature of other North American settlements as well. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, was an English noble and a Roman Catholic. He received a charter from King Charles I of England allowing him to establish the Maryland proprietary colony and giving him and his family full control of it. Lord Baltimore founded Maryland on religious toleration and provided a safe haven for English Catholics. The first colonists arrived in 1634 and settled at St. Mary’s City. Despite the colony’s 1649 Toleration Act, however, religious tolerance was short-lived. In the 1650s, in the wake of the English Civil Wars, a Protestant council ruled the colony and persecuted Roman Catholics (see The Founding of Maryland Narrative).

The American colonies offered a variety of religious experiences, including religious freedom, religious toleration, and established churches.

Colony (Date of Founding) Reason for Founding Religion
Plymouth (1620) Religious freedom Protestant: Separatists or Pilgrims who believed the Church of England was so beyond saving they must separate from it. Later, Plymouth merged with Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Massachusetts Bay (1629) Religious freedom Protestant: Puritans who wanted to reform or purify the Church of England from within, rather than separate from it like the Separatists or Pilgrims.
Maryland (1633) Religious toleration for Christians Founded as a haven for Roman Catholics: The Toleration Act (1649) called for religious toleration of all Christians. However, after the Glorious Revolution later in the seventeenth century, Catholics were persecuted and the Church of England was established as the state-sanctioned religion in the colony.
Connecticut (1636) Religious differences with Puritans in Massachusetts Protestant: Puritans
Rhode Island (1636) Religious differences with Puritans in Massachusetts Protestant: Puritans
Pennsylvania (1682) Religious freedom Protestant: Quakers; provided for limited government and complete freedom of conscience

William Penn received a grant of North American land from King Charles II and founded the colony of Pennsylvania in 1681 as a haven for Quakers like himself (see the William Penn and the Founding of Pennsylvania Narrative). Quakers were another Protestant group that frequently clashed with the Church of England; Penn had been imprisoned for a time in the Tower of London for his religious views. He saw his proprietorship of Pennsylvania as an opportunity to provide a refuge for Quakers and others persecuted for their beliefs: a “holy experiment” (see the Penn’s Letter Recruiting Colonists 1683 Primary Source). The colony practiced religious toleration welcoming those of other faiths. Penn pledged to maintain just relations with American Indians and purchased land from the Lenape nation.

Penn also intended for the colony to be prosperous, with a diverse population specializing in a wide array of occupations. By the mid-1700s, Philadelphia was one of North America’s most prosperous and rapidly growing trading ports.

As colonies prospered and their populations grew, younger generations became increasingly secular, leading to tensions with traditional established churches. Between the 1730s and 1740s, a wave of religious revivalism known as the Great Awakening swept over the colonies and Europe (see The Great Awakening Narrative). Church services during this revival were characterized by passionate evangelicalism meant to evoke an emotional religious conversion. The Great Awakening was opposed to the rationalism of the Enlightenment and questioned traditional religious authority. Historians continue to debate the legacy of this period of religious and cultural upheaval (see the What Was the Great Awakening? Point-Counterpoint).

The British Take Control

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the British consolidated their control over the eastern seaboard of North America. During the period 1675 to 1676 New England fought against the Wampanoag and their allies in what was called King Philip’s War. The conflict resulted in staggeringly high casualties on both sides and the physical expansion of colonies in New England. It helped convince the English government to revoke the Massachusetts charter and establish greater control over the colony (see the King Philip’s War Decision Point and the Maps Showing the Evolution of Settlement 1624–1755 Primary Source).

Some conflicts arose between the colonists and royal colonial administrations when officials prevented settlers from expanding into American Indians’ lands or failed to protect the settlers when they did. In 1676, western colonists were alarmed by a series of attacks by American Indians, and even more by the perception that Governor William Berkeley’s government in Jamestown was doing little to protect them. Nathaniel Bacon demanded a military commission to campaign against the Indians, but Berkeley refused. The refusal prompted Bacon and his followers—including small planters indentured servants and even slaves—to take up arms in defiance of the governor. Ultimately, the rebellion collapsed, and the English crown sent troops to Virginia to reestablish order. White farmers on smaller farms won tax relief and an expanded suffrage. With better economic conditions in England, fewer people migrated as indentured servants increasing the demand for enslaved people (see the Bacon’s Rebellion Narrative and the Bacon vs. Berkeley on Bacon’s Rebellion 1676 Primary Source).

European nations sought to control the flow of goods and materials between them and their colonies in a system called mercantilism. Mercantilism held that the amount of wealth in the world was fixed and best measured in gold and silver bullion. To gain power, nations had to amass wealth by mining these precious raw materials or maintaining a “favorable” balance of trade. Mercantilist countries established colonies as a source of raw materials and trade to enrich the mother country and as a consumer of manufactures from the mother country. The mercantilist countries established monopolies over that trade and regulated their colonies. For example, the British and colonial trade in raw materials and manufactured goods was expected to travel through British ports on British ships. The result was a closely held and extremely profitable trading network that fueled the British Empire. Parliament passed a series of laws called the Navigation Acts in the middle of the seventeenth century to prevent other nations from benefiting from English imperial trade with its North American colonies.

