Recorded history began 6,000 years ago. It was 500 years ago that Europeans set foot on the Americas to begin colonization
The theory of Pangaea exists suggesting that the
continents were once nestled together into one mega-continent. They
then spread out as drifting islands.
Geologic forces of continental plates created the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.
The Great Ice Age thrust down over North America & scoured the present day American Midwest.
II. Peopling the Americas
The Land Bridge theory.
As the Great Ice Age diminished, so did the glaciers over North America.
The theory holds that a Land Bridge emerged
linking Asia & North America across what is now known as the Bering
Sea. People were said to have walked across the "bridge" before the sea
level rose and sealed it off; thus populating the Americas.
The Land Bridge is said to have occurred an estimated 35,000 years ago.
Those groups that traversed the bridge spread across North, Central, and South America.
Countless tribes emerged with an estimated 2,000 languages. Notably:
Incas: Peru, with elaborate network of roads and bridges linking their empire.
Mayas: Yucatan Peninsula, with their step pyramids.
Aztecs: Mexico, with step pyramids and huge sacrifices of conquered peoples.
III. The Earliest Americans
Development of corn or maize around 5,000 B.C. in Mexico was revolutionary in that:
Then, people didn't have to be hunter-gatherers, they could settle down and be farmers.
This fact gave rise to towns and then cities.
Corn arrived in the present day U.S. around 1,200 B.C.
The Pueblos were the 1st American corn growers.
They lived in adobe houses (dried mud) and pueblos ("villages" in
Spanish). Pueblos are villages of cubicle shaped adobe houses, stacked
one on top the other and often beneath cliffs.
They had elaborate irrigation systems to draw water away from rivers to grown corn.
These people built huge ceremonial and burial mounds and were located in the Ohio Valley.
Cahokia, near East St. Louis today, held 40,000 people.
Corn grew in a stalk providing a trellis for beans, beans grew up
the stalk, squash's broad leaves kept the sun off the ground and thus
kept the moisture in the soil.
This group likely had the best (most diverse) diet of all North American Indians and is typified by the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw (South) and Iroquois (North).
Hiawatha was the legendary leader of the group.
The Iroquois Confederation was a group of 5 tribes in New York state.
They were matrilineal as authority and possessions passed down through the female line.
Each tribe kept their independence, but met occasionally to discuss matters of common interest, like war/defense.
This was not the norm. Usually, Indians were scattered and separated (and thus weak).
Native Americans had a very different view of things as compared to Europeans.
Native Americans felt no man owned the land, the tribe did. (Europeans liked private property)
Indians felt nature was mixed with many spirits. (Europeans were Christian and monotheistic)
Indians felt nature was sacred. (Europeans felt nature and land was
given to man by God in Genesis to be subdued and put to use).
Indians had little or no concept or interest in money. (Europeans loved money or gold)
IV. Indirect Discoverers of the New World
The 1st Europeans to come to America were the Norse (Vikings from Norway).
Around 1000 AD, the Vikings landed, led by Erik the Red and Leif Erikson.
They landed in Newfoundland or Vinland (because of all the vines).
However, these men left America and left no written record and therefore didn't get the credit.
The only record is found in Viking sagas or songs.
The Christian Crusaders of Middle Ages fought in Palestine to
regain the Holy Land from Muslims. This mixing of East and West created
a sweet-tooth where Europeans wanted the spices of the exotic East.
V. Europeans Enter Africa
Marco Polo traveled to China and stirred up a storm of European interest.
Mixed with desire for spices, an East to West (Asia to Europe)
trade flourished but had to be overland, at least in part. This
initiated new exploration down around Africa in hopes of an easier (all
Portugal literally started a sailing school to find better ways to get to the Spice Islands, eventually rounding Africa's southern Cape of Good Hope.
caravel: a ship with triangular sail that could better tack (zig-zag) ahead into the wind and thus return to Europe from Africa coast.
compass: to determine direction.
astrolabe: a sextant gizmo that could tell a ship's latitude.
Slave trade begins
The 1st slave trade was across the Sahara Desert.
Later, it was along the West African coast. Slave traders purposely
busted up tribes and families in order to squelch any possible uprising.
Slaves wound up on sugar plantations the Portuguese had set up on the tropical islands off Africa's coast.
