Society and Culture in Provincial America p. 65-96

Chapter 3 Study Guide

Chapter 3 deals with events in the British colonies in North America from 1650 to 1740. But it is important to recognize the themes and interpretations offered in this chapter and to see the facts as evidence used to support those themes.

In Chapters 2 we looked at American society in its infancy. Though this society was shaped by many forces, its basic belief and value systems came from England. We see that colonial society was showing signs of evolving in its own unique direction, a fact that caused England to formulate some rules and regulations (the Navigation Acts, for example) designed to control colonial behavior.

By examining the migration of a variety of ethnic groups that made up that migration, we see the development of the cultural pluralism that distinguishes American society. At the same time we recognize some of the internal dynamics produced by that pluralism (the question of assimilation, as well as the emergence and consequences of ethnic antagonisms).

The economic evolution of the colonies is a main theme. Although there was slow economic growth between 1720 and 1750, growth was uneven. We examine in detail the economic forces operating in: (l) New England, (2) the middle colonies, (3) the Chesapeake area, and (4) the Lower South. The forces affecting the economy as a whole interacted with regional characteristics to create a separate set of economic dynamics within each region. Consequently, the colonies were not a unified whole and had no history of unity or sense of common purpose.

Then we return to the theme that underlies all the sections in this chapter: the seeds of tension, conflict, and crisis present within eighteenth-century American society. If you look back at the earlier sections, you can see the potential for conflict in: (l) ethnic diversity; (2) the increase of urban poverty despite general economic growth, as well as the economic variations among the four regions; (3) the differences between city and rural life, between the status of men and women, and between white and African American families; (4) the clashing of the older and the newer cultures and of the genteel and the ordinary; and (5) the conflict between the ideal and the reality of the role of colonial assemblies. The crises and conflicts resulting from this diversity are exemplified in the Stono Rebellion, the New York conspiracy, the land riots, and the Regulator movements.

Keeping that in mind, we deal with the impact of the English Civil War (1642-1649) and the Commonwealth period (1649-1660) on the relationship between England and its colonies. These periods of political turmoil were followed by the Stuart Restoration (1660-1685), which brought Charles II to the English throne. The return to political stability during Charles's reign witnessed the founding of six new proprietary colonies, known as the Restoration colonies. Discussion of the reasons for the founding of these colonies; their political, social, and economic evolution; and the interaction of peoples within them demonstrates the emergence of an even more diverse and heterogeneous colonial society.

We then consider a second interaction theme: relations between Europeans and American Indians. The subject is complex because of the variety of Native American cultures and because of their interaction with various European countries vying for power in North America. The discussion centers on the economic uses the Europeans made of Indian cultures. The dynamics of five specific white Indian relationships are discussed: (1) the French colonists in the areas of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley and the Indians of those regions; (2) the Spanish and the Pueblos of New Mexico; (3) the colonists of the New England coastal region and the Indian tribes of that region; and (4) the colonists of Virginia and the Indians of that area; and (5) in the latter part of the section entitled Slavery in North American and the Caribbean, the colonists of North and South Carolina and the neighboring Indian peoples.

We return to the relationship between England and its colonies. In the discussion of the general political evolution of the colonies, we discover that England was no longer merely acting on its colonies but was beginning to react to colonies that were maturing socially, politically, and economically. As a consequence, those colonies became increasingly difficult to administer. In addition, the fact that England was engaged in a war with France a war fought in Europe and in North America was a complicating factor. At the end of the chapter, the impact of this complex set of interrelationships on New England society is discussed through an analysis of the Salem Village witchcraft crisis.

Empires 1660-1702

1660 The Restoration brings Charles II to the throne of England. Navigation Act of 1660 steps up royal control over trade in American colonies.

1663 Founding of Carolina. Plantation Duty Act introduces customs agents into colonies.

1664 English conquest of New Netherland and founding of New York and New Jersey.

1674-96 Lords of Trade coordinate control over the colonial economy.

