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Colonialism (1600-1750)


Students will understand the social, political, and economic reasons for the movement of people from Europe to the Americas, and they will describe the impact of colonization by Europeans on American Indians and on the development of the land that eventually became the United States of America.

Early Map of North America
Early Map of North America

Based on a map published by Nicolas Sanson in 1650. Latin title in upper margin: "America septentrionalis in suas praecipuas parte divisa, ad usum serenissimi Burgundiae ducis." Relief shown pictorially. Scale ca. 1:18,500,000.

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Map of Mexico, 1600s
Map of Mexico, 1600s

Above we show an important Map of Mexico in 1600's. Map is titled, "Mexicque, ou Nouvelle Espagne, Nouvlle. Gallice, Iucatan &c. : et autres provinces jusques a l'Isthme de Panama, ou sont les Audiences de Mexico, de Guadalaiara, et de Guatimala / par N. Sanson d'Abbeville ; Somer sculp. It was created in 1656.

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United States 1670s
United States 1670s

Pen-and-ink and watercolor. "Es copia conforme con el original existente en este Archivo General de Indias."

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Early Map of North America
Early Map of North America

Based on a map published by Nicolas Sanson in 1650. Latin title in upper margin: "America septentrionalis in suas praecipuas parte divisa, ad usum serenissimi Burgundiae ducis." Relief shown pictorially. Scale ca. 1:18,500,000.

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  • Is America a land of opportunity?

  • Did geography greatly affect the development of colonial America?

  • Does a close relationship between church and state lead to a more moral society?

  • Has Puritanism shaped American values?

  • Was Colonial America a democratic society?

  • Was slavery the basis of freedom in colonial America?

  • How did the English start colonies with distinct qualities in North America?

  • How did Colonial life take shape?


  • How did the colonists develop their own way of life with strong roots in the past? 



"History is the memory of time, the life of the dead and the happiness of the living." Captain John Smith


Smith on the American Settlements

"I call them my children," he says of the American settlements, "for they have been my wife, my hawks, my hounds, my cards, my dice and in totall, my best content, as indifferent to my heart as my left hand to my right." from 1922 New England Trials


To Be A Virtuous Man

"honour is our lives ambition"

"Then seeing that we are not borne for our selves, but each to helpe other, and our abilities are much alike at the houre of our birth, and the minute of our death: Seeing our good deeds, or our badde, by faith in Christs merits, is all we have to carrie our soules to heaven, or hell: Seeing honour is our lives ambition; and our ambition after death, to have have an honorable memorie of our life: and seeing noe meanes wee would bee abated of the dignities and glories of our Predecessors; let us imitate their virtues to be worthily their successors".from the conclusion of Smith's A description of New England (1615;1:361)




  • How did the colonist with strong roots in the past, develop their own way of life?

  • People have natural rights and governments are created to protect those rights.

  • When government is destructive of the natural rights of men, the people have the right and duty to overthrow that government.

  • Failure to find a compromise leads to conflict.

  • Students will understand how the exploration and colonization of North America transformed human history.

  • Students will understand the cultural, technological, economic, agricultural, and political developments as the peoples and the cultures of Africa, America, and Europe converge. 

  • Students will understand the social, political, and economic factors that created regional differences in the American colonies.

  • Students will understand the implementation of the enslavement of Africans and the expulsion of native peoples. 






To compete with other European nations, the English established [[#|settlements]] in North America in the early 1600s. Founded in 1607, Jamestown in Virginia was the first successful English colony. A few years later, the Pilgrims established Plymouth in Massachusetts. More settlers came, many searching for wealth, religious freedom, and a better life. By 1732, there were 13 English colonies stretched north to south along the Atlantic seaboard. Three distinct regions emerged: New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies.

Government and daily life in England's 13 North American colonies were shaped by European ideas and especially by English traditions. England had a limited monarchy with power shared with a law-making body called Parliament. The English Bill of Rights guaranteed citizens a number of rights. Enlightenment ideas about natural rights and separation of powers also influenced colonists. A religious revival called the "Great Awakening" was yet another force that affected many colonists. Although white colonists enjoyed freedom and opportunity in the 13 colonies, most African Americans were enslaved and had no civil rights.  Read more...

