United States History I & II
United States History I & II

United States History I & II

Lead Author(s): Sara Eskridge

Student Price: Contact us to learn more

Transform your teaching with the power of digital pedagogy. This book features: an interactive timeline, live learning feedback, embedded primary source video, automatic grading, and full customizability.

What is a Top Hat Textbook?

Top Hat has reimagined the textbook – one that is designed to improve student readership through interactivity, is updated by a community of collaborating professors with the newest information, and accessed online from anywhere, at anytime.


  • Top Hat Textbooks are built full of embedded videos, interactive timelines, charts, graphs, and video lessons from the authors themselves
  • High-quality and affordable, at a significant fraction in cost vs traditional publisher textbooks
 

Key features in this textbook

Our U.S. History textbook extends beyond the page with interactive graphing tools, real-world news clips and articles that relate to current events, and examples that are relevant to millennial audiences.
Built-in assessment questions embedded throughout chapters so students can read a little, do a little, and test themselves to see what they know!
Our US History Textbook comes with a primary sources reader (at no extra cost!) for deeper learner of significant historical events.

Comparison of U.S. History Textbooks

Consider adding Top Hat’s U.S. History textbook to your upcoming course. We’ve put together a textbook comparison to make it easy for you in your upcoming evaluation.

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

$87.99

Per volume

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Constantly revised and updated by a community of professors with the latest content

In-Book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Only available with supplementary resources at additional cost

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Pricing

Average price of textbook across most common format

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Up to 40-60% more affordable

Lifetime access on any device

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

$63.90

Hardcover print text only

MacMillan

Roark, Johnson, Furstenberg, Stage, and Igo, The American Promise, 2 Volumes, 8th Edition

$87.99

Per volume

Pearson

Keene, Cornell, and O’Donnell, Visions of America, 2013

$79.60

Digital only

Always up-to-date content, constantly revised by community of professors

Content meets standard for Introduction to Anatomy & Physiology course, and is updated with the latest content

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

In-book Interactivity

Includes embedded multi-media files and integrated software to enhance visual presentation of concepts directly in textbook

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

Customizable

Ability to revise, adjust and adapt content to meet needs of course and instructor

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

All-in-one Platform

Access to additional questions, test banks, and slides available within one platform

Top Hat

Sara Eskridge, U.S. History I or II, Only One Edition Needed

Norton

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty, 5th Edition

MacMillan

Case, Fair, Oster, The American Promise, 2 Volumes

McGraw-Hill

McConnell et al., Visions of America, 2nd Edition

About this textbook

Lead Authors

Sara Eskridge, Ph.DRandolph-Macon College, VA

Dr. Eskridge is a Professor of History at Western Governors University. She specializes in Civil Rights, Cold War, Southern, and Cultural History. She is the author of Rube Tube: CBS as Rural Comedy in the Sixties (University of Missouri Press, 2019) as well as several articles and book chapters on southern mediated images during the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.

Contributing Authors

Andrew WegmannLoyola University

Michael CarverCalifornia Polytechnic State University

Michael FrawleyUniversity of Texas of the Permian Basin

Linda ClemmonsIllinois State University

Angela HessCameron University

Sam NelsonRidgewater College

Volker JanssenCalifornia State University

Lance JandaCameron University

Explore this textbook

Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.

Chapter 3: British Forays into Colonization 1500s-1680



Pre Chapter Discussion - Level 2

How would you characterize the relationship between the English colonists and Native Americans?


Chapter Overview

Throughout the 1580s, Richard Hakluyt called for England to establish a colonial presence in America. Although he never traveled further than France himself, and certainly did not set foot in America, he believed that overseas expansion and settlements would benefit England in many ways. Hakluyt wrote numerous books promoting English colonization of the Americas, including The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (Figure 3.1). This book served as an extended advertisement for the “new world” and portrayed America as a paradise on earth. Hakluyt also provided reasons for England to establish settlements in America. First, he argued that England needed to “plant the Christian religion” among the Indians; second, “traffic [trade]:” and third “Conquer.” He summarized that England should “do all three.” 

Figure 3.1: The front page of Richard Hakluyt’s The Principall Navigations [1]​

Hakluyt’s book provides a solid introduction to England’s early attempts to colonize the Americas. Most importantly, he gives insight into how the English colonial empire would be both similar and different from its European rivals, especially Spain, Portugal, and France. As Hakluyt noted, England, like Spain and France, hoped to convert Native Americans to Christianity. Due to the Protestant Reformation in England, however, English missionaries focused on converting Native Americans to Protestantism rather than the Catholicism of their Spanish and French rivals. This religious rivalry also influenced England’s foreign policy, timing, and areas of settlement. By the seventeenth century, the Protestant Reformation had also led many men and women to leave England and settle in America. 

Hakluyt also hoped to enrich England either by finding precious metals and other wealth like Spain, or through a very lucrative trade like France. Once in America, however, the English economic empire ended up looking very different from those of Spain, France, or Holland. English settlers did not find gold, silver, or other precious metals like Spain. While some traded with Indians, English colonists never developed an extensive fur trade empire like the French. Instead, the English empire in North America came to rest on agricultural products, especially tobacco in the Chesapeake region and smaller family farms in New England. Of course, this led colonists to appropriate Indian land for their farms. While there were years of tentative coexistence between English settlers and Native Americans in each region, the English colonists’ desire for Indian lands and resources led to warfare and eventual land loss between settlers and Native Americans during the early colonial period. 

Chapter Objectives:

  • Understand the reasons for British colonization in America and why it began much later than that of other European nations
  • Explore England’s initial explorations and failed colonies
  • Study the founding of the Chesapeake colonies
  • Investigate the formation of the New England colonies
  • Survey the relations of English colonists with Native Americans



The Beginning of British Colonization in America

Factors that Worked against Early English Colonization 

In The Principall Navigations, Richard Hakluyt argued that England, rather than Spain, France, or other European powers, held legal claim to the Americas. According to Hakluyt, in 1170, over three hundred years before Columbus, “Madoc the sonne of Owen Gwyneth Prince of North-wales” had “discovered” America. The Prince Madoc’s discovery meant that England could rightfully claim America as its own territory. Despite Hakluyt’s imaginary claims to an American empire, England was actually one of the last European powers to colonize the Americas. In fact, the first permanent English settlement in America came a full century after Columbus established Spain’s initial colony on Hispaniola. During the 1500s, Spain and Portugal sent thousands of conquistadors, priests, and settlers to the Americas, while England lagged far behind in both exploration and colonization. 

 There were many reasons why England failed to join the early rush to explore and settle the Americas. First, from 1400 to the late 1500s, England could not compete politically, economically, or militarily with Spain or Portugal. Like other European monarchs, King Henry VII (who ruled from 1485-1509) consolidated political power and established a nascent nation-state. However, he still confronted powerful local nobles who often ignored royal authority. Henry VII also did not have a standing army, and his navy was small and weak. These internal domestic issues kept England focused within instead of looking across the Atlantic.

Second, a tangled web of international alliances—especially with Spain—worked against England’s potential as a colonial power. In 1509, King Henry VIII (king from 1509-1547) married Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon. This marriage created an alliance between England and Spain, and Spain gave English merchants partial rights to trade with its American colonies. Henry VIII worried that Spain would cut off these trading rights if England attempted to colonize America on its own. Until the late 1500s, England’s weakness and subservience to Spain kept it from establishing colonies or exploiting American riches.

While England did not establish any colonies at first, the country did make one attempt to explore the Americas in the late 1400s. As briefly noted in Chapter 2, King Henry VII enlisted John Cabot to explore America in 1497. Both Cabot and Henry VII hoped to find the fabled “Northwest Passage,” a water-route across North America leading to the Pacific. Cabot sailed north from England instead of following Columbus’s more southern route. He believed that this path would be shorter and allow him to find the elusive Northwest Passage. He landed in present day Canada, although the exact location remains unknown. Some historians believe that Cabot discovered Cape Breton Island, while others think he found Nova Scotia. Cabot returned to England and attempted another voyage in 1498. Historians are not sure what happened to Cabot during this second voyage, although most believe that he was lost at sea. While he never found the Northwest Passage, Cabot claimed all of the lands he discovered for England. Despite his large claim of land for England, the country waited another century before attempting to establish colonies in America. 

