Early America Lecture


The Beginnings of European Trade

Mediterranean Trade and European Expansion: Drawn to the Mystery of the East - Italy held monopoly on eastern goods in 1300’s

1400’s A Century of Portuguese Exploration: seek to end Italian monopoly, explorers “discover Africa”, find new routes


New World in the Western Atlantic

The Explorations of Columbus refute notion that finding land to the west is impossible

Spain trying to beat Portugal to Asia, opens new world view (Geographic Revolution)

1499: Vespucci lands on S. America

Magellan’s expedition proves existence of a new continent(s)

The Columbian Exchange

Europeans bring Christianity, iron technology, firearms, wheeled vehicles, and diseases like small pox

American goods ranging from corn to potatoes, to tobacco and exotic fruit return to Europe

Bullion not immediately part of this exchange

Spanish Exploration and Conquest

The Conquest of Mexico: Cortes uses negotiation and force to bring the Mexica (Aztecs) under Spanish control (searching for gold)

Gold fuels search for other Mexicos

Pizarro conquers Incas in Peru & gets massive bullion

De Soto, Coronado, and Cabrillo all push north but fail to find new resources


New Spain in the Sixteenth Century

Spain claims control of Western Hemisphere

Conquistadores rule through structure of economienda - exploit native labor

Repartimiento intended to reform labor practices, coercion continues

Spaniards remain a tiny minority, social hierarchy established with pure European blood at the top


The New World and Sixteenth-Century Europe

The Protestant Reformation and the European Order

New World Treasure and Spanish Ambitions

Europe and the Spanish Example

English Colony on the Chesapeake

The Fragile Jamestown Settlement - starts with a fort and defense from Natives (Powhatan/Pocahantas)

Life is tough, famine & disease, few settlers survive

Cooperation and Conflict- Natives attempted to starve settlers out, settlers used force to reopen trade

English trade conveniences for food, unwilling/able to labor for food

Powhatan dies, Opechancanough attacks settlers, fails to eliminate them & makes permanent enemies

From Private to Royal Control

most mortality from disease & mismanagement

Government takes over colony -  eventually turns to tobacco

Exporting tobacco gives Chesapeake purpose

Very labor intensive, but tobacco profits could make labor very rewarding

Land very cheap (free with paid passage)

A Servant Labor System

Many poor cannot afford passage, landowners looking for labor turn to indentured servitude

Conditions harsh for servants - legal code maximizes exploitation

Women even more desired as wives/domestic help

Social & Economic Polarization

Mostly protestant - Maryland established as Catholic colony (RC upper class - Protestant lower classes)

First half of 1600s: split between farmer and servant - changes after 1650, harder for servants to become land owners, tobacco not as profitable

Real split emerges between landed & landless, government favored landed & increasing restricted trade

Bacon’s Rebellion:

Poor continue to push into “Indian Lands”, demand protection

Governor brands Bacon an outlaw, Bacon declares war

Crackdown on rebellion makes wealthy even more powerful

Settlers conclude it’s easier to fight Indians than each other - class tensions lessen

# of servants decreases, colonies move…

Toward a Slave Labor System

Starts with Sugar in the West Indies - sugar production required capital and slaves

From Barbados to Carolina, settlers from W. Indies - bring slaves

Changes in Carolina lead to emergence of slave labor in Chesapeake

Slaves provide permanent labor supply, easily identifiable, poor whites enjoy elevated status, legal challenge is now keeping slaves in their place