Colonialism in America Explained:  US History Review...

Mr. Hughes explains some long term and short term reasons for American Independence from Great Britain in the 18th century.


2-3 Reasons for English colonization...

8.1 Explain the primary motivations for English colonization of the New World, including the rise of the middle class (joint stock companies), the need to move surplus population, and the search for religious freedom.



Crash Course:  Colonizing America...

In which John Green teaches you about the (English) colonies in what is now the United States. He covers the first permanent English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, the various theocracies in Massachusetts, the feudal kingdom in Maryland, and even a bit about the spooky lost colony at Roanoke Island. What were the English doing in America, anyway? Lots of stuff. In Virginia, the colonists were largely there to make money. In Maryland, the idea was to create a a colony for Catholics who wanted to be serfs of the Lords Baltimore. In Massachusetts, the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to find a place where they could freely persecute those who didn't share their beliefs. But there was a healthy profit motive in Massachusetts as well. Profits were thin at first, and so were the colonists. Trouble growing food and trouble with the natives kept the early colonies from success. 

Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims...

8.3 Explain the founding of the Plymouth Colony, including the Separatists, William Bradford, Mayflower, Mayflower Compact, and Squanto.



Singing History:  Massachusetts Bay Colony...

Music/Lyrics by Tom Wolff
Presentation by Carolynn Bass & Ariel Bulmash

8.4 Analyze the reasons for the settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the events and the key figures of the colonies, including:

​Smithsonian:  America's True History of Religious Tolerance


New Netherland, 1614-1667...

New Netherland (Dutch: Nieuw-Nederland) was the 17th-century colonial province of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on the East Coast of North America. The colony was conceived as a private business venture to exploit the North American fur trade.

8.5 Describe the settlement of New Netherlands and the subsequent possession of the colony by the English, including:




New France:  Rise of French America...

8.8 Describe the location and reasons for French exploration and settlements in North America, including the Huguenots.





  • Mayflower Compact

Before going ashore, the Pilgrims drafted a formal document declaring their intention of forming a "civic body politic, for our better ordering and preservation". The signers promised to obey the laws passed for the general good of the colony. They also pledged their loyalty to England. This compact was a neccessary step in establishing a representative government in the colonies.


  • Religious toleration

Acceptance of people who held different religious beliefs


  • Cash crop

Farm crop grown to be sold or traded rather than used by the farm family


  • Tidewater

Areas of low, flat plains near the seacoast of Virginia and North Carolina, region of large Southern plantations


  • Slave codes

Strict rules governing the behavior and punishment of enslaved africans


  • Middle Passage

The middle portion of the triangular trade that brought African slaves to the Americas. Slaves came from Africa to the West Indies. British manufactured goods sold in Africa, bought enslaved Africans, and carried them to West Indies to work on plantations.


  • mercantilism

An economic theory that believes the colonies should benefit the mother country


  • imports

Goods and services purchased from other countries.


  • exports

Goods traded to other countries


  • triangular trade

A three way system of trade during 1600-1800s Africa sent slaves to America, America sent Raw Materials to Europe, and Europe sent Guns and Rum to Africa


  • Magna Carta

The royal charter of political rights given to rebellious English barons by King John in 1215


  • Navigation Acts

Laws passed by the British to control colonial trade; series of laws that forced the colonies to sell their raw materials to England and buy products from England


  • English Bill of Rights

Guaranteed/protected basic rights of the English citizens and inspired the Founding Fathers' to write the Bill of Rights.


  • Puritan

Protestants who wanted to reform the Anglican Church


  • Pilgrim

A Separatist who journeyed to the American colonies in the 1600s for religious freedom.


  • Roanoke

Established in 1587. Called the Lost Colony. It was financed by Sir Walter Raleigh, and its leader in the New World was John White. All the settlers disappeared, and historians still don't know what became of them.