3.01 - Level 1

Which of the following were reasons for England's failure to colonize the Americas until over a century after Spain and Portugal?

A

England’s nobles often ignored royal authority

B

England did not want to imperil their ability to trade with Spanish colonies in America

C

England did not have a strong army or navy


The Background of English Colonization

The Protestant Reformation, Conflict with Spain, and the rise of English Nationalism

Figure 3.2: King Henry VIII of England pictured here [2] with his first wife the Spanish Catherine of Aragon, [3] and his second wife, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. [4]

By the end of the sixteenth century, several events came together which allowed England to finally establish a presence in the Americas. First, the Protestant Reformation led England to break with their former Spanish ally. Ironically, the Protestant Reformation in England did not initially arise over theological issues. King Henry VIII wanted a male heir, and he was also infatuated with Anne Boleyn. However, he had been married for nearly twenty years to Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (Figure 3.2). Henry and Catherine had a daughter named Mary, but no son. Henry wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, and hopefully have a male heir. The pope—at Spain’s request—refused to approve the annulment. Henry then severed England’s association with the Roman Catholic Church, founding the Church of England and appointing himself as its head. Between 1529 and 1536, the Crown seized Catholic Church lands and disbanded many Catholic monasteries. Although Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he did not push for theological changes, and the Church of England continued to follow many aspects of Catholic doctrine and ceremonies. 

3.02 - Level 1

Why did Henry VIII break with the Catholic Church?

A

He wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope would not grant an annulment.

B

He disliked all aspects of Catholic theology and abolished Catholic ceremonies and rituals.

C

He wanted a male heir.

D

None of the above


Henry’s separation from the Catholic Church, as well as new radical Protestant ideas imported from other parts of Europe, led to increased tensions between Spain and England. Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, added to the tension by adopting a strong anti-Spanish foreign policy. For example, she encouraged English privateers, called Sea Dogs, to plunder Spanish treasure ships and raid Spanish settlements. Two of the most famous of these Sea Dogs were Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake, who plundered their way across the Atlantic and seized large amounts of Spanish gold. 

The actions of English Sea Dogs, as well as religious, economic, and political tensions, led to a war between Spain and England. In 1588, Spain’s so-called invincible Armada of 130 ships arrived in the English Channel. Despite their numerical inferiority, the English ships were faster and easier to maneuver than the Spanish ships. With the aid of a strong storm—called “the Protestant Wind” by the English—Elizabeth’s ships defeated the Spanish fleet. James I, who followed Elizabeth I, finally signed a truce with Spain in 1604. The victory over the supposedly unbeatable Spanish Armada and the eventual peace settlement signaled the rise of England and the decline of Spain as a world power (Figure 3.3). England was now poised to establish colonies of its own in America.  

3.03 - Level 1

In 1588, which seminal naval event signaled the decline of Spain as a world power and the rise of England?


Figure 3.3: Elizabeth I, the Armada Picture. The portrait was made to commemorate England’s defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Spanish Armada is depicted in the upper left side of the painting. After the defeat of the Armada, England became a colonial and international power, which is symbolized by Elizabeth’s hand resting on the globe. [5]​

By the late 1500s, England’s strong unified government and defeat of Spain led to the rise of nationalism within the island nation. Englishmen and women believed that their Protestant nation was superior to others, especially Catholic Spain. As part of this superior ideology, proponents of expansion argued that English colonies would treat Native Americans better than their Spanish counterparts. English propagandists appropriated the “black legend,” created by Spanish priest Bartolomé de Las Casas in the 1540s, for their own colonial purposes. Las Casas had portrayed Spanish conquistadors as a corrupt and cruel people who treated native peoples brutally and inhumanely. The English argued that their Protestant settlements would “rescue” Indians from Spanish slavery and promote their conversion to Protestantism. England’s colonial empire would supposedly be better and more enlightened than that of their Spanish rivals, based in part on their self-proclaimed humane treatment of native peoples.

English Social and Economic Tensions

In addition to growing English power and nationalism, changes and tensions within England helped to spur colonization in the Americas. First, England’s population exploded in the sixteenth century, rising from about 3 million people in 1550 to about 4 million in 1600. Second, landlords enclosed croplands (called the enclosure) across the English countryside, mainly to increase pasture land and promote land profitability for wealthy landowners. Once land was enclosed, it ceased to be common land and passed into one owner’s hands. This forced many small farmers to become tenants or leave the land altogether. Many displaced farmers relocated to villages in eastern and western England, hoping to find work in the wool industry. Adding insult to injury, a depression hit the wool industry in the late 1500s. Thousands of former farmers and workers lost their jobs, and many ended up as beggars in large cities like London. Proponents of English expansion overseas argued that American colonies would provide an outlet for this large, unemployed population in search of new opportunities and work. 

3.04 - Level 1

Which of the following internal domestic issues pushed English to finally create American colonies?

A

England’s population rapidly grew in the 16th century

B

Peasants lost their lands through the enclosure movement

C

The woolen industry collapsed creating a large amount of unemployed workers


Finally, England passed new primogeniture laws in the sixteenth century. Primogeniture laws stated that the eldest son inherited his family’s landed estates. This meant that younger sons needed to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Like the unemployed poor, some noble younger sons decided to seek their fortunes in the Americas. 

English Explorations and the First (Failed) English Colony in America

English Explorations

In the 1570-1580s, England was finally ready to join other European powers in the Americas. At first, England had two main objectives in the Americas: to find the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia, and to discover gold or other treasure to enrich England. Several English explorers set out to achieve these goals. 

In the 1570s, Englishman Martin Frobisher made three voyages to northeastern Canada searching for the Northwest Passage and gold. On his second trip, he brought home 200 tons of ore he thought was gold. Encouraged, Frobisher returned to Canada with an even larger fleet and dug several mines around the area now known as Frobisher Bay, located in the southeastern corner of Baffin Island. He hauled 1,350 tons of the ore back to England. However, both batches of ore turned out to be worthless iron pyrite. He tried to obtain funding for additional voyages, but failed because he had found neither gold nor the Northwest Passage.

From 1577 to 1580, Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world hoping to find sites for English colonies and, again, the Northwest Passage. After navigating around South America, he sailed up the California coast and reached what became known as Drake’s Bay, just north of present-day San Francisco. Some historians believe that Drake deliberately recorded wrong information to hide the real scope of his travels from Spain, and may have actually reached Oregon, Washington, or even as far north as British Columbia or Alaska (Figure 3.4). While it remains speculation how far he actually traveled up the Pacific Coast, he claimed the California region for England, naming it “Nova Albion.”


Figure 3.4: Sir Francis Drake’s voyage around the world


3.05 - Level 2

Click on the modern state that most closely matches the location of what Francis Drake called “Nova Albion.”


The First (Failed) English Colonies in America—1580s 

In addition to the voyages of exploration, England made tentative—and ultimately unsuccessful—attempts at establishing colonies in the Americas in the 1580s. In 1578, Queen Elizabeth I granted Sir Humphrey Gilbert a six-year charter to settle “heathen lands not actually possessed of any Christian prince or people.” In 1583, Gilbert attempted to fulfill his charter by establishing a colony at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The colony failed and Gilbert was lost at sea attempting to return to England.

Walter Raleigh, Sir Humphrey’s half-brother, also attempted to establish a British colony in America. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave Raleigh a charter to found a colony in America. She told him to “discover, search, find out, and view such remote heathen and barbarous Lands, Countries, and territories … to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy.” In 1585, after scouting the region a year earlier, Raleigh established a settlement he called Roanoke on a small island off the coast of present-day North Carolina (Figure 3.5). The settlement consisted of about one hundred settlers.