1675 King Philip?s War devastates New England.

1676 Nathaniel Bacon leads rebellion against royal government in Virginia.

1680 Pop├ęs Rebellion in Spanish New Mexico.

1681 William Penn founds Pennsylvania as haven for Quakers in America.

1682 La Salle plants French flag at the mouth of the Mississippi River and claims Louisiana.

1685 The Dominion of New England consolidates five New England colonies.

1687 Isaac Newton publishes Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.

1688 The Glorious Revolution topples King James II and brings William and Mary to the throne.

1689 Parliamentary Declaration of Rights.

1689-97 King William?s War.

1696 England creates Board of Trade to consolidate control over colonial trade.

1699-1733 Wool Act, Hat Act, Iron Act, and Molasses Act heighten taxation and control over colonial trade and production.


Culture: Continued immigration injected various cultural streams into the American colonies; this is particularly the case with religion, where European sects joined colonial dissenters to form new denominations. Puritan New England placed a stronger emphasis on education than the southern colonies. The hubs of learning and scientific inquiry were the cities such as Cambridge, which hosted the first college in America. The Massachusetts School Act, passed in 1647, provided for public education for white Americans only.

Demographic Changes: An increasing stream of immigrants flowed to the American colonies by the end of the seventeenth century. Deteriorating conditions in mainland Europe pushed German and French Protestants to the colonies, and Scot-Irish began to replace the English as economic conditions in England improved. Most significant was the increasing stream of black laborers from Africa and the Caribbean who replaced the declining number of indentured servants. Mortality rates decreased more so in the northern colonies than in the south, and by the mid-seventeenth century New England's population was increasing naturally. The southern colonies depended on immigration to grow until the eighteenth century. The American non-Indian population doubled nearly every twenty-five years.

Economic Transformations: After the early years when survival was the first order, a thriving colonial economy developed accompanied by a growing consumer culture. Throughout English America agriculture was the dominant economic activity, and in the Carolinas rice and later indigo became important crops. The Navigation Acts were a boon to shipbuilding in New England, and other manufacturing ventures using the region's abundant water power developed there. Commercial farming in the middle colonies provided foodstuffs for New England, the Caribbean, and Europe, and the slave trade between Africa, the Caribbean, and America flourished. This all occurred in the context of a complex trading network labeled the "triangular trade." As Americans searched for markets throughout the Atlantic a more apt label would be the" Atlantic polygon."

Religion: Religion and religious intensity affected the various regions differently. The Anglican Church was most common in Virginia, but was not a commanding presence. Chesapeake Maryland's conflict between Catholics and Protestants diminished in the late seventeenth century. In New England religious declension worried many and reactions to this ran from witchcraft hysteria to religious revivals during the Great Awakening. Both point to the fact that religion played an important role in people's lives.

Slavery and Its Legacies in North America: As American society matured, the black population developed a distinct slave culture that blended both European and African tradition. The slave family grew beyond the nuclear family into an extended network of kin to provide for those left behind when families were broken up. The church and religion provided major solace, and hope for freedom-if not in this life, then in the next. Slaves also developed distinct cultural tools to help cope with slavery's harsh realities. Languages forged from a mix of African and English were both signs of comfort and religion, and still exist today in some areas.

Digital History

18th Century

England's efforts to create an empire based on mercantilist principles and the conflicts that these efforts to assert control produce. You will also learn about the forces that transformed colonial life, including an expanding population, economic stratification, the Enlightenment, and the Great Awakening. 

Biography of America (series 3)

Growth and Empire
Benjamin Franklin and Franklin's Philadelphia take center stage in this program. As the merchant class grows in the North, the economies of southern colonies are built on the shoulders of the slave trade. Professor Miller brings the American story to 1763 with the Peace of Paris and English dominance in America.

Lecture Outlines

18th Century American Colonies

Slavery in American Colonies

Great Awakening