  • Massachusetts Bay Colony

1629 - King Charles gave the Puritans a right to settle and govern a colony in the Massachusetts Bay area. The colony established political freedom and a representative government


  • Jamestown

1607, first permanent English settlement, located near the Chesapeake Bay. Site where the first slaves arrived in America in 1619; land the Virginia Company settled and named in honor of King James


  • Georgia

The last colony to be settled in 1733. Founded as a refuge for debtors by James Oglethorpe; Georgia was also formed as a buffer between the Carolinas and Spanish-held Florida. However, few debtors actually came and instead many poor people settled here.


  • Mason Dixon Line

The boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland; It settled border dispute between the Penns and Calverts







Crash Course:  Natives & English Colonists...

In which John Green teaches you about relations between the early English colonists and the native people the encountered in the New World. In short, these relations were poor. As soon as they arrived, the English were in conflict with the native people. At Jamestown, Captain John Smith briefly managed to get the colony on pretty solid footing with the local tribes, but it didn't last, and a long series of wars with the natives ensued.

Singing History:  Virginia [Jamestown]...

Composed and sung by Thomas Wolff

Made by Kevin Sullivan

Crash Course:  The Quakers, the Dutch, and the Ladies...

In which John Green teaches you about some of the colonies that were not in Virginia or Massachussetts. Old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can say; ENGLISH people just liked it better that way, and when the English took New Amsterdam in 1643, that's just what they did. Before the English got there though, the colony was full of Dutch people who treated women pretty fairly, and allowed free black people to hold jobs. John also discusses Penn's Woods, also known as Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania was (briefly) a haven of religious freedom, and William Penn dealt relatively fairly with the natives his colony displaced. Of course, as soon as Penn died, the colonist started abusing the natives immediately. We venture as far south as the Carolina colonies, where the slave labor economy was taking shape. John also takes on the idea of the classless society in America, and the beginning of the idea of the American dream. It turns out that in spite of the lofty dream that everyone had an equal shot in the new world, there were elites in the colonies. And these elites tended to be in charge. And then their kids tended to take over when they died. So yeah, not quite an egalitarian paradise. In addition to all this, we get into the Salem Witch Trials, the treatment of women in the colonies, and colonial economics.

The colony of Georgia, Founded in 1732...

8.7 Explain the reasons behind the settlement of the Georgia Colony, including the role of John Oglethorpe and Georgia as a “debtor” colony and a “buffer” colony.



8.9 Cite textual evidence analyzing examples of both cooperation and conflict between American Indians and colonists, including agriculture, trade, cultural exchanges, and military alliances and conflicts.


Triangular Trade

The trade routes between Europe, Africa, and the West Indies and the North American colonies. Raw and natural resources such as sugar, tobacco, and cotton were shipped to Europe where they were made into manufactured goods. These goods were then sent to Africa to be traded for Slaves. Slaves were then shipped to the West Indies and the North American colonies, where the trade would begin again.













Briton Hammon, a Negro Man,--Servant to General Winslow, of Marshfield, in New-England; Who Returned to Boston, After Having Been Absent Almost Thirteen Years. Containing an Account of the Many Hardships He Underwent from the Time He Left His Master's House, in the Year 1747, to the Time of His Return to Boston.--How He Was Cast Away in the Capes of Florida;---The Horrid Cruelty and Inhuman Barbarity of the Indians in Murdering the Whole Ship's Crew;---The Manner of His Being Carry'd by Them Into Captivity. Also, an Account of His Being Confined Four Years and Seven Months in a Close Dungeon,---and the Remarkable Manner in Which He Met with His Good Old Master in London; Who Returned to New-England, a Passenger in the Same Ship.

8.10 Locate and identify the first 13 colonies, and describe how their location and geographic features influenced their development.





America's First Great Awakening...

8.11 Describe the significance of and the leaders of the First Great Awakening, and the growth in religious toleration and free exercise of religion.





Life as a Child in the 18th Century...

Ever wonder what life was like for kids in the 18th century? Find out from some of Colonial Williamsburg's junior interpreters, who help bring the 18th century to life in the Historic Area. 