In the mid-1600s, the English went to war with the competing Dutch Empire for control in North America. The English seized New Amsterdam in 1664 during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. King Charles II gave it to his brother, the Duke of York, as a proprietorship, and the colony was renamed New York in the Duke’s honor, thus eliminating the Dutch toehold in North America. By the 1700s, therefore, there were only two major European powers in North America: Britain and France.

During the early eighteenth century, the French extended their influence from modern-day Canada down the St. Lawrence River Valley through the Great Lakes and into the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. By 1750, French influence extended all the way down the Mississippi to Louisiana. Tensions were high as rivalry between France and Great Britain played out against the backdrop of the North American frontier (see the Albany Plan of Union Narrative).

A map shows North America in 1750. It shows territory controlled by France (middle of the United States from Louisiana and north into Canada) territory controlled by Great Britain (along the eastern seaboard into Canada/Acadia) and territory controlled by Spain (Florida Cuba and parts of the Caribbean; west of Louisiana including what would be present-day Arizona Colorado New Mexico and parts of Utah and Texas; and south into Central America and into northwestern South America.

European settlements in 1750 before the French and Indian War. (credit: “Map of North America in 1750” by Bill of Rights Institute/Flickr CC BY 4.0)

War with France

By 1750, both Britain and France claimed the Ohio River Valley. In 1753, the French began building a series of forts there on land claimed by British land companies such as the Ohio Company and the Loyal Company. Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, an investor in the Ohio Company sent a young Virginia militia major named George Washington to the Ohio country to warn the French to leave. They refused.

By the spring of 1754, the French were building another fort at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers (the site of modern-day Pittsburgh). Governor Dinwiddie sent Major Washington back with a contingent of troops. This time, Washington attacked the French and their Indian allies, then moved his force to Fort Necessity. Surrounded there by French, Shawnee, and Delaware fighters, he surrendered after a brief battle on July 4, 1754. This incident sparked the Seven Years’ War—or the “French and Indian War,” as it was known in America (see the Washington’s Journal: Expeditions to Disputed Ohio Territory 1753–1754 Primary Source).

The Seven Years’ War was mainly fought in Europe and North America, but engagements also occurred around the world (see the A Clash of Empires: The French and Indian War Narrative). In North America, American Indians continued their complex foreign policy, allying themselves in ways they hoped would allow them to dominate trade in their region. Many tribes sided with the French, but the Iroquois Confederacy and Catawba fought with the British. While British and colonial troops under the command of General Edward Braddock failed to capture Fort Duquesne, other forces moved northward and westward from New York to try to capture key French fortifications.

The campaign was a disaster for Britain. But in 1759, the British captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and then defeated the French at Quebec and Fort Niagara. The following year, in Montreal, Governor Vaudreuil negotiated terms with British General Jeffery Amherst and surrendered. In 1763, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the French and Indian War and giving Britain control of all of North America east of the Mississippi River and of Canada. France was expelled from North America, and British colonists celebrated their victory. Never did these colonists feel more patriotic toward king and country. One reason was that they expected an opportunity to push farther westward as a result of their success in battle (see the Wolfe at Quebec and the Peace of 1763 Narrative).

Two maps show land holdings before and after the Seven Years’ War. Before the war France possessed much of the central United States. After the war Spain controlled land west of the Mississippi River while Britain controlled land east of the Mississippi River.

These two maps show land holdings before (left) and after (right) the Seven Years’ War. What changes and continuities do you see in the balance of power on the North American continent?

The Path to Revolution

That same year, 1763, a coalition of Great Lakes, Illinois region, and Ohio region American Indians went to war against the British. The British emerged victorious, but the Indian nations demonstrated they would not easily submit. Led by an Ottawa man named Pontiac, American Indians warred with British soldiers and colonists across the frontier from Detroit to the Ohio River Valley.

The British believed they no longer had to court and negotiate with the American Indians. However, they wanted to end the costly conflicts between the colonists and American Indians. Thus, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763 and temporarily prohibited settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains. Colonists protested. They believed they had the right to settle those lands. In the meantime, the British had incurred massive debts during the Seven Years’ War and wanted American colonists to pay a share in their protection. Parliament soon passed a series of restrictions and taxes on the colonies without their consent that eventually drove a wedge between them and the mother country.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Great Britain had defeated its rivals and emerged as the dominant force in North America. The cost of this dominance however would prove precarious for the relationship between Great Britain and its thirteen mainland colonies.

