Beginning with a 1493 Latin printing of Columbus’s letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, the Collection contains more than 4000 colonial era documents that chronicle the establishment of European settlements in the New World, relations with American Indians, the French and Indian War, Quaker settlements, and commerce in the colonies. The materials in the Collection focus on the English and Dutch colonies, with some materials relating to the Spanish and French territories. Official documents include treaties between European powers and American Indians, Acts of Parliament, and decrees of the colonial governments. The colonists’ letters describe the hardships of daily life, relations with American Indians, the establishment of communities, and economic activity.
Selected searches in the Collection’s catalog:
- A 1493 Latin printing of Christopher Columbus’s letter to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain
- Pope Alexander VI’s 1493 Papal Bull granting Spain exclusive rights to the New World
- Letters, documents, and maps exploring the relations between the colonists and American Indian peoples
- Sebastian Brandt’s 1622 letter from Jamestown Virginia, one of the earliest surviving letters written by an ordinary colonist who held no official position
- The Livingston papers with personal letters as well as materials related to politics, business, and land ownership in colonial New York, from 1661 to 1728
- Letters from William Penn in our materials related to Quaker settlement in the colonies
- Correspondence regarding Elizabeth Woodhouse, a young Quaker woman who wanted to emigrate to the colonies without her family
- Maps of the colonial era (prior to 1763)
Educational resources including essays, timelines, multimedia, interactives, featured primary sources, and other teaching resources can be found in the History by Era section of our website. Our Featured Primary Sources include introductions, transcriptions, and images of documents, available to all educators, with additional content of questions for discussion and printable hand-outs for Affiliate School members.
- Early Settlements
- The Orgins of Slavery
- Religion and Eighteenth Century Enlightenment
- The Thirteen Colonies