8.12 Compare and contrast the day-to-day colonial life for men, women, and children in different regions and of different ethnicities, including the system of indentured servitude, as well as their connection to the land.




Interactive map of Africans living in Deerfield in New England.



Captured far from the African coast when he was a boy of 11, Olaudah Equiano was sold into slavery, later acquired his freedom, and, in 1789, wrote his widely-read autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.



Surely the Devil had come to SALEM in 1692. Young girls screaming and barking like a dog? Strange dances in the woods? This was behavior hardly becoming of virtuous teenage maidens. The town doctor was called onto the scene. After a thorough examination, he concluded quite simply — the girls were bewitched.




The Secret in the Cellar, is a Webcomic based on an authentic forensic case of a recently discovered 17th Century body. Using graphics, photos, and online activities, the Webcomic unravels a mystery of historical, and scientific importance.




See how much you know about the European powers and the colonies they established in North America in this two-part challenge.



Become a Historical Scene Investigator on this case...



Become a Historical Scene Investigator on this case...

8.13 Analyze the ideas that significantly impacted the development of colonial self-government by citing textual evidence and examining multiple perspectives using excerpts from the following documents:  




Singing History:  Carolina...

Tom Wolff's "award-winning" hit about Colonial Carolina.
Song written and performed by Tom Wolff
Video by Macy Moreau and Julia Moldenhawer

8.14 Identify the origins and development of slavery in the colonies, overt and passive resistance to enslavement, and the Middle Passage.


Causes of African Slavery in the American Colonies

  • beliefs that Indian slaves were not as good workers as African slaves

increase in the trade routes; particularly the triangular trade

  • diseases killed off many Indian populations creating a need for a labor source

  • some colonies were trying to forge alliances with the natives in their colonies

  • African slaves were inexpensive

  • colonists needed more help to keep up with the demand for agriculture and trade


Harsh Conditions of the Middle Passage

  • The Middle Passage is the term given to journey that Africans were forced to make from west Africa to the Americas on slave ships. Some 9 to 15 million Africans were enslaved and taken to the Americas.

  • Click on the following link for a closer look at the Triangle Trade routes

  • Many slaves died from malnutrition and disease, both during the passage and once they began their servitude

  • Slaves were packed into ships tightly, more than one million died during the journey

  • Slaves fought back whenever possible, many preferred to die than find out what laid ahead for them

  • Middle passage took close to 5 weeks

  • Slaves would use their chains and shackles to try and overtake the ships crew, but crewman had more advanced weapons, like guns, and did not give up control of the ships

  • Slaves were whipped and beaten once they were on the plantations; families were broken up and slaves were treated like property

  • Slaves were denied education and interactions with each other, anything to keep them weak and spiritless

  • Slave owners sought to rid slaves of anything identifying; names, religion, language  





Primary Documents and Supporting Texts to Read: excerpts from The First Virginia Charter, 1606; The Mayflower Compact, 1620; excerpts from the Charter of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1629; excerpts from The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, 1639; excerpts from The Maryland Toleration Act, 1649; excerpts from The New England Articles of Confederation; excerpts from A Historie of Virginia, (“starving time”) John Smith; excerpts from Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford



Experience the excitement and dangers of the Boston Massacre first hand.




Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through free interactive games. 

Mission 1: “For Crown or Colony?” puts players in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. They encounter both Patriots and Loyalists, and when rising tensions result in the Boston Massacre, they must choose where their loyalties lie.  



View the street theater reenactments.



As you stroll down the historic streets of Philadelphia, early America comes alive. At each stop, visitors are treated to interesting facts about the site and its significance to America's past. No study of colonial America is complete without this virtual tour of the streets where the Declaration of Independence was written and Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere once walked.



Bring the story of the First Thanksgiving to life in your classroom!

Introduce your class to the first harvest celebration, delve deeper into the relationships between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags, and take a closer look at the historical significance of the Pilgrims' settlement.



The settlement of Jamestown.


The Pilgrims tell you the trouble of their existence in early America.


The founding of early America by the British.

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