Spain watched Portugal's success with exploration and slaving and wanted a piece of the pie.
VI. Columbus Comes upon a New World
Christopher Columbus convinced Isabella and Ferdinand to fund his expedition.
His goal was to reach the East (East Indies) by sailing west, thus bypassing the around-Africa route that Portugal monopolized.
He misjudged the size of the Earth though, thinking it 1/3 the size of what it was.
So, after 30 days or so at sea, when he struck land, he assumed
he'd made it to the East Indies and therefore mistook the people as "Indians."
This spawned the following system:
Europe would provide the market, capital, technology.
Africa would provide the labor.
The New World would provide the raw materials (gold, soil, lumber).
VII. When Worlds Collide
Of huge importance was the biological flip-flop of Old and New
Worlds. Simply put, we traded life such as plants, foods, animals,
devastating diseases (smallpox, yellow fever, malaria), as Indians had no immunities.
The Indians had no immunities in their systems built up over generations.
An estimated 90% of all pre-Columbus Indians died, mostly due to disease.
VIII. The Spanish Conquistadores
Treaty Line of Tordesillas 1494: Portugal and Spain feuded over who got what land. The Pope drew this line as he was respected by both.
The line ran North-South, and chopped off the Brazilian coast of South America
Portugal got everything east of the line (Brazil and land around/under Africa)
Spain got everything west of the line (which turned out to be much more, though they didn't know it at the time)
Conquistadores = "conquerors"
Vasco Balboa: "discovered" the Pacific Ocean across isthmus of Panama
Ferdinand Magellan: circumnavigates the globe (1st to do so)
Ponce de Leon: touches and names Florida looking for legendary Fountain of Youth
Hernando Cortes: enters Florida, travels up into present day Southeastern U.S., dies and is "buried" in Mississippi River
Francisco Pizarro: conquers Incan Empire of Peru
and begins shipping tons of gold/silver back to Spain. This huge influx
of precious metals made European prices skyrocket (inflation).
Francisco Coronado: ventured into current Southwest U.S. looking for legendary El Dorado, city of gold. He found the Pueblo Indians.
Encomienda system established
Indians were "commended" or given to Spanish landlords
The idea of the encomienda was that Indians would work and be
converted to Christianity, but it was basically just slavery on a sugar
plantation guised as missionary work.
IX. The Conquest of Mexico
Hernando Cortez conquered the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan.
Cortez went from Cuba to present day Vera Cruz, then marched over mountains to the Aztec capital.
Montezuma, Aztec king, thought Cortez might be the
god Quetzalcoatl who was due to re-appear the very year. Montezuma
welcomed Cortez into Tenochtitlan.
The Spanish lust for gold led Montezuma to attack on the noche
triste, sad night. Cortez and men fought their way out, but it was
smallpox that eventually beat the Indians.
The Spanish then destroyed Tenochtitlan, building the Spanish capital (Mexico City) exactly on top of the Aztec city.
A new race of people emerged, mestizos, a mix of Spanish and Indian blood.
X. The Spread of Spanish America
Spanish society quickly spread through Peru and Mexico
A threat came from neighbors:
English: John Cabot (an Italian who sailed for England) touched the coast of the current day U.S.
France: Giovanni de Verrazano also touched on the North American seaboard.
France: Jacques Cartier went into mouth of St. Lawrence River (Canada).
To oppose this, Spain set up forts (presidios) all over the California coast. Also cities, like St. Augustine in Florida.
Don Juan de Onate followed Coronado's old path
into present day New Mexico. He conquered the Indians ruthlessly,
maiming them by cutting off one foot of survivors just so they'd
Despite mission efforts, the Pueblo Indians revolted in Pope's Rebellion.
Robert de LaSalle sailed down the Mississippi
River for France claiming the whole region for their King Louis and
naming the area "Louisiana" after his king. This started a slew of
place-names for that area, from LaSalle, Illinois to "Louisville" and
then on down to New Orleans (the American counter of Joan of Arc's
famous victory at Orleans).
Black Legend: The Black Legend was the notion that
Spaniards only brought bad things (murder, disease, slavery); though
true, they also brought good things such as law systems, architecture,
Christianity, language, civilization, so that the Black Legend is
partly, but not entirely, accurate.
