This chapter concentrates on the contact between Indians and early European explorers and settlers in the Americas. It begins by examining the first Americans—the often quite sophisticated Native American cultures in South and North America before European contact. The next major theme is the European
expansion pioneered by the Portuguese and Spanish and propelled by the search for African gold and a direct sea route to Asia. Portuguese contact with African societies, the voyages of Columbus, and the Spanish conquest of Mexico and South America are discussed, with critical analysis of the demographic consequences of those contacts. Other aspects of Spanish colonization—including justifications for conquest, economic matters, and Spanish-Indian relations—are also considered. The next section focuses on the French and Dutch empires in North America. The relatively few French who lived in New France (French Canada) consisted mainly of fur traders, indentured servants, and Jesuit missionaries. The French drew Indians into the Atlantic economy and into conflict with European powers. The Dutch, mainly interested in trade, established friendly commercial and diplomatic relations with the Iroquois but conflicted with other Indians over land in New Netherland.
Points for Discussion
• The Europeans’ understanding of freedom based on ownership of private property had little meaning to most Indian societies. What was far more important than individual autonomy to most Indian communities, and why?
• Evaluate “Gold, God, and Glory” as reasons for the European conquest of the Americas. Did one outweigh another in motivating the Europeans? How were these reasons used to justify the conquest? How genuine were they?
• The conquest of the New World by the Europeans resulted in interaction among cultures. Discuss this interaction and how it affected both the Europeans and the Indians. Be sure to discuss the demographic
• Compare the Spanish colonies with those of the French and Dutch. Think about economies, freedoms, religion, government structure, and intermarriage. How did the French and Dutch learn from the experiences of the Spanish?
•Explain as thoroughly as you can how the slave trade affected African society.
•Explain the chapter’s title: “A New World.” What was new? Is “new” an appropriate term? Does perspective play a role in calling the Americas new?
•Compare Indian society with that of the Europeans. What differences were there? Similarities? Be sure to include in your analysis ideas about religion, land, and gender roles, as well as notions of freedom.
This chapter concentrates on the early history of the Chesapeake and New England colonies, between 1607 and 1660. The chapter begins by exploring the motives behind English colonization of the New World, then considers who was emigrating to North America, and for what reasons. Contact with the Indians and the subsequent transformation of Indian life is examined. The settlement in the Chesapeake region, where tobacco emerged as the economic engine and most early colonists cultivated that crop as indentured servants, is compared with the more family- and spiritually-oriented, more economically diverse New England settlements. There is an ironic note in the story of New England’s economic
development: although Puritanism’s religion-based work ethic partially encouraged the region’s economic growth, the wealth it created eventually weakened the power and influence of Puritan authority. Religion and freedom are common themes in this chapter, relevant to the establishment of Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The Puritan distinction between moral liberty and religious freedom plays a significant role in the banishment of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson from the Massachusetts colony. Puritanism and liberty are highlighted in “Voices of Freedom,” with a letter by Roger Williams and an excerpt from a speech given by John Winthrop. The chapter concludes by looking at the history of English ideas of freedom from the Magna Carta through England’s Civil War of the 1640s, which gave the English the belief that they were the world’s guardians of liberty. As such, the English believed they were destined to free the Americas from the hold of the Spanish.
Points for Discussion
• Fit England into your earlier examination and analysis of other European nations’ colonization at the time.
• Why was the Jamestown Colony unstable and its survival questionable? Who settled there? What were their goals? How did they interact with the Indians?
• Compare and contrast the religious attitudes of settlers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maryland. To what extent did freedom of religion exist in these colonies?
• What were the differences between the Pilgrims and the Puritans?
• How were Puritan women expected to achieve genuine freedom?
• Explain how Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson showed how the Puritan belief in each individual’s ability to interpret the Bible could easily lead to criticism of the religious establishment.
• Discuss the idea of the rights of Englishmen and what that meant to the settlers in the New World. How did the English Civil War affect the colonists’ understanding of their rights?
• How did Puritans use the utopian ideas of America as a place to begin anew—as a place to be able to worship and govern freely—to justify its rather rigid doctrine?
• Discuss the various definitions of freedom in 17th century North America. Be sure to include slaves, indentured servants, women, Indians, property owners, and Puritans in your discussion. Identify any similarities and differences among these different versions of freedom.
•Explain the reasons behind the various conflicts between the English and the Indians. How do differing perceptions of land and liberty fit into the story? How does trade play a part?
•Compare the Chesapeake and New England colonies. Explore the various reasons for the colonists’ emigrating to the New World, their economies, gender roles, demographics, religion, and relations with the Indians. Which pattern of settlement is more representative of American development after the seventeenth century?
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