Figure 3.5: An early map of the settlement of Roanoke [6] ​​


3.06 - Level 3

Click on the part of the map where Sir Walter Raleigh decided to establish his colony.


From the beginning, everything went wrong at Roanoke. Raleigh chose the settlement’s location to avoid detection from the Spanish, but this made the colony isolated and difficult to reach with provisions. The colonists’ relations with the Secotans and Croatoans (two groups of Algonquin Native Americans in the Carolina region) were peaceful at first. However, as the colonists’ supplies gave out, relations soured. Furthermore, the colonists took native lands and resources and kidnapped local Native Americans, holding them hostage in exchange for information, which made matters worse. In 1586, the colonists beheaded the local chief Pemisapan (also called Wingina). In spring 1586, Sir Francis Drake stopped at Roanoke after exploring the Caribbean. Since an anticipated shipment of supplies was overdue, and tensions with the local Indians were dire, all of the colonists returned with Drake to England. Raleigh’s colony on Roanoke only lasted ten months.

In 1587, Raleigh vowed to establish Roanoke again. He placed Governor John White in charge and sent 117 men, women, and children to settle the region for England permanently. The Secotan and Croatoan groups, however, had not forgotten their treatment by the previous settlers, and hostilities between the two groups quickly resumed (Figure 3.6). White decided to sail back to England to ask Raleigh for additional supplies and reinforcements. 

Figure 3.6: A Secotan village located near Roanoke colony, painted by John White. Governor John White created an extensive record of native peoples located near the English settlement of Roanoke. This drawing illustrates White’s depiction of the daily life of the Secotan. In the lower left, people prayed around a fire, while in the lower right they danced around a circle of posts. Women in the center prepared food. White also depicted neatly planted corn fields and thatched homes. Ironically, White and the other settlers called local Native Americans “uncivilized,” but this image illustrates a sophisticated and ordered village centered on agriculture. [7]

However, because of the war with Spain and the arrival of the Spanish Armada, White was unable to return to the colony for three years. When he finally made it back to Roanoke in August 1590, he searched frantically for the settlers, including his granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas. He found rusty armor, moldy books, and a destroyed village, but no colonists. He also found the word “Croatoan” carved into the post of a fence, and “CRO” on a tree. White decided that the word meant that the settlers had joined the Croatoan tribe. However, before he could form a search party, a storm forced him to leave and return to England.

The “Lost Colony” of Roanoke has remained a mystery into the present day. Over time, different theories have been offered to explain what happened to the colonists. Some speculate that Native Americans attacked and killed the English colonists; this theory certainly makes sense given the settlers’ treatment of the local Indians. Others argue that the settlers might have tried to sail back to England on their own and been lost at sea. Another theory argues that the settlers were absorbed into friendly Native American tribes, perhaps after moving to what is now Hatteras Island, located 50 miles south of Roanoke. Currently, archaeologists from the First Colony Foundation are excavating a location they call “Site X,” about 60 miles west of Roanoke colony. They believe this site will finally shed light on what happened to the “Lost Colony.” 

Question 3.07

3.07 - Level 5

What are the various theories of what happened to the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke? Which one do you find most plausible?

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.07.

3.08 - Level 2

Who was the first explorer sailing under the flag of England to reach the Americas?

A

John Cabot

B

Christopher Columbus

C

Henry Hudson

D

Francis Drake


3.09 - Level 1

"Site X" is believed by some scholars to hold valuable information on what early English colony?

A

Jamestown

B

Plymouth

C

Roanoke

D

New Haven

Spotlight on Primary Source

Read this short text written by Governor John White, who was placed in charge of the second Roanoke colony. The writing describes his return to Roanoke colony after an absence of three years and his desperate search for the colonists he had left behind.

Question 3.10

3.10 - Level 3

What specifically did Governor John White find when he finally returned to the Roanoke in 1590? What was the symbol of distress, and did White find that symbol? What did he think happened to the settlers?

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.10.


Funding English Colonies

Colonies were expensive to fund, as investors needed to raise money to pay for transportation, supplies, and food. They also needed to fund multiple return trips bringing additional colonists, food, and supplies until the colony was self-sufficient. The “Lost Colony” of Roanoke scared off potential colonial sponsors due to its expense and ultimate failure. Supporters of colonization needed to come up with a new way to raise funds that could reduce the risk for individual investors. English politicians and financial leaders accomplished this goal by creating joint-stock companies. These companies sold stock to numerous investors, which pooled resources and spread out the risks. Joint stock companies were only supposed to last a few years, after which stockholders would liquidate the companies for (expected) huge profits. Few of the investors wanted to establish permanent colonies. Instead, they planned for the colonists to create immediate profits for the stockholders.  

3.11 - Level 1

These new inventions helped fund colonial settlements by pooling resources and spreading out the risk.


In 1606, King James I granted a charter authorizing overlapping grants of land to two joint-stock companies. The Virginia Company of Plymouth received a grant extending south of Maine to the Potomac River, while the Virginia Company of London received lands north from Cape Fear, North Carolina to the Hudson River. The Companies were not allowed to establish settlements within one hundred miles of each other (Figure 3.7). Both Companies dispatched ships with provisions and colonists to America in 1607. 

Figure 3.7: Overlapping Land Grants of the Virginia Company of Plymouth and the Virginia Company of London. The yellow area signifies the overlapping grants. The two Companies were not allowed to establish settlements within one hundred miles of each other.​

Two New Colonies—Sagadahoc, Maine (1607) and Jamestown, Virginia (1607)

The Virginia Company of Plymouth’s attempt to establish a colony in America almost immediately failed. In August 1607, 120 men established a colony they called Sagadahoc, located on the coast of Maine by the Kennebec River. Things did not go well. The colonists fought among themselves, lacked leadership, failed to find adequate food, and alienated the local Abenaki Indians. In December, with winter approaching and food scarce, half of the colonists returned to England. After the harsh New England winter, the remaining colonists returned to England and the Company was disbanded. 

The Virginia Company of London established a colony further south. In late 1606, three ships left England with 144 men (women would not arrive until several years later). In May 1607, the 105 colonists who survived the voyage disembarked at the mouth of the James River in present-day Virginia. They named their settlement Jamestown and constructed several shelters and a small fort. The first years of the colony were disastrous, and Jamestown almost suffered the same fate as Roanoke and Sagadahoc. Many different issues combined to make life in Jamestown extremely difficult for the settlers. 

Figure 3.8: Important Dates in the Settlement of Jamestown, Virginia

First, the settlers did not choose the location of Jamestown wisely. Their choice made strategic sense, as the colonists settled upstream from the Chesapeake Bay to guard against a potential attack by Spain on their nascent colony. They also could sail their ships inland due to the deep water. While good from a defensive perspective, the site was an unfortunate choice because it was located on poor land. The colonists did not have safe water to drink and frequently suffered from typhus, dysentery, and malaria. 

Figure 3.9: John Smith’s Map illustrating a map of Virginia and his various encounters with the Powhatan of the area. [8]​

Second, most of Jamestown’s settlers were gentlemen who viewed themselves as above manual labor. In fact, the original colonists included a proportion of gentlemen six times higher than could be found in England. The gentlemen searched for gold and silver—which they expected to wash up on the beach or hang from trees—instead of hunting, fishing, or planting corn. When they failed to produce their own food, the colonists expected the local Native Americans to feed them willingly. The settlers also quarreled incessantly among themselves over work, food, supplies, and access to arms and ammunition.

Third, the colonists suffered from poor leadership. Because of their status as gentlemen, many of the colonists were accustomed to leading rather than following. Even those who attempted to lead, however, failed miserably. The Council’s first president hoarded supplies and the second failed to make decisions. One prominent settler even conspired to take down one leader and kill another. In 1608, John Smith, an experienced military commander, took control of the settlement and ordered the colonists to work and plant corn, stating that, “he who shall not work shall not eat.” Smith also traded with the local Indians for food, instituted strict discipline, strengthened defenses, ordered the repair of buildings, and dug the first well inside the fort. However, in the fall of 1609 Smith returned to England after being injured by gunpowder. The colony again faced conflict and starvation.

