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Colonial History of the USA

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, many Europeans migrated to North America in an effort to make a new life for themselves. They came from a variety of social and religious groups, including adventurers, farmers, indentured servants, tradesmen, and a very few from the aristocracy.

Political and religious reasons were strong motivators. The attempted personal and arbitrary rule of Charles I and the subsequent revolt and triumph of his opponents under Oliver Cromwell gave impetus to migration.

The Colonies

From the early 17th century until the American Revolution, European settlers settled in North America. Those colonists came from various regions of Europe, including the British Empire, France, and the Spanish Empire.

They were diverse in social, religious, political and economic characteristics. Their colonial settlements became a melting pot, and by the time of the Revolution their distinctive identities helped to make them into a nation called the United States of America.

New England colonies were a mix of Puritans and other religious people who hoped for more freedom from the established church in England. These colonists tended to be very hardworking and had strong communities.

The Middle Colonies were largely agricultural, and grew many different kinds of crops. They also grew timber and produced textiles.

The Southern Colonies were a mix of religious people and non-religious people who had come to work on plantations or subsistence farms. They also had many indentured servants who worked for 5-7 years in exchange for their passage to the New World.

The Puritans

Known for their strong beliefs, the Puritans were also known as the “Marion exiles.”

They arrived in the New World in large groups and settled in towns. They established churches to serve as the center of their communities and to provide spiritual guidance.

These piety-driven people believed that they must live according to the Bible’s teachings and not based on their own desires or passions. They also believed that their salvation and eternal life depended on their religious beliefs.

The Puritans were also a group of hardworking people who worked to better their lives. They created schools and educated their children to read the Bible and learn how to write.

Their religious views led them to believe that they must stay away from many things that were considered immoral in England and other Catholic countries. They banned drama and religious music as well as erotic poetry in their worship services.

The Native Americans

When European explorers first arrived in the New World, they met people who lived in villages built from dome-shaped dwellings made of reeds. These Native Americans spoke Algonquian languages and were great hunters.

The earliest relationships between the English colonists and the Native Americans were based on trade. The English traded with the Native Americans for skins, hides, food, and knowledge. They also exchanged beads, coins, and wampum.

These trading relationships changed when European settlers started to bring European goods like metal pots and tools. These new resources became very valuable to Indians.

The relationship between the American settlers and the Native Americans was complicated. Over time, disease and conflict caused many problems. These conflicts eventually led to the First Indian War.

The Economy

The economy of the United States traces its roots to the quest of European settlers for economic gain in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Unlike the Native Americans, who were self-sufficient, the colonists sought to establish a more Europeanized way of life.

Agriculture was the dominant economic activity of the colonies. Most colonists were farmers, though they often had to rent land or share it with family members.

They grew crops like wheat, corn, and oats for export. These were not much more profitable than the staples they cultivated in England, but they were an important source of income for colonists living on less fertile soil and with shorter growing seasons.

The colonies joined a trading network called the Triangular Trade that linked them with Europe and the West Indies. It was an important factor in their growth and development, and it encouraged the emergence of commercial institutions that were essential to the colonists’ ability to survive.

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