Teacher Guide to the American Colonies
The importance of Colonial America cannot be understated as the United States of America as we know it today would not exist if not for the brave pioneering spirits of these people. Not only did they have to suffer through the hardships of a two month or longer voyage across the dangerous Atlantic Ocean waters but upon landing in North America had to deal with daily natural and human issues. Life for these early Colonial Americans was far from easy and very far from the familiar confines of the originating countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and so many other international locales.
What's important to realize about the original 13 colonies is that although these were all considered British colonies there were a good mixture of other nationalities besides British citizens. From the beginning settlement of Jamestown all the way to the beginning of the Revolutionary War along the eastern coast had very different characteristics. Once the 13 colonies were well established, they were divided into three geographic and separate locations.
New England, Middle and Southern regions made up the original provinces for the Colonial Americans. Just as each had differing environmental factors and characteristics so did they have specific economic, social and political developments that would shape these regions all the way until today and tomorrow!
This is what makes Colonial America one of the most fascinating and interesting subjects for studying the progression and the evolution of how the United States of America was created. A constant threat came from the indigenous Indians, Dutch combatants and natural calamities such as hurricanes and wild fire. Disease and pestilence was also on the rampage and many a starter colony was decimated and put out of business by these microorganisms that came from rats and other North American vermin.
New England Colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The NE colonies although rich in timber and fur trading were not very good for growing sustainable food crops. One benefit that the location had over the other colonies of Colonial America was the ability to harvest from the sea. Since New England is full of deep water harbors the bounty from the sea included fish and shellfish. All of these natural items from the sea were great to use as fertilization of individual family-run crops.
Middle Colonies: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. An excellent location for farming and some natural harbors, although not as plentiful as the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies were blessed with fertile soil that allowed them to raise livestock. The Middle Colonies also practiced trade just like the New England Colonies, but normally they were trading raw materials for manufactured items.
Southern Colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. One of the most successful of all three colonial American regions was the Southern Colonies. These down South Colonies were very proficient in growing their own food that included tobacco, rice and indigo. These plantations were worked by slaves and an indentured servant's which would later be one of the root causes of the American Civil War.
The term Colonial America is the used to describe the period between the establishment of the first European settlements in the "New World" to the end of the Revolutionary War and the beginning of independence for the new country, the United States of America.
One of the earliest attempts at settling the New World took place on the small island of Roanoke off the coast of what is now North Carolina. Settled by Sir Walter Raleigh, the Lost Colony quickly passed into legend by completely disappearing from coast line with little evidence to determine their whereabouts (the only evidence being two carvings at the site of the colony-one reading "Croatoans" and the other simply reading "Cro").
The settlement at Jamestown, Virginia (chartered in 1604) is credited with being the oldest successful British colony in the Americas. Established on the coast of Virginia by the London Company (later known as the Virginia Company). Led by Captain John Smith, Jamestown Colony faced many hardships in the first years of the settlement. Settler John Rolfe (who married Powhatan Indian, Pocahontas) established the colony's success by exporting tobacco.
Shortly after the settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, a second settlement was established at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts by the Pilgrims in 1620. Known as the Massachusetts Bay Colony, this settlement was established by William Bradford who was fleeing religious persecution.
As the established colonies starting showing signs of success, many other settlements were established along the eastern seaboard. Trade was the primary means of support of the colonists, those settlements closest to the seaports were the most successful. As the settlements grew, they invaded more lands that were previously the sole territory of the Native Americans.
Due to the invasive spread of the European settlers, many hostilities arose between the settlers and the Natives. In addition, each European country was in a race with its neighbors to conquer the New World and claim its vast resources for its own. As they settlers began establishing their own way of life, customs and traditions, they began to resent the interference of the Old World.
Originally, there were thirteen colonies in the Americas. These colonies were divided into three groups:
1. Provincial Colonies (commission created at the pleasure of the monarch)
a. New Hampshire b. New York c. Virginia d. North Carolina e. Georgia f. South Carolina
2. Proprietary Colonies (grants for patents)
a. Pennsylvania b. Delaware c. New Jersey d. Maryland
3. Charter Colonies (political corporations)
a. Massachusetts b. Rhode Island and Providence Plantation c. Connecticut
Prior to the American Revolution, the colonists were engaged in the French and Indian War (1754-1773) in which the French forces joined with some of the Native American tribes in order to drive the English settlers out of their country; thereby leaving it free for French settlement. Many of the settlers felt disenchanted with the British government following the French and Indian War.
Due to increased taxation and lack of representation following the French and Indian War, the colonists combined and established a new nation which later became called the United States of America. Declaring independence in 1776, the colonists engaged in a long term military engagement against the British and won their freedom in 1781 with the surrender of Cornwallis (through his second in command) at Yorktown, Virginia.
Related Teacher Resources That Are Worth A Look:
- Archiving Early America
- Bread Making 101
- Colonial Jobs
- Packing For A Trip To The Colonies
- That's My Colony Project
- The Settlement of 13 Colonies