Colonization and Settlement, 1585–1763

An introduction by John Demos

American colonial history belongs to what scholars call the early modern period. As such, it is part of a bridge between markedly different eras in the history of the western world. On its far side lies the long stretch we call the Middle Ages (or the “medieval period”), on its near one the rise of much we connect with modernity. It holds the root of modern science (epitomized by Sir Isaac Newton), of modern political thought (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke), of modern capitalism (the first large joint-stock corporations, including some which financed transatlantic “discovery”), of modern state formation (“nations,” roughly as we understand the term today), of urbanization (most especially, London and Paris, but also colonial cities such as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston), and even of what scholars now refer to as “proto-industrialization” (the earliest factory-style modes of production). Yet for the great mass of European—and American—humanity, the flavor of life at ground level remained highly traditional, including an almost exclusive reliance on subsistence agriculture; immersion in small-scale, face-to-face patterns of social life; and a code of behavior shaped by age-old religious beliefs and folk nostrums.More »

Sub Eras

Early Settlements

With an introduction by James Horn, Vice President of Research and Historical Interpretation, Colonial Williamsburg FoundationMore »

The Origins of Slavery

With an introduction by Ira Berlin, Distinguished University Professor, University of MarylandMore »

Religion and Eighteenth-Century Revivalism

With an introduction by Jon Butler, Howard R. Lamar Professor of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies, Yale UniversityMore »

The Thirteen Colonies

With an introduction by Francis Bremer, Professor Emeritus of History, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, and editor of the Winthrop PapersMore »