Fourth, the Jamestown colonists were surrounded by a strong and united confederacy of Native Americans known as the Powhatan Confederacy. The Powhatan Confederacy consisted of about 30 tribes and 14,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians ruled by a powerful leader, also named Powhatan (Figure 3.10). Before the establishment of English Jamestown, members of Chesapeake tribes had encountered French and Spanish explorers and traders as well as Spanish missionaries who had attempted to establish an ill-fated mission among the Powhatan in the 1570s. While the Powhatan recognized the opportunities that trade with the Europeans might bring them, they also worried that the outsiders would threaten their cultural, religious, and economic autonomy.    

Figure 3.10: Members of the Powhatan Confederacy, 1607​

Despite their trepidation about European settlers, the local Powhatans welcomed the English settlers in the first months after their arrival and furnished them with corn in exchange for trade goods. At first, the Indians must have viewed the Englishmen as inept—they could not feed themselves, spent their time looking for non-existent gold and silver, and built their settlement in a poor location. Moreover, the settlers were clearly small in number and dependent on the Powhatans for food. Chief Powhatan attempted to incorporate the English settlers into his domain and have them follow Powhatan cultural practices. Relations soon soured, however, when the English stole Powhatan corn and refused to treat the natives as equals.

Without a steady supply of Indian corn, many colonists starved. They also died from diseases, including typhus and dysentery. When relief ships arrived in January 1608, only 38 survivors remained out of the 105 initial immigrants. The relief ships brought supplies as well as 500 new settlers. However, these settlers also refused to work. The extremely high death rates continued, leading to a “starving time” during the winter of 1609-1610. During this terrible winter, the settlers burned their own shelters for fuel and ate every animal in the region. Several settlers even wrote of cannibalism, which has recently been proven with archaeological evidence. By the end of the “starving time,” only 60 residents remained alive. 

After the terrible “starving time,” things briefly looked up for Jamestown settlers. Just when the remaining 60 residents had decided to leave, relief ships arrived carrying provisions, 300 new settlers, and a new governor named Lord De La Warr (Delaware’s namesake). Lord De La Warr ordered the 60 remaining settlers to stay and imposed harsh military rule over the colony. He also took aggressive military action against the Powhatan. When Chief Powhatan refused to submit to new governor’s authority, the colony waged the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1610-1614). English troops raided Powhatan villages, burned homes, confiscated provisions, and destroyed cornfields. Peace returned in 1614, when Chief Powhatan consented to the marriage of his daughter Pocahontas to the Englishman John Rolfe. 

After his marriage to Pocahontas in 1614, John Rolfe introduced tobacco to the colony, which finally turned around the faltering economy. Tobacco was a desired commodity in England and brought high prices. To encourage tobacco production, the Company authorized a new system of distributing land known as the headright system. The head of each household received 50 acres of land, and 50 acres more for each immediate family member and servant he brought to the colony. As Virginia’s economy was finally taking off, the Virginia Company abandoned military rule in 1619 and provided for an elected assembly. This became the first representative assembly in North America. 

The colony’s focus on tobacco, however, led to major problems with the Powhatan. Conflict increased as new settlers arrived and appropriated native lands to plant tobacco. Virginians also grew so much tobacco that they neglected to plant corn. They again resorted to stealing native food. In 1622, tensions reached a breaking point and Powhatan’s brother Opechancanough sent warriors to attack farms along the James River. The warriors killed 347 out of 1,240 settlers. They also destroyed English livestock, which led to more deaths from starvation over the next few months. The Virginia Company sent reinforcements and took the offensive in what became known as the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1632). The English soldiers destroyed Indian crops and attacked native villages. Although the English claimed to have won the Second Anglo-Powhatan War, the Virginia Company quickly became bankrupt and King James I revoked the Company’s charter. In 1624, Virginia became a royal colony.  

Despite the economic and administrative changes, Virginia still struggled. By the mid-1620s, out of the nearly 6,000 settlers who had come to America since 1607, only 1,200 remained. For the next ten years, colonists fought back and forth with Opechancanough and his warriors over land, food, and resources. In 1644, Opechancanough led a last desperate attack, killing over 500 colonists. The English colonists struck back with a vengeance, crushing whole villages and killing Opechancanough. Finally, the remaining confederacy members surrendered in 1646 and reluctantly recognized English land claims, ending the Third Anglo-Powhatan War (1644-1646).

It is a wonder that the Jamestown settlement survived. For the first forty years of its existence, the colony faced internal dissent, starvation, three wars with the Powhatan Confederacy, failed political leadership, and the demise of the Virginia Company. However, as the initial settlement period ended, the colony seemed to have finally stabilized. Colonists had established a representative assembly and focused on growing lucrative tobacco crops. Women also arrived in the colony after its initial all-male composition, which allowed more stable family relations to develop. 

3.12 - Level 1

Put the following events occurring during the early years of settlement in Jamestown in chronological order.

A

Starving time in Virginia

B

First Anglo-Powhatan War

C

Jamestown governed by Captain John Smith

D

Tobacco cultivation began at Jamestown

E

A General Assembly was created in Jamestown

Spotlight on Primary Source

In addition to written sources from early settlers like Captain John Smith, historians use information gathered from archaeologists to study the initial settlement of Jamestown. Archaeologists have recently excavated much of the initial settlement of Jamestown, including the first fort and several gravesites. These two short videos talk about two of their most important archaeological finds to date.



Question 3.13

3.13 - Level 5

In the first video, what were two things that archaeologists found buried with the four prominent settlers of Jamestown?

In the second video, what did scientists specifically verify about the terrible “starving time” of winter 1609-1610 from the female skeleton they studied?

What did the videos teach you about life in early Jamestown?

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.13.


Pocahontas: A Summary of Early Relations between English Settlers and the Powhatan

The story of Pocahontas has entered American mythology. For centuries, books, short stories, and images—and more recently, films—have romanticized and distorted the life of this “Indian Princess” (Figure 3.11). Looking beyond the myth, however, provides insight into the complicated and often tortured early relations between the early Virginia settlers and the Powhatan Indians. 

Pocahontas was born around 1596 and had several names, including Amonute, the more private name of Matoaka, and Pocahontas, her nickname, which translates into “playful one.” She was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, who consolidated numerous tribes to create the Powhatan Confederacy. When the English arrived and settled Jamestown in 1607, Pocahontas was about eleven years old—much younger than the Disney version. In the winter of 1607, Captain John Smith was captured by Powhatan’s brother Opechancanough. Smith claimed that Pocahontas saved him from execution. Smith’s account has become legendary, perpetuated into the present-day by movies, cartoons, and books. 

Figure 3.11: 1870s Drawing of Pocahontas Saving the life of Captain John Smith. This 1870 image illustrates Pocahontas saving John Smith from execution. The scene is idealized and provides stereotypes of Native Americans rather than accurate information about the local Powhatans and their environment. For example, the Powhatans did not live in tipis; this was common in the plains cultural area and not the eastern woodlands. In addition, Pocahontas would have been approximately 11 years old at the time, much younger than the Pocahontas depicted in the image. [9] ​

Did Pocahontas really save John Smith’s life? Many historians disagree. Historians rely on primary sources to study the past, and Smith himself wrote about the incident in his 1624 A Generall Historie of Virginia—but are Smith’s writings reputable? Smith was known to brag about and exaggerate his exploits. For example, prior to his expedition to Virginia, Smith participated in a series of intrigues as an adventurer in central Europe. He once wrote that he was taken prisoner by the Turks but later rescued by a beautiful Turkish princess. Could such similar incidents happen twice? Perhaps, but historians also could interpret his rescue by two “princesses” as too much of a coincidence. Perhaps Smith embellished or even fabricated one or both incidents.  