Additional Chapter Resources

Review Questions

1. Which of the following was not a reason that colonization became a major focus of European exploration in the Americas during the period from 1607 to 1763?

  1. Wars of religion in Europe caused many to look for an escape from religious persecution.
  2. Profits from cash crops such as tobacco provided economic incentives to establish colonies in the New World.
  3. Colonial possessions strengthened the prestige of European nations at home.
  4. Cooperative native populations invited colonization to increase trade.

2. Why did Spain value its interests in the Caribbean Mexico and Peru more than it valued colonies along the Atlantic seaboard in North America during the period from 1607 to 1763?

  1. The English had established colonies in North America long before the Spanish made any serious attempts to explore the northern continent.
  2. French settlers successfully fended off Spanish attacks on Fort Caroline in Florida.
  3. Resistance by native populations in North America tended to be more organized and successful than in South America.
  4. Spain focused its efforts on the possessions that were most likely to directly enrich the empire with gold and silver.

3. During the sixteenth century all the following provided an incentive for continued European exploration and colonization of the New World except

  1. the Protestant Reformation
  2. the rise of centralized governments in nation-states
  3. an appreciation of the cultural accomplishments of American and African societies
  4. competition for global commerce and trade

4. England’s Queen Elizabeth I created military and political tension with Spain when she

  1. refused to recognize Spanish claims to all North American territory
  2. established English colonies in Mexico and South America
  3. supported the Catholic Church over the oppositions of the Protestant reformers
  4. sanctioned privateers such as Walter Raleigh to attack English ships on behalf of Spain

5. The establishment of colonies in Jamestown by the English in Quebec by the French and in Albany by the Dutch is best explained by which of the following statements?

  1. Many European nations acquiesced to Spanish dominance in North America.
  2. American Indian populations in North America were successful in driving off Spanish conquistadors.
  3. Spain’s focus on the Caribbean Mexico and South America opened the door for other nations to establish footholds in North America.
  4. Cooperative efforts by European monarchs led to the successful colonization of North America.

6. The French successfully established territorial claims in

  1. present-day Florida
  2. the St. Lawrence River Valley
  3. the Hudson River Valley
  4. the Chesapeake Bay area

7. The formation of the House of Burgesses in Virginia indicates the English

  1. were focused on Christian missionary work sponsored by the crown
  2. wanted cooperation between their settlers and American Indians on a diplomatic level
  3. established a representative government in their North American colonies
  4. followed an economic policy focused on agriculture especially cotton

8. All the following were accomplishments of English settlements in Virginia by the early 1600s except

  1. the discovery of gold and other precious metals in North America
  2. election of the first representative government in the Americas
  3. existence of private property rights
  4. development and growth of a tobacco industry

9. The most significant American Indian group in New England that came into conflict with English settlers in Massachusetts in the 1630s was

  1. the Narragansett
  2. the Powhatan
  3. the Pequot
  4. the Mohegan

10. Which of the following best describes the outcome and consequence of the Pequot War of 1636-1639?

  1. The Pequot successfully rallied neighboring American Indian peoples to join their resistance to English settlers.
  2. After a long struggle, the Spanish defeated the Pequot and solidified their claims to territory in present-day Mexico.
  3. The Pequot were defeated by the combined forces of the English the Narragansett and the Mohegan.
  4. The Pequot were successful in gaining concessions from the English settlers in return for support against the Narragansett people.

11. All the following were factors that led to the eventual end of American Indian resistance to European explorers and colonists in North America except

  1. the relatively few Europeans who came to the Americas
  2. divisions and competition among different groups of Native Americans
  3. the technological superiority of European weapons
  4. the American Indians’ lack of immunity to European diseases such as smallpox

12. Which best describes the impact European diseases had on Native American populations?

  1. Native American people were able to develop immunities to these diseases after exposure.
  2. Native Americans and Europeans suffered from an exchange of diseases they were not used to.
  3. Native populations were decimated throughout the Americas.
  4. Europeans were able to develop treatment for these diseases thanks to assistance from Native American populations.

13. What was the Middle Passage?

  1. The long-sought waterway through North America that would provide access to Asia
  2. The second leg of the profitable triangular trade route that transported humans from West Africa to the Americas to be sold as slaves
  3. The exchange of goods and services between the Americas and Europe
  4. The trade routes established by the French that connected Quebec to the Mississippi River

14. Which of the following statements regarding the African slave trade is most accurate?

  1. Most African slaves were sold to plantation owners in British North America.
  2. Brazil and the West Indies were the most common destinations for African slaves.
  3. Because of high mortality rates, the profits to merchants and ship owners from the slave trade were relatively low.
  4. The French imported slaves into their territories via the Mississippi River Valley.

