Explorers in the late 15

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Unit One: 1600-1763

Explorers in the late 15th, 16th, nad early 17th centuries began the European phase of American history. Their "discoveries" in the New dispelled rumors of a northwest passage and settled ancient questions of world geography. Contact between Europeans and Native Americans would have a dramatic effect on Europe, but a devastating impact on those who were wrongly called "Indians."

Christopher Columbus: Spanish explorer who, with the backing of Ferdinand V and Isabella I, discovered the North American continent on October 12,1492. Though he was originally seeking a westward route to India, his fleet of ships consisting of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria reached the island of Hispanola, claiming it for Spain.

Giovanni Verrazano: Mariner who explored the East coast of the United States and Nova Scotia under the commission of France in 1524. He was commissioned to claim new lands in the New World and find a route to China. He was the first European to enter New York Bay. His land claims were not colonized until the 17th century.

Ferdinand Magellan: Portuguese explorer who was the first person to sail across the Pacific Ocean and to circumnavigate the globe. Sailing under a Spanish commission, he attempted to reach the Spice Islands. After crossing the Pacific, Magellan was killed battling natives in the Philippines but two of his ships returned to Spain.

Francisco Pizarro: Spanish explorer and military leader who conquered Peru. Pizarro was part of many early explorations of the New World and was involved in the colonization of Panama. When he found the Inca empire in Peru he organized a expedition of 180 men and destroyed the empire in 1531.

John Cabot: Explorer sent by Henry VII in 1497 who explored and claimed Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the Grand Banks for England. Cabot was originally sent by Henry in violation of the treaty of Tordesillas to find a direct route to Asia. Cabot, like Columbus thought he had reached Asia, unaware he was exploring a new continent.

Pedro Alvares Cabral: Portuguese navigator and explorer who explored what is now Brazil. While making a trip to India on April, 22, 1500 his fleet was forced off course by weather and he reached what is now the state of Bahia, Brazil. He claimed this land for Portugal.

Vasco Nunez de Balboa: Spanish explorer who is best known for being the first to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1513. While attempting to escape debt he joined an expedition lead by Martin Fernandez de Enciso where he took control of the party and led it across the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean, which he claimed for the Spanish monarchs.

Jacques Cartier: French explorer who explored the Saint Lawrence River. In 1534 Cartier lead a two ship party to find the northwest passage to Asia. He explored Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. While exploring, he claimed the lands for France which made up most of its claim to Canada.

Juan Ponce de Leon: Spanish explorer who discovered the present day state of Florida on March 27, 1512. Following reports of a fountain of youth, he sailed from his colony in Puerto Rico to the eastern shore of Florida where, upon landing, his party was attacked by natives and where he was mortally wounded before retreating to Cuba.

Hernando Cortez: Spanish conquistador who is best known for the destruction of the Aztec Empire in present day Mexico. On February 19,1519 Cortez left Cuba with a force of 600 men. Upon landing, Cortez was greeted by the Aztecs who he began to subjugate. He destroyed all resistance and destroyed the Aztec capital in present day Mexico City.

encomiendas: Grants that give a person the right to take labor in the form of slaves or any type of homage form a designated group of Indians. Christopher Columbus who was sailing for Spain and who was one of the first conquistadors also began this practice in Hispanolia.

Spanish Armada, 1588: Naval force launched by Phillip II of Spain to fight England. The Fleet was the largest of its time in the 16th century. The Armada was severely damaged when it was attacked off the coast of England on August 7,1588 and cut nearly in half by storms upon return to Spain, making Britain the dominant sea power.

Colombian Exchange: The exchange of biological organisms between continents. The diseases brought to the American continent that helped to nearly destroy the native populations is one example of that exchange. Besides disease, many plants and animals have been brought to new environments with varying consequences.

Order of Colonization: (colony, date, prominent figure) Virginia in 1607, John Smith; Plymouth in 1620, William Bradford; New York in 1626, Peter Minuit; Massachusetts Bay in 1630, John Winthrop; Maryland in 1633, George Calvert; Rhode Island in 1636, Roger Williams; Connecticut in 1636, Thomas Hooker; New Hampshire in 1638; Delaware in 1638; North Carolina in 1653; South Carolina in 1663; New Jersey in 1664; Pennsylvania in 1682, William Penn; Georgia in 1732, James Oglethorpe.