Some historians believe that the event took place as Smith described it, but that the adventurer misinterpreted his supposed execution. Relying on studies of Powhatan culture and rituals, several historians and anthropologists have argued that Smith was not about to be executed as he believed. Instead, he actually experienced a ritualized adoption ceremony. This ceremony was mean to ritually humiliate and subordinate Smith to the local Powhatan. Indeed, Smith himself wrote that after being released following the supposed “execution,” Powhatan sent Smith back to Jamestown asking him to bring back guns and other supplies. 

Whether Pocahontas saved Smith’s life or not, her story did not end in 1607. In 1613, the colonists kidnapped Pocahontas and held her hostage. During her captivity, she converted to Protestantism, learned to speak English, and received the English name of “Rebecca.” In 1614, she married John Rolfe, who is famous for bringing tobacco to Virginia. They had a son named Thomas. The Virginia Company of London decided that a Christian convert married to an Englishman would help to raise funds for the struggling Company. In 1616, the Company paid for Pocahontas, Rolfe, and Thomas to travel to London. In England, Pocahontas was an immediate sensation. She toured the country and even met King James I and Queen Anne. However, she soon became ill, died, and was buried in England. During her time in England, Pocahontas posed for a portrait, which is the only known image of her from the time. Historians argue, however, that the painting represents an idealized “Indian Princess” created for an English audience, rather than the “real” Pocahontas (Figure 3.12). 

Figure 3.12: Seventeenth-Century painting of “Rebecca” (Pocahontas) during her time in England [10]​​

Pocahontas’s kidnapping, marriage to Rolfe, and travels to England are frequently forgotten. However, these events illustrate several important aspects of English-Indian relations. In addition to finding gold, English settlers hoped to convert Native Americans like Pocahontas to Protestantism, just as their Spanish and French counterparts focused on converting natives to Catholicism.

At this time, the English did not view Pocahontas or Indians in general as a separate race. Instead, they saw Indians as culturally and religiously inferior. However, if Native Americans converted to Protestantism and adopted English culture, they would become equal (at least in theory) to the English. Indeed, because Pocahontas converted to Christianity and adopted some of the cultural attributes of the English, some even argued that Rolfe married above himself by choosing an “Indian princess.” Her status as an “exotic” Christian Indian made her a sensation across England.

3.14 - Level 1

Sort the following figures according to when they first reached the New World.

A

Martin Frobisher

B

Sir Walter Raleigh

C

John Rolfe

D

John Cabot


Question 3.15

3.15 - Level 3

Explain why John Smith is generally not considered a reliable source by most historians.

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.15.

Maryland—1634

In addition to Virginia, England established a second colony in the Chesapeake region called Maryland (Figure 3.13). In 1632, King Charles I of England granted a charter to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, to create a colony in America. The grant was huge, encompassing over 6.5 million acres on the Chesapeake Bay. However, before he could establish the colony, George Calvert died, and it fell to his son Cecilius Calvert to actually send colonists to America. Cecilius Calvert hoped to establish Maryland as a haven for Roman Catholics, who often faced persecution in England. In March 1634, the first English settlers arrived in Maryland. Despite the fact that Calvert hoped to make the region a haven for Catholics, only 17 of the original 140 settlers were Catholic. 

Figure 3.13: Colonial Maryland, Virginia, and Carolina by J. B. Homann [11]​

In addition to creating a haven for Catholics, Lord Baltimore also hoped to make a profit from his colony. Unlike Virginia, which was a founded by the Virginia Company, Maryland was a proprietary colony, meaning that Cecilius Calvert (or in other cases a group of men) had the absolute authority to grant land, administer justice, establish a government, and collect all fees. After receiving a land grant, farmers paid annual quitrents, or payments for use of lands, to Calvert. In many ways, Lord Baltimore was like a king, with the colonists of Maryland as his subjects.

3.16 - Level 1

What were the annual dues paid by farmers to the proprietor of Maryland?


Maryland’s economy, like that of its Virginia neighbors, rested on tobacco. While the colonists did not face a terrible “starving time,” or devastating Indian wars like the colonists in Virginia, they did experience religious conflict. The few Catholics faced persecution from the Protestant majority, who attempted to revoke the religious freedoms guaranteed in the founding of the colony. In 1649, Governor William Stone responded by passing an act ensuring religious liberty to all Christians living in Maryland. 

3.17 - Level 1

Which of the following statements about the Maryland colony is incorrect?

A

It was established as a haven for Roman Catholics

B

It was established as a proprietary colony

C

Its economy was driven by tobacco farming

D

Its inhabitants were predominantly Catholic


The Founding of the New England Colonies

The Reasons for Founding New England Colonies

Like the Catholic settlers of Maryland, Puritan colonists who moved to New England (the present day states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine) also sought religious freedom (Figure 3.14). The Puritans were a diverse group of religious reformers who adhered to Calvinist theology, which arose from the Protestant Reformation. They believed, for example, that God spoke through the Bible, that people were saved by faith alone, and that people were predestined to be saved or not saved before their birth. The Puritans also believed—to varying degrees—that the Church of England (also known as the Anglican Church) needed to be reformed and stripped of all remaining Catholic rituals and doctrine. The two main groups of colonists who settled in New England included the Separatists (also known as the Pilgrims), who established Plymouth Colony, and the Puritans, who settled throughout the rest of New England. 

Figure 3.14: New England Colonies​

The Pilgrims and Plymouth—1620 

The Pilgrims were Separatists who believed that Church of England was so corrupt that it could not be reformed. This led the Pilgrims to completely sever ties with the Anglican Church. Because of their religious beliefs and desire to separate from the Church of England, the Pilgrims faced harassment in their home country. In 1609, some Pilgrims relocated to the city of Leiden, in the Netherlands, so that they could practice their religion freely. However, after some time, they also faced challenges in the Netherlands. Although they were allowed to practice their religion, they worried that Dutch society was too materialistic. Ironically, the Pilgrims also disliked that the religious tolerance granted to them in the Netherlands extended to other religions they disliked. The Pilgrims hoped to isolate themselves and their children from “corrupt” Dutch cultural and religious practices.   

The Pilgrims received permission from the Virginia Company to colonize the northern portion of its territory. In September 1620, more than 100 people—although only 30 were Separatists—left England on the Mayflower. In November, the Mayflower arrived in Massachusetts, which was much farther north than their Virginia Company land grant stipulated. Due to the winter season, however, the colonists decided to remain where they had landed. In the spring, the colonists decided to stay and established Plymouth colony (Figure 3.15).  

While still on the Mayflower, the Pilgrims needed to deal with problems caused by the non-separatists, whom they called “Strangers.” Because they landed outside of the jurisdiction of the Virginia Company, some of the “Strangers” questioned the authority of the Separatist leaders. In response, the Separatists drafted the Mayflower Compact, which established a “Civil Body Politic” to enact “just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices.” The male settlers would elect a governor and make all decisions for the colony at town meetings. Every adult male was supposed to sign the compact before going ashore. The Mayflower Compact remained in effect until Plymouth was absorbed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. 

Figure 3.15: Today, Plymouth Colony has been carefully reconstructed and serves as a living history museum where visitors can see what it was like to live in colonial New England. [12]​​​

Like the Jamestown settlers, the Pilgrims initially had difficulty surviving in America. In fact, many of the settlers slept aboard the Mayflower during the first winter. In addition to the lack of shelter, they faced bitter cold, a lack of food and supplies, and disease. Only 44 out of 102 settlers lived through the winter. Those who survived owed much to the local Wampanoag Indians. Despite their own weakness from a terrible epidemic (some sources say smallpox, while others believe it was a strain of the plague) that had swept through the region between 1616 and 1619, the Wampanoags supplied the settlers with food and, in the spring, taught the newcomers how to plant and fertilize corn. They were especially helped by Squanto, a Wampanoag man, who had been kidnapped by the English years earlier and spoke both English and Spanish. 