Chapter 02 - The Planting of English America
I. England’s Imperial Stirrings
North America in 1600 was largely unclaimed, though the Spanish had much control in Central and South America.
Spain had only set up Santa Fe, while France had founded Quebec and Britain had founded Jamestown.
In the 1500s, Britain failed to effectively colonize due to internal conflicts.
King Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530s and launched the English Protestant Reformation.
After Elizabeth I became queen, Britain became basically Protestant, and a rivalry with Catholic Spain intensified.
In Ireland, the Catholics sought Spain’s help in revolting against
England, but the English crushed the uprising with brutal atrocity, and
developed an attitude of sneering contempt for natives.
After Francis Drake pirated Spanish ships for gold then circumnavigated the globe, Elizabeth I knighted him on his ship. Obviously, this reward angered the Spanish who sought revenge.
Meanwhile, English attempts at colonization in the New World failed embarrassingly. Notable of these failures was Sir Walter Raleigh and the Roanoke Island Colony, better known as “The Lost Colony.”
Seeking to get their revenge, Spain attacked Britain but lost in the Spanish Armada’s
defeat of 1588. This opened the door for Britain to cross the Atlantic.
They swarmed to America and took over the lead in colonization and
Victory also fueled England to new heights due to…
Strong government/popular monarch, more religious unity, a sense of nationalism
Golden age of literature (Shakespeare)
Beginning of British dominance at sea (which lasts until U.S. tops them, around 1900)
Britain and Spain finally signed a peace treaty in 1604.
III. England on the Eve of the Empire
In the 1500s, Britain’s population was mushrooming.
New policy of enclosure (fencing in land) for farming. This meant there was less or no land for the poor.
The woolen districts fell upon hard times economically. This meant the workers lost jobs.
Tradition of primogeniture = 1st born son inherits
ALL father’s land. Therefore, younger sons of rich folk (who couldn’t
inherit money) tried their luck with fortunes elsewhere, like America.
By the 1600s, the joint-stock company was perfected (investors put money into the company with hopes for a good return), being a forerunner of today’s corporations.
IV. England Plants the **Jamestown Seedling**
In 1606, the Virginia Company received a charter from King James I to make a settlement in the New World.
Such joint-stock companies usually did not exist long, as
stockholders invested hopes to form the company, turn a profit, and
then quickly sell for profit a few years later.
The charter of the Virginia Company guaranteed settlers the same rights as Englishmen in Britain.
On May 24, 1607, about 100 English settlers disembarked from their ship and founded Jamestown.
Forty colonists had perished during the voyage.
Problems emerged including (a) the swampy site of Jamestown meant
poor drinking water and mosquitoes causing malaria and yellow fever.
(b) men wasted time looking for gold rather than doing useful tasks
(digging wells, building shelter, planting crops), (c) there were zero
women on the initial ship.
It didn’t help that a supply ship shipwrecked in the Bahamas in 1609 either.
Luckily, in 1608, a Captain John Smith took over control and whipped the colonists into shape.
At one point, he was kidnapped by local Indians and forced into a mock execution by the chief Powhatan and had been “saved” by Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas.
The act was meant to show that Powhatan wanted peaceful relations with the colonists.
John Smith’s main contribution was that he gave order and discipline, highlighted by his “no work, no food” policy.
Colonists had to eat cats, dogs, rats, even other people. One fellow wrote of eating “powdered wife.”
Finally, in 1610, a relief party headed by Lord De La Warr arrived to alleviate the suffering.
By 1625, out of an original overall total of 8,000 would-be settlers, only 1,200 had survived.
V. Cultural Clash in the Chesapeake
At first, Powhatan possibly considered the new colonists potential
allies and tried to be friendly with them, but as time passed and
colonists raided Indian food supplies, relations deteriorated and
eventually, war occurred.
The First Anglo-Powhatan War ended in 1614 with a peace settlement sealed by the marriage of Pocahontas to colonist John Rolfe. Rolfe & Pocahontas nurtured a favorable flavor of sweet tobacco.
Eight years later, in 1622, the Indians struck again with a series
of attacks that left 347 settlers, including John Rolfe, dead.