Virginia Settlement

One of the New England colonies and chartered by James I in 1606, Virginia was founded to give the English territorial claims to America as well as to offer a colonial market for trade. Jamestown, became a prosperous shipping and tobacco producing colony and the colony developed the House of Burgesses, a bicameral legislature in 1619.

Joint Stock Company: A business owned by investors through control of stocks. Examples operated in England and dealt with colonial markets in America. Such companies organized and supported the colonies through charters from the British government and while they worked with the government they made private profits.

Jamestown: The first successful settlement in the Virginia colony founded in May, 1607. Harsh conditions nearly destroyed the colony but in 1610 supplies arrived with a new wave of settlers. The settlement became part of the Virginia Company of London in 1620. The population remained low due to lack of supplies until agriculture was solidly established. Jamestown grew to be a prosperous shipping port when John Rolfe introduced tobacco as a major export and cash crop.

starving time: The period early in any settlements development when food and supplies are scarce due to lack of preparation, unfamiliarity with the surroundings, weather, and inability to successfully grow crops. The starving time usually cost a large percentage of the settlers lives and lasted for the first few years.

John Smith: Colonial leader who brought structure and stability to Jamestown during its starting years. As a member of the governing council of Virginia he was chosen to replace the previous president in 1608. Smith is credited with organizing trade with the Powhatan Confederacy and leading the colony through its roughest years.

John Rolfe: English colonist and farmer who greatly aided the colony. Rolfe is credited with introducing tobacco as a crop for export, which ensured the colony of profits as well as bringing eight years of peace between Indians and colonists through his marriage to Pocahontas.

purpose of Virginia: Virginia was founded primarily for the purpose of profit by the joint-stock owned Virginia Company of London. It was also important in giving England territorial claims in America to match Spanish and French expansion, and to also give England markets and resources in the New World.

indentured servants: People who promised their lives as servants in order to get to the colonies. The servants, who were usually white, worked for a certain amount of time so to pay off their debt. This practice led to social tensions with such eruptions as Bacon’s Rebellion and eventually was replaced by race slavery.

problems and failures of Virginia: Included trouble with Indians and a "starving time" in the winter of 1609 which the colony barely survived. Virginia also suffered from debt, a high death rate, fraudulent local officials, and more Indian trouble. The problems eventually made the Virginia Company go bankrupt.

headright system: System enacted first in Virginia then in Baltimore to attract people to the sparsely populated colonies. The system worked by granting large amount of land to anyone who brought over a certain amount of colonists. In Baltimore, anyone bringing five adults at their own expense would receive two thousand acres.

House of Burgesses: A regular assembly of elected representatives that developed in the Virginia colony in the 1630’s. The House of Burgesses was split into two chambers in 1650, creating the House of Burgesses and the Governors Council. The House was a bicameral legislature that was a model for our congress.

successes of Virginia: Virginia succeeded politically in terms of creating the House of Burgesses as a semi-democratic assembly and forcing governors to cooperate with the legislature. They did this through the power of the purse as governors did not control money, and therefore depended on the legislature for they salaries.

Cavalier: The group of supporters of Charles I in the English Civil War which lasted from 1642-1648. The term Cavalier continued to be used to mean any supporter of the British crown, especially Americans who were British sympathizers during the American Revolution.

Bacon’s Rebellion: Colonial rebellion against the governor of Virginia in 1676. Nathaniel Bacon was the leader of the uprising protesting Governor Berkeley’s neglect of calls for a stronger military presence in the frontier to end problems caused by Indian hostility. The revolt succeeded in driving away the governor and it appeared it would achieve success when Bacon died shortly after the initial success before any progress was made and the rebellion dissipated.


The Puritans first came to America in 1620 on the Mayflower. The Pilgrims, as they were called, were separating from the Anglican church and escaping religious persecution in England by escaping to America. Other Puritans soon flocked to America hoping to "purify" the Anglican Church and develop a colony which would be a model to the world ("a city upon a hill")

Calvinism: The teachings and doctrine of John Calvin, a leader in the Protestant reformation. Calvinism is unique in its rejection of consubstantiation, the Eucharist and in its doctrine of predestination, the belief that no actions taken during a persons life would effect their salvation. The Puritan colonies were based on Calvinist doctrine.

Church of England: The established church in England that is also known as the Anglican church. The Church of England was founded in 1534 by Henry VIII after a dispute with the Roman Catholic church over the annulment of his marriage which culminated in the Act of Supremacy, declaring the King to be the head of the church.

Mayflower Compact: Agreement made by the Pilgrims in 1620 when they landed at Plymouth. The compact created the Plymouth colony and made a civil government under James I based on the will of the colonists. The Compact was important in the early organization and success of the colony.