Unfortunately, the amiable relations between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did not last. Governor William Bradford—who was elected governor thirty times—called the local Indians “savage and brutish men” and “wild beasts.” Miles Standish, a non-separatist professional soldier, armed all or the male settlers and forbade Indians from entering Plymouth settlement. Tensions increased when free-roaming Pilgrim cattle ate Indian corn; Pilgrim settlers also took over Indian homes and fields that had been abandoned during the epidemic of 1616-1619. Despite these tensions, Wampanoag Chief Massasoit negotiated a treaty of peace with the Pilgrims in 1621.

Massachusetts Bay Colony—1630s

While the Separatists were settling Plymouth Colony, Puritans also relocated to America searching for religious freedom. Unlike the Pilgrims, who wanted to completely separate from the Church of England, the Puritans hoped to reform (or “purify”) the Anglican Church from within. To achieve this goal, a group of Puritan merchants formed a joint stock company called the Massachusetts Bay Company and obtained a royal charter. John Winthrop, a member of the English gentry, was chosen to lead the initial group of Puritan colonists to America. Winthrop and the Puritans took their charter with them when they immigrated to Massachusetts, which placed them outside of royal authority. 

In 1630 on the ship Arabella, John Winthrop delivered “A Modell of Christian Charity,” which outlined his expectations for the new Puritan settlements in America. The Puritans would create “a City upon a Hill”—a utopia in the wilderness—that would serve as a model for the rest of the world. They could not fail because the “eyes of all people are upon us.” The Puritans would create strong, tightly knit, religious communities to realize their “city upon a hill.”

In many ways, the Puritans’ mission to establish a Godly community in America caused New England to develop very differently from Virginia. First, the population of New England grew much more quickly than the relatively slow settlement patterns of Virginia’s early years. In 1630, over 1,000 Puritan men and women moved to Massachusetts; by 1643, nearly 20,000 Puritans had arrived in America. In 1670, the New England population had reached 51,896. Second, the typical first settler in Virginia was single, young, and male. New England settlers, however, tended to arrive as families, including women and children. Multiple families from the same English towns also traveled to New England together.

Third, individual settlers in Virginia received headrights (grants of land), while in New England a group of men applied together for a land grant (generally 36 to 50 square miles) to establish a town. After receiving a grant, the founders first built a church in the town center; each family then received a parcel of land scattered around town center. The most distinguished members of the community, especially the town’s minister, received the best land grants. Colonists who had low status in England received the smallest and least desirable allotments. Still, everyone received at least some land. The town layouts were intended to foster a strong community devoted to the same religious and civic values (Figure 3.16).

As more and more settlers arrived, Puritan settlements expanded beyond Massachusetts into other areas, including Connecticut (Hartford in 1836 and New Haven in 1838) and New Hampshire in 1638. While Boston turned into a bustling port, the economies of most New England villages focused on small family farms where they grew crops mainly for their own subsistence or trade within their communities.

Figure 3.16: A Plan for the town of New Haven, Connecticut [13]​


3.18 - Level 4

Identify the following statements as made by either “Puritans” or “Pilgrims.”

Premise
Response
1

Felt that the Church of England was irredeemably corrupt

A

Pilgrims

2

Dreamed of establishing a “City upon a Hill” in the New World

B

Pilgrims

3

Spent time in exile on continental Europe

C

Pilgrims

4

Founded the Plymouth Colony

D

Puritans

5

Founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony

E

Pilgrims

6

Sailed on the Mayflower

F

Puritans


Rhode Island—1636 

While part of New England, the English colony of Rhode Island originally had a different history from the other Puritan settlements. Roger Williams founded Rhode Island after running afoul of religious and political leaders in Massachusetts Bay by calling for religious tolerance and the separation of church and state. He also worried that lands had been taken from local Native Americans without compensation. In 1635, Williams was found guilty of spreading “new and dangerous opinions,” and was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  

After his exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Williams purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and founded Providence in 1636. He implemented religious tolerance in his new colony and assured that there was a separation between church and state. Rhode Island became a haven for other colonists who challenged the strict religious and moral guidelines of New England Puritan towns. Because of its reputation as a haven for exiles, other New Englanders looked down on Rhode Island, calling it “Rogue’s Island” or “the sewer of New England.” 

In addition to Roger Williamson, one of Rhode Island’s other prominent exiles was Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from Massachusetts for “religious heresy” and “sedition.” Many of Hutchinson’s actions contributed to her banishment. For example, she held religious meetings in her home that were attended by both men and women; at the time, women were not supposed to speak to mixed congregations. She also criticized the Puritan leaders who governed the colony and asserted that a person could know God's will directly, which threatened the ministers’ role as interpreters of the Bible. 

3.19 - Level 2

Match the colony with the correct founders.

Premise
Response
1

Plymouth Colony

A

Founded by Puritans who wanted to reform the Church of England and to create “city upon a hill” for all to follow

2

Massachusetts Bay Colony

B

Founded by Puritans expanding beyond Massachusetts Bay Colony

3

Rhode Island

C

Founded by Separatists who wanted to completely separate from the Church of England

4

Connecticut

D

Founded by exiles from Massachusetts Bay Colony


Question 3.20

3.20 - Level 3

Why did Puritans expel individuals such as Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson from their communities? Consider the broader implications of these individuals’ actions on the type of society the Puritans wished to establish.

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.20.

New England Colonists and Native Americans

Pequot and King Philip’s Wars

In the 1630s, the large influx of settlers to New England, as well as their expansion onto surrounding lands in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (even though Williams initially purchased the land for Providence), led to inevitable clashes with local Native Americans. As New England’s population grew, settlers continued to deprive Native Americans of game, cheat them in trade, and arrest and jail Indian hunters for “trespassing” on lands settlers now claimed as their own. Native Americans also suffered another terrible outbreak of smallpox in 1633-1634. 

One example of warfare between New England colonists and Native Americans occurred in Connecticut, known as the Pequot War (1636-1637). The war began when several English traders were killed by Indians. The colonists responded by raiding a Pequot village, even though they did not know whether Pequots were actually responsible for the attack on the traders. Events escalated from there. In response to the English raid, the Pequots attacked the new town of Wethersfield, Connecticut in April 1637, killing nine and capturing two. To retaliate for the raid on Wethersfield, the Puritans, with Narragansetts allies, attacked the main Pequot town on the Mystic River in 1637. The English set fire to the town and shot those who escaped the flames. Over 400 Pequot men, women, and children died in less than an hour at Mystic River (Figure 3.17). 

Figure 3.17: The attack on the Pequot Village on the Mystic River, June 5, 1637. This image illustrates the English attack on the Pequot settlement near the Mystic River. The woodcut shows the English surrounding the village; outside the ring of English soldiers were their Narragansett allies, the traditional enemies of the Pequots. The English set fire to Pequot homes; the few who survived the fire were shot fleeing the flames. ​[14]

After the attack at Mystic River, the English hunted down Pequot survivors, executing some and capturing others. They sold many of the captives into slavery, either in New England or in the West Indies. The Treaty of Hartford (1638) ended the Pequot War. The treaty terminated Pequot sovereignty, outlawed the use of their tribal name, and established reservations in Connecticut for the remaining Pequots. Jason Mancini, historian for the Mashantucket Pequots, summarized the importance of the Pequot War: “The Pequot War really transformed the power structure in colonial New England and set the tone for all Indian policy in this nation. Nearly all of the earliest reservations originated in Connecticut as a direct outflow of the Pequot War. The Mashantucket remains the oldest continually occupied Indian reservation in the United States.” 

Three decades after the Pequot War, warfare once again engulfed New England in what is known as King Philip’s War (1675-1676). The war is named after a Wampanoag leader, called King Philip by the English (Metacomet or Metacom in his own language). The events that eventually led to King Philip’s War began in December 1674, when an Indian named John Sassamon, who had converted to Christianity, informed the Plymouth governor that Metacomet was planning an intertribal war against the colonies. The next month, Sassamon was found in a pond with a broken neck. In June 1675, the English arrested three Wampanoags and charged them with Sassamon’s murder. Although the prosecutors lacked evidence, a Plymouth jury found the three men guilty and hanged them. 

