The colonial period was an interesting and significant period of American history. Here is a glimpse of the highlights of this period.
The Europeans and Native Americans had various clashes throughout the colonial period. These included conflicts like the Powhatan War, Beaver Wars, Peach Tree War, Micmac War, and Apalachee Massacre, etc. The colonists and the natives initially had good relationships. However, the great migrations, along with the colonists broken promises, severed these connections. This resulted in many bloodbaths where both parties ended up facing severe consequences.
The Church of England did not allow religious freedom. Anyone who went against the church received harsh punishment. Many Puritans in England and other parts of Europe were persecuted at the time. During this period, a group of Pilgrims set out to the sea and created the Plymouth colony in North America. They created their government according to the Mayflower Compact. In 1629 the non-separatist Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
In the 17th century, England made earnest efforts to form new settlements in the New World. The original thirteen colonies were all located along the Atlantic Coast. The first one was Virginia, which was established in 1607, and the last one was Georgia, which was established in 1733.
Every one of these colonies developed their own self-government system. Initially they were proprietary colonies and a proprietor was appointed who founded and governed the settlements under a royal charter. Later, many colonies directly came under British crown.
The conflicts between the various territories were common. By the 1640s, the English had started devising their defense against the Indians, French, and the Dutch attacks. During the French and Indian War, the northern colonies experienced various attacks from the French.
The King Georges War ended up affecting the colonies as well. Although the significant battles were fought in Europe, the American colonists also fought the French in New York, New England, and Nova Scotia. Other conflicts also took place between European colonies. These include the Dummers War and Father Le Louts War.
The political environment at the colonies was fairly liberal. It attracted many young people who entered politics and took part in it. Every man, as long as he owned a certain amount of property, had the right to vote. As a consequence, a majority of the American colonists could vote. However, an elite social class also existed which largely dominated the top politics seats.
The tobacco was the primary cash crop of the southern colonies. However, it needed to be regularly planted which required a large workforce. The lack of workers was a cause of serious concern for the planters and they decided to import more African slaves.
Slaves eventually became the primary labor force. Rice was another specialty of the Southern colonies. Slaves might have also been used for rice cultivation as well. According to the statistics reported in 1750, 250,000 out of 650,000 people living in southern colonies were slaves.
Even though the American colonies differed from one another, they still had strong connections with the British Empire. Many colonists could trace their family roots back to Great Britain. People who had not visited their home country in a long still imitated its dressing style. The houses and furniture were designed in the Georgian style. The colonists also participated in the Enlightenment movement.
During the 17th century, the British industry was booming. Britain sent its surplus produce to the American colonies. The British merchants also gave their American customers credit, which allowed them to buy more products. This led to the formation of a single British identity. There were also similarities between the political structure of the colonies and the British parliamentary system.
Depending on their circumstances, every colony produced different results. The New England had poor soil and they were not able to cultivate many crops. So they focused more on fishing. In comparison, the land in the Middle Colonies was very fertile. The farmers here produced various crops such as oats, barley, rye, and corn, etc. The Middle Colonies sent food to New York and Philadelphia.
The Southern Colonies were perfect for growing tobacco, rice, and indigo crops. However, these crops required a large number of workers. For this purpose, African American slaves were imported to the Southern territories. By 1700, Philadelphia annually exported a large amount of wheat and flour bushels. The farmers started experimenting with various techniques such as making use of lime, dung, turning the crop around and the cradle scythe.
An increase in wheat trading expanded the seaport business as well. This led to the formation of a social class system in towns with notable seaports. The merchants sat at the top of the social hierarchy. Only about forty merchants managed half of Philadelphia’s trade.
Shopkeepers, artisans, shipwrights, butchers, dressmakers, and cobblers, belonged to the middle class of the seaport society. Wives worked with their husbands to make a decent living. They also taught their skills to their children.
The laborers were the lowest class of the seaport society. They were poor people. Their primary responsibilities were unloading inbound vessels and loading outbound vessels. A majority of them were African Americans. Some were free although many were slaves.
Some African American seamen also worked on the merchant ships as well. According to the statistics in 1750, African Americans made up about 10 % of New York and Philadelphia population.
The Pilgrims sought religious freedom and escape from religious persecution. This brought them to the colonies. Of the Pilgrims, Quakers was a group that settled in the Pennsylvania region. The Pennsylvania settlement was founded by William Penn in 1681.
The Catholic settlers created a settlement in Maryland. Roger Williams, a Puritan with liberal religious views, was kicked out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He, along with others, founded the Providence Plantation.