William Bradford: The second governor of the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts, he was elected over John Carver in 1621 and was reelected thirty times. He was important in the organization and success of the colony and kept a history of the development of the Plymouth colony that was published in 1856.

Pilgrims: The original group of puritan separatists that fled religious persecution in England and found refuge in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic and reached America in 1620 where they founded the Plymouth colony and organized a government based on the Mayflower compact.

Puritans: Reform movement in the Anglican church in the 16th and 17th centuries and came to America in 1629. The movement aimed at purifying the church of corruption split into separatists, who wanted to end ties with the established church and non-separatists. Seeking religious freedom was a strong motivation for colonies in America.

PILGRIMS VS. PURITANS: Pilgrims and Puritans were extremely similar in most practices and beliefs, but Pilgrims were a distinct group of puritans who were not only against the Anglican church but called for total separation from the church, a dangerous belief in religiously tense England. For this reason they fled the town of Scrooby, England, where they originally had assembled and ended up in Plymouth with intentions of creating a community free of English control.

Separatists vs. Non-Separatists: Separatists were a group of Puritans who advocated total withdrawal from the Church of England and wanted the freedom to worship independently from English authority. They included the Pilgrims who migrated to America. Non-Separatists sought to reform the Church from within.

Massachusetts Bay Colony: Colony created by the Massachusetts Bay Company. Under the leadership of John Winthrop, the colony was created to provide the world with a model Christian society. The colony was created in 1630 and it was governed through a General Court selected by church members.

City Upon a Hill: Name given to the Puritan society that was to be created in the New World. The leader of the Puritan migration, John Winthrop planned to create a utopian society based on Puritanism that would have no class distinction and would stress the importance of community and church. The society was to be an example to all the world of what could be achieved. It was anticipated that once the world saw this great city it would follow it example.

Cambridge agreement: Plan used in 1629 to colonize America by allowing immigration of puritan settlers who would control the government and the charter of the Massachusetts Bay company. The agreement was based on the creation of a market for trade but instead developed a religiously based government.

Puritan Migration: The term given to the migration of Puritans to America in the early 17th century. Following the restoration of James I to the throne Puritans in England became persecuted and with the accession of Charles I to the throne the situation became worse. The puritans fled England and came to America to have freedom of religion.

John Winthrop: The first governor and one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a member of the Massachusetts Bay Company. He played a key role in the puritan migration and intended to create a utopian society in America. He was elected governor twelve times and pursued a conservative religious and governmental policy.

saints: High standing members of the church who gained recognition and were put on a council that governed the congregation. Under Puritan doctrine, to become a saint the person had to be a member of the congregation and have been chosen by the church council.

New England Way: The Puritan dominance of New England and their desire to create a utopian society based on their doctrine created a distinct society in New England. Unlike other colonies, Puritans were guided by their religion and created a government and society tied to the church.

Covenant Theology: Christian Theology that stressed that a agreement was made by God with humans with the death of Jesus for the salvation of mankind. The theology differs from sect to sect, some assert that salvation is granted to all, some that its is earned and others that it can be achieved by faith alone.

conversion relation: Part of the Massachusetts Puritans practice, it was a requirement of new members. The Relation required that any member of the congregation must go through an examination before the congregation. Because of its unpleasantness, later generations did not go accept it and the half-way covenant was adopted.

Congregationalism: Protestant organizational system based on the freedom of each church to control its affairs. An offshoot of the separatist, it was continued by the pilgrims in America where it was adopted by the new churches as a way to maintain local independence. Congregationalism was part of the strong independence of the colonies.

Cambridge Platform: Agreement and plan formed by Puritans before they landed in 1629. The platform was the source for the Puritans of the government and organization for their colony, and it established a government under the authority of the King of England.

Contrast Puritan Colonies with others: Because most colonies were created with financial or political gains in mind, puritan colonies had a special distinction from them. The puritans came to American seeking religious freedom and had a strong work ethic enabling them to achieve a success not seen in other colonies.

dissenters: People objected to the accepted doctrine of the established church. The puritans who migrated to America were dissenters from the Church of England who created a new church in the colonies. Religious outcasts from the puritan church such as Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams were also dissenters.

Anne Hutchinson, antinomianism: Early New England religious leader who founded the doctrine of antinomianism, the belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to laws. She was banished to Rhode Island in 1637 for her belief in antinomianism and her insistence on salvation by faith and not works.

