Tag Archives: colonialism

Violence vs. Reconciliation: The Continental Congress Explains the War

After the outbreak of armed conflict between British soldiers and American colonial troops, the Second Continental Congress struggled to agree on how best to proceed. While most of the delegates were not leaning toward independence (though they would be within a year), there were delegates who saw the colonists’ military action as justified, paving the way toward a wider war and, eventually, independence.  However there were also delegates who were eager to reconcile with Britain and put the fighting behind them.

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Anti-British Activism and the Role of Women

While the issues at stake in the years leading up to the American War of Independence largely affected political and economic elites, the broader communities participated in actions designed to bend the British will. One method of protest was to boycott British goods, such as tea. These documents, from 1774 and 1775, illustrate the role of women in carrying out these boycotts.

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Concerns and Causes: The Massachusetts Circular Letter of 1768

Written by Samuel Adams, and approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, this letter was sent to the assemblies of England’s other North American colonies in response to the Townshend Acts. When a copy reached the British government, the Massachusetts leaders to revoke it, which they did not.

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Captivity Narratives: A Window on Native/English Relations

During the late 1600s, there was increasing conflict between the New England colonies and Native American tribes.  Much of this conflict resulted from the New Englanders’ enormous appetite for land and increasing Native desperation to not see their way of life extinguished. The most devastating of these conflicts was Metacom’s War (also known as King Philip’s War).

One example of the evidence we have about life during this time were “captivity narratives.” These were accounts of the kidnapping and eventual ransom of (generally) English women by hostile (to the English) Natives. This excerpt, by Mary Rowlandson of Massachusetts who was a captive during Metacom’s War, is one of the most well-known.

Rowlandson organized her account as a series of “removes”–each discussion one location of her long, mobile captivity.

Note: this is a longer-than-usual excerpt, so allow yourself plenty of time to get through it!
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European/Native Relations: the French

The relationship between the French and the Native American tribes they encountered was a product of the French goals in North America. Unlike the Spanish they did not arrive with large armies or attempt to enslave the Natives. Unlike the English, the French did not attempt to establish large-scale settlements. In many, but not all, cases, the relationship between the French and the Native tribes was based on mutual gain–the French gained access to natural resources such as beaver pelts and the Natives gained access to high quality European goods.

Cultural differences did exist, however, as evidenced by this account from a leader of the Micmac tribe, recorded by a French priest named Chrestian LeClerq.

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The Pueblo Revolt and Cultural Colonialism in Spanish America

The Pueblo Revolt, led by a native leader named Pope, resulted in a significant—but temporary—lost of territory for the Spanish in North America.  This description of the motivations of the rebelling natives illustrates the cultural tensions between the native peoples and the occupying Spanish.

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Religion in New England

 The Puritan founders of the Massachusetts Bay colony  sought to make their society a “citiy on a hill,” an example of Christian community for their English homeland to emulate. This led to, in some cases, a greater degree of religious persecution than in England; not only against the non-Christian Native Americans but against Christians who dissented from some aspects of the leadership’s Calvinist faith.

Roger Williams (1603-1683) was a proponent of religious freedom and of a separation between civil and religious affairs.  He founded the Providence Plantation colony (later Rhode Island) partially as a refuge for those persecuted.

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North America before Europeans

The first inhabitants of North America arrived via the Beringia land bridge approximately 20,000 years ago, although archaeological work on the earliest Americans is ongoing.  Widespread occupation of the Americas dates to around 13,000 to 16,000 years ago.
In North America, these peoples spread out, developing distinct but sometimes related languages and cultures (as shown in the map below).  Ways of life varied, from hunting and gathering societies to organizations of urban hubs and hinterlands (such as the Mississippian civilization centered on the city of Cahokia).

This image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Langs_N.Amer.png) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

This image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Langs_N.Amer.png) is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.