15. What was the purpose of slave codes in the North American colonies?

  1. To provide a list of rights and protections for slaves
  2. To set laws defining the legal status of enslaved individuals
  3. To establish agreement between European powers on the logistics of the slave trade
  4. To develop better living conditions during the Middle Passage

16. Which of the following statements best reflects the reasons for slavery in North America?

  1. Labor-intensive crop production required cheap labor.
  2. A surplus of European laborers depressed salaries.
  3. The absence of economic opportunities limited Europeans’ motivation to settle in North America.
  4. Warfare between colonial rivals meant most colonists served as soldiers rather than as laborers.

17. Pilgrims were referred to as “separatists” because

  1. they had been forcibly removed to North America in retaliation for their political beliefs
  2. they sought to establish an independent nation separate from England
  3. they thought the Church of England could not be reformed and they needed to separate themselves from it
  4. they successfully petitioned for the creation of Rhode Island as a separate colony

18. Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island after he was forced to flee Massachusetts because of his

  1. support of the Church of England
  2. status as a royally appointed governor of the colony
  3. treatment of neighboring American Indians
  4. disagreement with the established religious authorities

19. How did the establishment of Maryland contrast with that of the New England colonies?

  1. Maryland was initially founded by Dutch settlers.
  2. Maryland was less tolerant of religious differences than the New England colonies.
  3. Maryland was founded as a safe haven for persecuted Catholics.
  4. Maryland prohibited slavery.

Free Response Questions

  1. Explain the different types of labor systems that emerged in the settlement of New England and Virginia.
  2. Explain the motivations for English immigration to New England and to the Chesapeake regions in North America.
  3. Compare the motivations of England and France in their settlement in North America.

AP Practice Questions

“There goes many a ship to sea with many hundred souls in one ship whose weal and woe is common and is a true picture of a commonwealth or a human combination or society. It hath fallen out sometimes that both papists [Catholics] and protestants Jews and Turks [Muslims] may be embarked in one ship; upon which supposal I affirm . . . these two hinges that none of the papists, protestants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ship’s prayers of worship nor compelled from their own particular prayers or worship if they practice any. I further add that I never denied that notwithstanding this liberty the commander of this ship ought to command the ship’s course yea and also command that justice peace and sobriety be kept and practiced both among the seamen and all the passengers . . . if any refuse to obey the common laws and orders of the ship . . . the commander or commanders may judge resist compel and punish such transgressors according to their deserts and merits.”

Roger Williams Letter to the Town of Providence 1655

Refer to the excerpt provided.

1. According to the excerpt from Roger Williams his Letter to Providence challenges what prevailing norm?

  1. Religious freedom
  2. Separation of church and state
  3. Religious orthodoxy
  4. Slave labor

2. Which of the following statements would a historian use to support the argument presented by Roger Williams in the excerpt provided?

  1. People have no obligation to follow law.
  2. Religious diversity is dangerous to a stable society.
  3. All government actions enforcing laws are illegitimate.
  4. People should be able to practice the religion of their choice.

“Wee must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekeness gentlenes patience and liberality. Wee must delight in eache other; make other’s conditions our oune; rejoice together mourne together labour and suffer together allwayes haueving before our eyes our commission and community in the worke as members of the same body. Soe shall wee keepe the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace. The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as his oune people and will command a blessing upon us in all our wayes. Soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome power goodness and truthe than formerly wee haue been acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when hee shall make us a prayse and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations the Lord make it likely that of New England. For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us.”

John Winthrop A Modell of Christian Charity 1630

Refer to the excerpt provided.

3. This excerpt from John Winthrop’s sermon given while en route to the Massachusetts Bay Colony might be used by a historian to support the development of which of the following ideas in U.S. history?

  1. Separation of church and state
  2. Limited government
  3. Abolition
  4. American exceptionalism

4. Which of the following best expresses the main idea of the excerpt provided?

  1. We must serve as an example to others.
  2. We will triumph over our enemies
  3. Others will praise us for our piety.
  4. We must endure persecution for our beliefs.

Primary Sources

The First Charter of Virginia:

Suggested Resources

Anderson Fred. The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War. New York: Penguin 2006.

Baker Emerson W. A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2016.

Berkin Carol. First Generations: Women in Colonial America. New York: Hill and Wang 1997.

Berlin Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2000.

Calloway Colin. New Worlds for All: Indians Europeans and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 2013.

Calloway Colin. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007.

Horn James. 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy. New York: Basic Books 2018.

Kidd Thomas S. American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths. New Haven: Yale University Press 2016.

Morgan Edmund S. American Slavery American Freedom. New York: W.W. Norton 2003.

Philbrick Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage Community and War. New York: Penguin 2007.

Taylor Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin 2001.

Taylor Alan. Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012.

Williams Tony. The Pox and the Covenant: Mather Franklin and the Epidemic That Changed America’s Destiny. Naperville IL: Sourcebooks 2010.

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