Roger Williams, Rhode Island: Early colonial clergyman who founded the religiously tolerant colony of Rhode Island in 1636. Williams was banished from Massachusetts for his belief in religious freedom, he established a colony at Providence in 1636 that tolerated all dissenters and was in good relations with the Natives.

Massachusetts School Law: Law also Known as the Old Deluder Act of 1647, that replaced home education by creating a system in which small towns would have a person capable of teaching the children and every town of over one hundred homes would have a school. The law was a step towards creating a universal education system.

town meetings: The center of Colonial America political life especially in New England. Town Meetings were gatherings where all the voters in the town or nearby countryside would all congregate and go over issues that most interested them, such as town officers, and taxes for the following season.

Voting Granted to Church Members: The New England puritans developed a more democratic system of government than in England that gave the power to elect the governor to all male saints. The idea was furthered in 1644 when it adopted a bicameral court with elected delegates.

Half Way Covenant: A modification in the Cambridge Platform in 1662 that enabled people who had not experienced the conversion relation to become part of the congregation. With the later generations of Protestant settlers unwilling to undergo the conversion relation, church membership was threatened and the compromise was made.

Brattle Street Church: Church located in Boston, Mass. Completed in 1699. Thomas Brattle, a wealthy merchant and official of Harvard College organized the church against the will of Cotton Mather because of its closeness to the Church of England. The Church was strongly opposed to the Salem Witchcraft trials in 1692.

SALEM WITCH TRIALS: The fear of witchcraft that came to a head in the 1691-1963, especially boiling over in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. This fear ended with the death of many innocent women. Most of the women were middle aged wives or widows. Many implicated others for fear of their lives. The Salem Witch Trials pinpointed the underlying tension that was coming to head in many colonies due to religion and social standings.

Puritan Ethic: Term that characterizes the strong sense of purpose and discipline that Puritans had. Part of the work ethic also resulted from a belief that wealth and success were a sign of saintliness and that idleness was a sin. This work ethic also helped the Puritans find success in the colonies and translated to an American colonial work ethic.


As life in the colonies progressed, certain regions of America developed distinct characteristics and each had its own unique niche. The contrasts between the different regions were involving crops, religion, and control. The distinct regions were New England ,the Chesapeake Bay area, the southern colonies, the middle colonies, and the frontier.

NEW ENGLAND: Region of the colonies lying on the northeast Atlantic Coast. It started as a highly religious, Puritan society, but eventually became a commercialized "Yankee" society. Of all the colonies, the New Englanders prospered the least, had the most overpopulated towns, and had the poorest soil. To make up for the lack of farming, New Englanders turned to fishing and the merchant marine, and by 1700, this was one of the largest industries in the colonies.

New England Confederation, 1643: A concord among the New England colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven in the years from 1643-1684. The union was for the purpose of ensuring safety and peace between the colonies. The confederation was used most effectively advising during King Phillips War.

The Dominion of New England: Centralized government imposed upon the New England colonies by England in 1686 as a result of the Restoration monarchy’s need for control and renewed colonial interest. The Dominion was governed by New York governor Sir Edmund Andros. The consolidation was strongly opposed by the colonists because of the elimination of all colonial legislatures, and was ended by colonial insurrection.

Massachusetts Bay Company: Company in 1628 to govern the Massachusetts Bay Colony on granted by the Council of New England in America. Puritan settlers who founded their settlement at Boston first colonized the land, starting a trend of religiously independent settlements. The Company was dissolved in 1684.

Sir Edmund Andros: Political leader appointment as governor of the Dominion of New England in 1686. Andros was extremely unpopular because of his suppression of colonial legislatures, town meetings and enforcement of the Navigation Acts. Boston colonists forcefully removed Andros from office in 1689.

Thomas Hooker: Religious leader in colonial America and founder of Hartford, Conn. As a clergyman in Massachusetts, Hooker grew dissatisfied with the rigid practices and government of the Puritan church. In 1635 he lead a group of followers to start a more liberal colony in Hartford.

Saybrook Platform: A modified version of the Cambridge platform that was used by Connecticut Congregationalists and contained a more centralized church government. The government was for the colony at Saybrook of which John Winthrop’s son was governor.

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut: The constitution of the Connecticut colony that was established in 1639. Written by Thomas Hooker and similar to the government of Massachusetts Bay, it contained a preamble and 11 orders. Following the puritan ideal, it put the welfare of the community above that of individuals.

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