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After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. In the 16th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe maize, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash. The disease environment was very unhealthy for explorers and early settlers. The Native Americans became exposed to new diseases such as smallpox and measles and died in very large numbers, usually before large-scale European settlement began.

Spanish, Dutch, and French colonizationEdit

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States with Christopher Columbus' second expedition, which reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493; others reached Florida in 1513.[3] Quickly Spanish expeditions reached the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon[4] and the Great Plains. In 1540, Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present U.S. and, in the same year, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led 2,000 Spaniards and Native Mexican Americans across the modern Arizona–Mexico border and traveled as far as central Kansas.[5] The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, but it was in such a harsh political environment that it attracted few settlers and never expanded. Much larger and more important Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most Spanish settlements were along the California coast or the Santa Fe River in New Mexico.[6] European territorial claims in North America, c. 1750 France Kingdom of Great Britain SpainNew Netherland was the 17th century Dutch colonial province on the eastern coast of North America. The Dutch claimed territory from the Delmarva Peninsula to Buzzards Bay, while their settlements concentrated on the Hudson River Valley, where they traded furs with the Native Americans to the north and were a barrier to Yankee expansion from New England. Their capital, New Amsterdam, was located at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan and was renamed New York when the English seized the colony in 1664. The Dutch were Calvinists who built the Reformed Church in America, but they were tolerant of other religions and cultures. The colony left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, including a secular broadmindedness and mercantile pragmatism in the city, a rural traditionalism in the countryside typified by the story of Rip Van Winkle, and politicians such as Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.[7]

New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period extending 1534 to 1763, when Britain and Spain took control. There were few permanent settlers outside Quebec, but fur traders ranged working with numerous Indian tribes who often became military allies in France's wars with Britain. The territory was divided into five colonies: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. After 1750 the Acadians—French settlers who had been expelled by the British from Acadia (Nova Scotia)—resettled in Louisiana, where they developed a distinctive rural Cajun culture that still exists. They became American citizens in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.[8] Other French villages along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers were absorbed when the Americans started arriving after 1770.

British colonizationEdit

Further information: British colonization of the AmericasThe Mayflower, which transported Pilgrims to the New World. During the first winter at Plymouth, about half of the Pilgrims died.[9]The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that employed forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude,[10] and by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect) that permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders.[11] Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants.[12]

The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. It languished for decades until a new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and the Revolution, the British shipped an estimated 50,000 convicts to their American colonies.[13] One example of conflict between Native Americans and English settlers was the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Native Americans had killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip's War in New England,[14] although the Yamasee War may have been bloodier.[15]

The Plymouth Colony was established in 1620. New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.[16] The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733.[17] Methodism became the prevalent religion among colonial citizens after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival led by preacher Jonathan Edwards in 1734.[16]

Political integration and autonomyEdit

Join, or Die: This 1756 political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin urged the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War.The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. The influence of the main rivals of the British Crown in the colonies and Canada, the French and North American Indians, was significantly reduced. Moreover, the war effort resulted in greater political integration of the colonies, as symbolized by Benjamin Franklin's call for the colonies to "Join or Die".

Following Britain's acquisition of French territory in North America, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the goal of organizing the new North American empire and stabilizing relations with the native Indians. In ensuing years, strains developed in the relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the British victory in the Seven Years' War.

The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists did not share this view. Rather, with the French and Indian threat diminished, the primary outside influence remained that of Britain. A conflict of economic interests increased with the right of the British Parliament to govern the colonies without representation being called into question. Nathaniel Currier's 1846 depiction of the Boston Tea Party.[18]The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct action by colonists in the town of Boston to protest against the taxes levied by the British government. Parliament responded the next year with the Coercive Acts, which sparked outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies. Colonists convened the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance to the Coercive Acts. The Congress called for a boycott of British trade, published a list of rights and grievances, and petitioned the king for redress of those grievances.

The Congress also called for another meeting if their petition did not halt enforcement of the Coercive Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the defense of the colonies at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.

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