After the English executed the three Wampanoags, Metacomet forged a pan-Indian alliance with other tribes, including the Narragansetts and Wampanoags. Once the alliances had been formed, war broke out in 1675. The conflict was extremely deadly for both the English and Metacomet’s pan-Indian alliance. For example, Metacomet’s warriors attacked several towns across central Massachusetts and into Rhode Island. They destroyed livestock, crops, and buildings, and captured prisoners. In one attack on Lancaster, Massachusetts, Metacomet’s warriors captured Mary Rowlandson, who survived her captivity and wrote a best-selling memoir about her experience as a captive.

English soldiers responded in kind, attacking Indian villages across Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In the summer of 1676, the English captured Metacomet’s wife and nine-year-old son. They were sent to Plymouth for trial, found guilty, and sold as slaves to the West Indies. On August 11, 1676 Metacomet was shot and killed. The English ordered Metacomet’s body to be drawn and quartered. They also took his head back to Plymouth and displayed it as a warning to other Indians of the cost of rebellion.

When King Philip’s War finally ended, it was proportionately the deadliest war in United States history. Approximately 2,500 colonists died during the war, which was about 5% of the total population of New England at the time. On the other side, about 5,000 Indians died, which was about 40% of total Indian population in the area where the war took place. Following King Philip’s War, the region’s Native Americans never regained their prewar strength and many fled north or west and integrated with other tribes. Those who remained struggled to retain their depleted lands and accommodate the English in various ways.

3.21 - Level 5

About now many Englishmen were there for every Indian in New England in 1676? (Hint: use the estimated fatality numbers in King Phillip’s War to calculate.)


Praying Towns

While the New England colonists were fighting Native Americans in multiple deadly wars, several English missionaries attempted to convert them to Christianity. Indeed, the Massachusetts Bay Charter stated that the colony’s goal was “To winn and incite the natives of the country to the knowledge and Obedience of the onlie true God and Saviour of Mankinde, and the Christian Fayth.” In Massachusetts, Puritan missionaries, including John Eliot and Thomas Mayhew, attempted to carry out the Charter’s dictate to convert the Indians to Christianity.

To spread their message of Christianity, Eliot and Mayhew visited numerous Indian villages and preached to all who would listen. They also translated the Bible and other religious readings into the native language so that Indians could contemplate religious doctrine on their own (Figure 3.18).

Figure 3.18: The Bible, translated into the Massachusetts language [15]

In addition to changing their religion, Puritan missionaries also wanted to “civilize” Native Americans. “Civilized” Indians would eschew all aspects of their traditional culture and religion. Instead, they would follow Anglo-American gender roles, where the men farmed and women remained largely within the home and took care of the children. They also needed to adopt English cultural norms, even dressing like English men and women. Indian children would attend school, where they would learn to read, write, and eventually speak English. 

The Puritan missionaries wanted Christian and “civilized” Indians to separate themselves completely from non-Christian, non-civilized Indians. To accomplish this goal, the missionaries established fourteen “Praying Towns” across Massachusetts Bay Colony. Upon moving to a Praying Town, native peoples were expected to give up all aspects of their culture and religion, living and worshipping like Christian English men and women. At their height, about 1,100 Indians lived in Praying Towns. 

The population of the Praying Towns sharply declined during and after King Philip’s War. Despite the fact that the towns declared neutrality during the war, both sides attacked them. Metacomet and his allies saw the residents as traitors, while the English believed that the towns harbored Indians who secretly supported Metacomet. Following the war, the towns’ population had fallen from a high of 1,100 in 1674 to 300 in 1680.

Before their decline in the 1680s, the few Indians who moved to the Praying Towns did so for various reasons. Much like their counterparts in the southwest who lived in or near the Spanish missions, some moved to Praying Towns because they hoped to find stability in a chaotic world. Others wanted English protection from their enemies. Some Native Americans hoped that the Christian God would protect them from the deadly illnesses imported by the English. Still others used the missions for secular purposes—they wanted to learn to read and write so that they could understand English documents, trade records, and treaties. 

In theory, the English believed that once Indians gave up their culture and religion and moved to settlements like Praying Towns, they would be considered equal and integrated into colonial society. In practice, however, most colonists remained hostile to all Indians regardless of their religion or cultural practices. Indeed, such hostility led to warfare including the Pequot War and King Philip’s War, which engulfed colonial New England during the first years of English colonial settlement. 

Spotlight on Primary Source



Native Americans who relocated to Praying Towns needed to follow many rules. Most importantly, residents of Praying Towns must have converted to Christianity. However, they also needed to follow English cultural norms. Puritan missionary John Eliot made a list of some of these cultural norms that constituted “civilized” behavior and posted them in each Praying Town.

Question 3.22

3.22 - Level 5

According to “John Eliot’s Rules for Praying Indians,” how were “civilized” Indians supposed to act? What did the “Rules” tell you about how the English viewed Native Americans during this time period?

Click here to see the answer to Question 3.22.


Conclusion

England lagged behind other European powers in exploring and establishing colonies in the Americas. Indeed, England’s first permanent colony in the Americas, Jamestown, was established 115 years after Columbus founded Spain’s first colony in Hispaniola. Because of their late entry into the Atlantic world, England’s colonial empire was constrained by the settlement patterns of the nations that preceded them. Spain had established a presence in the American southwest and Florida; the French in Canada, the upper Midwest, and the Mississippi River area, and the Dutch in New York. This left the eastern coast of America from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian Mountains for the English. The English established their initial colonies, including Roanoke, Jamestown, Virginia, Maryland, and New England, on this strip of land that bordered the Atlantic coast.

While the English established their colonies in the same general region, their two initial areas of settlement, the Chesapeake and New England, differed in several ways. Settlers to Virginia—at least at first—tended to be young, unmarried, adventurous gentlemen. The typical New England settler arrived as part of a family and for religious reasons. A large portion of Jamestown settlers perished during the colony’s early years, while New England settlers tended to arrive with better supplies and in larger numbers. With the exception of Plymouth’s first winter, New England settlers did not experience the frequent “starving times” of their southern counterparts. The Chesapeake economy rested on tobacco, while New England families grew subsistence crops for their families or immediately communities.

While the Chesapeake and New England colonies had several differences, both treated Native Americans similarly. The English colonists took Indian land, kidnapped tribal members, and stole food and resources. They also unintentionally brought diseases, which led to continuous population decline. For example, southern New England Indians numbered about 11,000 by 1675, representing a decline of 90% over the preceding 50 years. Despite intermittent periods of peace, all areas of colonial English settlement experienced outbreaks of violence and warfare with local Native Americans. This warfare invariably ended with the defeat of Native Americans and land cessions.

The decline in native population and the subsequent violence, however, should not obscure the fact that native peoples were strong and willing to fight for their land, culture, and religion. In fact, especially in the early years, several colonies including Jamestown and Plymouth would not have survived without the help of local Native Americans. Different tribes adopted different survival techniques. Some resisted militarily, like Opechancanough, the Pequots, and King Philip. Others attempted accommodation, such as those who lived in Praying Towns or those who helped the colonists like Squanto.  

Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Class Discussion 3.01

Class Discussion 3.01 - Level 4

Why did England begin colonizing the Americas close to a century after Spain and Portugal? What finally allowed England to establish colonies?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.01.

Class Discussion 3.02

Class Discussion 3.02 - Level 4

Compare and contrast the Chesapeake colonies with the New England colonies.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.02.

Class Discussion 3.03

Class Discussion 3.03 - Level 5

Historians rely on primary—meaning written at the time—sources when reconstructing what happened in the past. However, can these sources always be believed? How can these sources potentially be biased or misleading? Be sure to reference John Smith and Pocahontas in your response.

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.03.

Class Discussion 3.04

Class Discussion 3.04 - Level 4

The English argued that they would treat Native Americans better than their Spanish rivals. Did they? How did the colonists treat Native Americans in the early years of English settlement?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.04.

