Unit 1 - Colonial America

Chapter 3: British North America

Whether they came as servants, slaves, free farmers, religious refugees, or powerful planters, the men and women of the American colonies created new worlds. Native Americans saw fledgling settlements turned into unstoppable beachheads of vast new populations that increasingly monopolized resources and remade the land into something else entirely. Meanwhile, as colonial societies developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fluid labor arrangements and racial categories solidified into the race-based, chattel slavery that increasingly defined the economy of the British Empire. The North American mainland originally occupied a small and marginal place in that broad empire, as even the output of its most prosperous colonies paled before the tremendous wealth of Caribbean sugar islands. And yet the colonial backwaters on the North American mainland, ignored by many imperial officials, were nevertheless deeply tied into these larger Atlantic networks. A new and increasingly complex Atlantic World connected the continents of Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

Events across the ocean continued to influence the lives of American colonists. Civil war, religious conflict, and nation building transformed seventeenth-century Britain and remade societies on both sides of the ocean. At the same time, colonial settlements grew and matured, developing into powerful societies capable of warring against Native Americans and subduing internal upheaval. Patterns and systems established during the colonial era would continue to shape American society for centuries. And none, perhaps, would be as brutal and destructive as the institution of slavery. Read the rest of Chapter 3.

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. Describe the Atlantic Economy. What were its origins? How did Europe, the Americas and Africa play a role in the triangular trading system that emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, with the Atlantic Ocean as the highway for trade?
  2. How were some Native Americans enslaved in the Americas? Why did Native American slaves ultimately not provide American colonies with a significant labor force?
  3. Describe African societies and the institution of slavery in Africa. How and why did Africans come to supply European colonies in the New World large numbers of slaves? Where did most African slaves sent to the New World go and why?
  4. What was the Middle Passage like for African slaves? How profitable was the slave trade for the Europeans involved in it?
  5. How did slavery come to be connected to ideas about race in colonies such as Virginia and South Carolina? How did new laws in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century contribute to the way people thought about race?
  6. How tumultuous political events in seventeenth century England such as the civil war of the 1640s and the Glorious Revolution of the 1680s impact the English colonies in the New World?
  7. Define mercantilism. How did it impact the English colonies in the New World?
  8. What was the role of religion in the founding of new English colonies in the seventeenth century such as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Maryland?
  9. Why did New England experience wars with Native Americans in the seventeenth century such as the Pequot War and King Philip’s War? What were these wars like? What was the impact on both English and Native peoples?
  10. What was Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia? What were its causes and consequences?
  11. How did Bacon’s Rebellion contribute to the transition away from indentured servants to race-based slavery?
  12. Why did the Yamasee fight a war against the English settlers of South Carolina? What happened during this war? What were the results of the war?

Chapter 4: Colonial Society

Eighteenth century American culture moved in competing directions. Commercial, military and cultural ties between Great Britain and the North American colonies tightened while a new distinctly American culture began to form and bind together colonists from New Hampshire to Georgia. Immigrants from other European nations meanwhile combined with Native Americans and enslaved Africans to create an increasingly diverse colonial population. All–men and women, European, Native American, and African–led distinct lives and wrought new distinct societies. While life in the thirteen colonies was shaped in part by English practices and participation in the larger Atlantic World, emerging cultural patterns increasingly transformed North America into something wholly different. Read more from Chapter 4 of the American Yawp.

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. Describe the “consumer revolution.” How did it change the lives of American colonists? What were some of the positive and negative results of the “consumer revolution”?
  2. What ways did colonists pay for goods during the “consumer revolution”? Why did they have problems with currency?
  3. How was the “consumer revolution” linked to the growth of port cities in the American colonies? What role did slavery play in the economies of these cities, including northern cities?
  4. Compare and contrast the gang system of labor and task system of labor used for slaves.
  5. Describe politics and civic life in the American colonies. What ways did free men participate in civic and political life?
  6. What was the place of women in colonial society? How did expectations for marriages change in the American colonies during the late eighteenth century?
  7. Describe the development of the printing industry and print culture in colonial America.
  8. How did the Great Awakening change religious life in the American colonies? Who were some of the major figures involved in this religious revival?
  9. How did the Great Awakening contribute to the growth of individualism in the American colonies?
  10. How did the Seven Year’s War (also known as the French and Indian War) play out in North
    America? How did the British ultimately win the war?
  11. What was the cause of Pontiac’s War? How did Pontiac’s War and the Seven Year’s War led to changes in British policy towards the American colonies?