The Second Anglo-Powhatan War began in 1644, ended in 1646, and effectively banished the Chesapeake Indians from their ancestral lands.
After the settlers began to grow their own food, the Indians were useless, and were therefore banished.
VI. Virginia: Child of Tobacco
Jamestown’s gold is found and it is tobacco.
Rolfe’s sweet tobacco was sought as a cash crop by Europe. Jamestown had found its gold.
Tobacco created a greed for land, since it heavily depleted the soil and ruined the land.
Representative self-government was born in Virginia, when in 1619,
settlers created the House of Burgesses, a committee to work out local
issues. This set America on a self-rule pathway.
The first African Americans to arrive in America also came in 1619. It’s unclear if they were slaves or indentured servants.
VII. Maryland: Catholic Haven
Founded in 1634 by Lord Baltimore, Maryland was the second plantation colony and the fourth overall colony to be formed.
It was founded to be a place for persecuted Catholics to find refuge, a safe haven.
Lord Baltimore gave huge estates to his Catholic relatives, but the
poorer people who settled there where mostly Protestant, creating
However, Maryland prospered with tobacco.
It had a lot of indentured servants.
Only in the later years of the 1600s (in Maryland and Virginia) did Black slavery begin to become popular.
Maryland’s statute, the Act of Toleration,
guaranteed religious toleration to all Christians, but decreed the
death penalty to Jews and atheists and others who didn’t believe in the
divinity of Jesus Christ.
VIII. The West Indies: Way Station to Mainland America
As the British were colonizing Virginia, they were also settling into the West Indies (Spain’s declining power opened the door).
By mid-1600s, England had secured claim to several West Indies islands, including Jamaica in 1655.
They grew lots of sugar on brutal plantations there.
Thousands of African slaves were needed to operate sugar
plantations. At first, Indians were intended to be used, but disease
killed an estimated 90% of all Native Americans. So, Africans were
To control so many slaves, “codes” were set up that defined the
legal status of slaves and the rights of the masters. They were
typically strict and exacted severe punishments for offenders.
In England, King Charles I had been beheaded. Oliver Cromwell had
ruled for ten very strict years before tired Englishmen restored Charles II to the throne in “The Restoration.” (After all the turmoil Civil War, they just went back to a king.)
The bloody period had interrupted colonization.
Carolina was named after Charles II, and was formally created in 1670.
Carolina flourished by developing close economic ties with the West Indies, due to the port of Charleston.
Many original Carolina settlers had come from Barbados and brought in the strict “Slave Codes” for ruling slaves.
Interestingly, Indians as slaves in Carolina was protested, but to
no avail. Slaves were sent to the West Indies to work, as well as New
Rice emerged as the principle crop in Carolina.
African slaves were hired to work on rice plantations, due to (a)
their resistance to malaria and just as importantly, (b) their
familiarity with rice.
Despite violence with Spanish and Indians, Carolina proved to be too strong to be wiped out.
Many newcomers to Carolina were “squatters,” people who owned no land, usually down from Virginia.
North Carolinians developed a strong resistance to authority, due to geographic isolation from neighbors.
Two “flavors” of Carolinians developed: (a) aristocratic and
wealthier down south around Charleston and rice & indigo
plantations, and (b) strong-willed and independent-minded up north on
small tobacco farms
In 1712, North and South Carolina were officially separated.
In 1711, when Tuscarora Indians attacked North Carolina, the
Carolinians responded by crushing the opposition, selling hundreds to
slavery and leaving the rest to wander north, eventually becoming the
Sixth Nation of the Iroquois.
XI. Late-Coming Georgia: The Buffer Colony
Georgia was intended to be a buffer between the British colonies
and the hostile Spanish settlements in Florida (Spanish, Indians,
runaway slaves) and the enemy French in Louisiana.
It was founded last, in 1733, by a high-minded group of philanthropists, mainly James Oglethorpe.
Named after King George II, it was also meant to be a second chance site for wretched souls in debt.
iv. James Oglethorpe, the ablest of the founders and a dynamic soldier-statesman, repelled Spanish attacks.
* He saved “the Charity Colony” by his energetic leadership and by using his own fortune to help with the colony.
All Christians, except Catholics, enjoyed religious toleration, and many missionaries came to try to convert the Indians.