Class Discussion 3.05

Class Discussion 3.05 - Level 5

Why do you think the English initially experienced so many problems establishing its colonies?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.05.

Class Discussion 3.06

Class Discussion 3.06 - Level 5

What do you personally think happened to the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke?

Click here to see the answer to Class Discussion 3.06.


Referenced Readings

Calloway, Colin. First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012.

Davidson, James West and Mark Hamilton Lytle. After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection. McGraw-Hill, 2000, chapter 2, “Serving Time in Virginia.”

Edmunds, R. David, Frederick E. Hoxie, and Neal Salisbury. The People: A History of Native America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.

Rose, Christina. “Native History: 1638 Treaty of Hartford Meant to Quell Fear of Devil,” Indian Country Today, 9/21/13, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/09/21/native-history-1638-treaty-hartford-meant-quell-fear-devil-151365.

“The Roanoke Island Colony: Lost, and Found?” New York Times, 10 August 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/11/science/the-roanoke-colonists-lost-and-found.html?_r=0.

Suggested Additional Material

Barry, John M. Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. New York: Viking, 2012.

Hall, David D. A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England. New York: A. A. Knopf, 2011.

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.

Lepore, Jill. The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.

Rountree, Helen C. The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989. 


Answers to In-Chapter Discussion Questions

Answer to Question 3.07

  • Native Americans attacked and killed the English colonists
  • The settlers might have tried to sail back to England on their own and been lost at sea
  • The settlers were absorbed into friendly Native American tribes, perhaps after moving to what is now Hatteras Island, located 50 miles south of Roanoke

Click here to return to Question 3.07.


Answer to Question 3.10

  • He found: (1) smoke rising near Roanoke (it was probably from the local Indian village), (2) the words "CRO” and "Croatoan" carved into a tree and post, (3) Indian footprints, (4) burned trees, but no boats, (5) spoiled goods; rotten picture frames and maps; rusted armor
  • The symbol of distress was a "Cross," which he did not find
  • He thought that the colonists had safely joined the Croatoan, but had to leave prior to searching for the colonists

Click here to return to Question 3.10.


Answer to Question 3.13

First video:

  • They found a silver box—called a reliquary—buried with one of the men that contained a tiny vessel of holy water and bone fragments
  • They also found a sash
  • There are multiple responses to the question of what did this teach you about early Jamestown--the terrible conditions caused by the "starving times" could certainly be referenced.

Second video:

  • Found skeletal proof that the Jamestown colonists resorted to cannibalism during the horrible “starving times” of 1609-1610

Click here to return to Question 3.13.


Answer to Question 3.15

Smith was known to exaggerate some of the events in his life and travels. Not only did he claim that he was saved from execution by Pocahontas, he recounted a curiously similar story about being captured by Turks and saved by a Turkish princess. It seems highly implausible that such a set of events would happen twice to the same individual, so this casts doubt on the credibility of his accounts.

Click here to return to Question 3.15.


Answer to Question 3.20

  • Both Williams and Hutchinson challenged several tenets of Puritan theology
  • Williams also challenged Puritan appropriation of Indian lands without compensation
  • The Puritans wanted to create a “city upon a hill,” based on common religious and cultural ideals. Any challenges to this orthodoxy threatened their “perfect” communities

Click here to return to Question 3.20.


Answer to Question 3.22

  • “Civilized” Indians were supposed to: 1) Follow English gender roles: the men were supposed to work at farming and not hunt; 2) Indian men and women were supposed to dress and look like their English counterparts (For example: Indian men were supposed to cut their hair; women were supposed to tie their hair up; and women were expected to wear the long dresses of English women); 3) They were supposed to follow English culture and moral standards
  • The “Rules” showed that the English viewed Native Americans as “uncivilized”—as “idle,” immoral, and as mistreating Indian women. They also were dirty and uncouth, even “cracking lice between their teeth”

Click here to return to Question 3.22.

Answers to Pre-Class Discussion Questions

Answer to Class Discussion 3.01

There were many reasons why England failed to join the early rush to explore and settle the Americas. First, from 1400 to the late 1500s, England could not compete politically, economically, or militarily with Spain or Portugal. Second, a tangled web of international alliances—especially with Spain—worked against England’s potential as a colonial power.

The decline of Spain as a colonial power, as seen by the defeat of the Spanish Armada, allowed England to begin establishing a colonial presence in America. Social and economic tensions within England itself also provided incentive to establish colonies in America.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.01.


Answer to Class Discussion 3.02

While the English established their colonies in the same general region, their two initial areas of settlement, the Chesapeake and New England, differed in several ways. Settlers to Virginia—at least at first—tended to be young, unmarried, adventurous gentlemen. The typical New England settler arrived as part of a family and for religious reasons. A large portion of Jamestown settlers perished during the colony’s early years, while New England settlers tended to arrive with better supplies and in larger numbers. With the exception of Plymouth’s first winter, New England settlers did not experience the frequent “starving times” of their southern counterparts. The Chesapeake economy rested on tobacco, while New England families grew subsistence crops for their families or immediately communities.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.02.


Answer to Class Discussion 3.03

Primary sources, like any source, can be manipulated. For example, John Smith wrote that Pocahontas saved his life in his 1624 A Generall Historie of Virginia—but are Smith’s writings reputable? Smith was known to brag about and exaggerate his exploits. For example, prior to his expedition to Virginia, Smith participated in a series of intrigues as an adventurer in central Europe. He once wrote that he was taken prisoner by the Turks but later rescued by a beautiful Turkish princess. Could such similar incidents happen twice? Perhaps, but historians also could interpret his rescue by two “princesses” as too much of a coincidence. Smith could have embellished or even fabricated one or both incidents. Some anthropologists argue that the incident happened as Smith described it, but that he misinterpreted what was going on due to cultural misunderstanding.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.03.


Answer to Class Discussion 3.04

As a justification for colonization, the English argued that they would treat Native Americans more humanely than their Spanish counterparts. However, in practice, the English colonists took Indian land, kidnapped tribal members, and stole food and resources. They also unintentionally brought diseases, which led to continuous population decline. References may be included in this response to examples of English colonial warfare with Native Americans: the Anglo-Powhatan Wars; the Pequot War; and King Philip’s War.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.04.


Answer to Class Discussion 3.05

Colonies were expensive to fund, as investors needed to raise money to pay for transportation, supplies, and food. Often, the initial settlers chose poor sites for their colonies. Many searched for gold or silver instead of growing crops. Many of the colonists also angered and mistreated the local native peoples. Students could reference Jamestown as a specific example.  

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.05.


Answer to Class Discussion 3.06

There are many different theories as to what happened to Roanoke. Some speculate that Native Americans attacked and killed the English colonists; this theory certainly makes sense given the settlers’ treatment of the local Indians. Others argue that the settlers might have tried to sail back to England on their own and been lost at sea. Another theory argues that the settlers were absorbed into friendly Native American tribes, perhaps after moving to what is now Hatteras Island, located 50 miles south of Roanoke.

Click here to return to Class Discussion 3.06.


Image Credits

[1] Image courtesy of Penn Library in the Jean Jay I. Kislak Collection in the Public Domain

[2] Image courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

[3] Image courtesy of Historical Portraits Image Library in the Public Domain

[4] Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery UK via Wikipedia n the Public Domain

[5] Image courtesy of Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature in the Public Domain

[6] Image courtesy of The British Museum via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

[7] Image courtesy of The British Museum via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

[8] Image courtesy of The British Museum via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

[9] Image courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-pga-07768] in the Public Domain

[10] Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery UK via Wikipedia in the Public Domain

[11] Image courtesy of Geographicus Rare Antique Maps in the Public Domain

[12] Image courtesy of Nancy under GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later

[13] Image courtesy of The Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division in the Public Domain

[14] Image courtesy of STC 24518, Houghton Library, Harvard University in the Public Domain

[15] Image courtesy of *AC6 Eℓ452 663m, Houghton Library, Harvard University in the Public Domain