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American History 9/13/16

by: Max Skidelsky

American History 9/13/16 HIST 1310

Max Skidelsky

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These notes cover what was discussed in the lecture, and could be used to supplant potential papers.
Intro to American History
Class Notes
american, history
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Max Skidelsky on Saturday September 24, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 1310 at George Washington University taught by Silverman in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 11 views. For similar materials see Intro to American History in American History at George Washington University.


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Date Created: 09/24/16
9/13/16 Most Americans wrongly believe that the majority of the Trans-Atlantic Europeans who traveled to the ‘New World’ did so in pursuit of religious freedom. Certainly, a number did. However, the vast majority came for economic reasons, as most migrants were unemployed laborers escaping poverty. More than ¾ were young 20-somethings who became indentured servants, and ventured across the Atlantic alone. Most did not join the familial colonies of New England, but rather the plantations further south in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. Most of these people were illiterate, and a short time after they arrived they died under strenuous working conditions. These people were phased out quickly when, in the 17 th century, millions of Africans were transported to work plantations instead. As part of a system that developed, Georgia banned slavery (along with liquor), in an effort to prevent slaves that escaped South Carolina from reaching Florida (which was then under Spanish control). Therefore, any slaves found in Georgia would be known runaways. European discoveries along the American continent were driven by gold-hungry countries like Spain, and others seeking a fabled Northwest Passage—a supposed water route that cut through North America entirely to reach the Pacific Ocean and eventually enable trade with Asia (Technically, the Columbia River is the closest substitute, as it opens up in Oregon). Trade with Asia remained highly sought after, considering no silk boom was possible in America. However, the Northeast did have much high quality wood for shipbuilding and fishes, which for practicing Catholics was important (some spent 100 days without eating meat and would thus substitute meat for fish). Almost all furs traded by Europeans were originally procured by Native hunters—they were mostly beaver, with some deer or bear. Apart from New France, New Netherland, and New Sweden, the English colonies were not founded for the purposes of trading furs, but such became central to their economic prosperity and thus necessary for their survival. Most colonies were initially funded from joint-stock companies and wealthy gentries who had large inheritances. A certain type of colony that arose was a proprietary colony, in which a single person (or group) could control the colony and direct its activities. The general goal though was to recruit laborers, not family members, so that landlords could focus on making money, as those in England were evicted in place of sheep (there was a wool market booming in Europe at the time). So recruiters would go into taverns and convince people to sign, promising food, clothing, and upon release, their own land. Mainland colonies relied on indentured servants, but the Island ones quickly shifted to slaves in the early 17 thcentury. Some colonies avoided this because such an economic system led to vast lands in control of a very wealthy few. A basic English belief was that the colonies needed to be well balanced, and to do so marriage had to be maintained. In Virginia, less than half of couples had kids, given the harsh conditions of early colonial America. However, after a century of religious tumult in England—begun when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and ignited a series of smaller but substantial protestant movements within his own country—some people decided to experiment and test new concepts of religious freedoms in the colonies. For instance, the Puritans fled persecution in New England (Puritans believed that the Church was corrupt and had to be made plain so that people could connect with the Bible more directly and easily). However, it is important to note that this group, like several others, did not intend to establish religious freedom in general as is known today. The Puritans, upon reaching America, sought to establish religious freedom for themselves, and demanded everyone else either conform, or be expelled from their community (possibly executed). The majority of these people arrived during periods of religious crackdown in England, but when Puritans gained control of the situation they stayed in England to foster a freer society for themselves. Colonial life varied greatly dependent upon which region one settled in. In New England, the colonies were extraordinarily well balanced in terms of middle class families that were gender balanced, with a self-sustaining population growth that did not depend on migrant influx, and overall maintained a relatively decent standard of living, enabling the very young and the very old to settle —in other areas, less than 1% of people were under 14. While the Spanish and the French sent missionaries to convert Native Americans across the continent, the most interesting religious experiment occurred along the Northeast coast. One such experiment was Maryland, which allowed for the free worships of both Catholics and Protestants, two major opponents in a bitter religious struggle back in Europe—allowed to coexist in America. Another extraordinary case is that of Pennsylvania, which is the only true example of religious freedom as it is known today. All worships, not just Christian variations but Jews too, were allowed. They also treated Native Americans well, but did not raise funds for defense or foster an army for war. On the whole, while 17 thcentury colonies varied, some being built by a migrant influx, others by a slave influx, they all carried with them a utopian ambition—a vision for a shining city on a hill that was impossible in England but possible in America.


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