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Colonial Developments

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History
In addition to cross-references contained in the following account of U.S. history,
the reader is referred, for supplementary materials, to the history sections of articles on
the individual states and to separate articles on U.S. presidents.
Colonial Developments
The United States did not emerge as a nation-state until near the end of the 18th
century, but national history is properly introduced with a brief survey of the chief
events leading to the formation of the Union. The voyages, in the last years of the 15th
century, of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, pioneer navigators who helped to
open the European era of exploration and colonial expansion, were the decisive initial
developments. On the strength of Columbus's explorations and those of later Spanish
navigators, Spain staked out a vast domain in North, Central, and South America.
Cabot, sailing in the service of Henry VII, king of England, reached the North American
mainland in 1497. On the basis of this voyage, England later claimed the entire
continent. Among other early voyagers to North America were Giovanni da Verrazano
of Italy and Jacques Cartier of France. Sailing under the flag of France, they initiated a
protracted period of French colonial activity.
The lands these navigators “discovered” had actually been inhabited for at least
20,000 years before Columbus's arrival. In 1492 the indigenous population of Indians (as
Columbus misnamed them) numbered more than 90 million, of whom about 10 million
lived in America north of present-day Mexico. Contact with Europeans precipitated a
demographic disaster for these varied, and often highly civilized, Native Americans.
Influenza, typhus, measles, and smallpox reduced native populations in the more
densely settled regions of Central and South America by up to 95 percent within the
first 150 years after contact. In North America, where the aboriginal cultures tended to
be seminomadic and populations less dense, the population collapse was more
protracted, but no less devastating. Once European colonists established permanent
settlements in North America, they introduced not only diseases but also cattle and
horses that displaced game animals and invaded Native American agricultural lands,
altering the environment so drastically that indigenous populations declined to a
fraction of precontact levels. Even in the absence of warfare, European colonization
signaled the wholesale destruction of native cultures. (For a detailed discussion of the
history of indigenous peoples of the United States, see Native Americans and articles on
the individual tribes.)
The First Settlements
The founding of Saint Augustine (in what is now Florida) by the Spanish in 1565
marked the beginning of European colonization within the present boundaries of the
United States. At the time of this settlement, England and Spain were engaged in
warfare on the high seas, which in 1588 would culminate in the virtual annihilation of

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Spanish naval power (see ARMADA, SPANISH). After this defeat, Spain no longer
figured as a potent rival of England for possession of the Atlantic seaboard of North
America. Before that time, however, these same military pressures helped inhibit
English efforts at colonization.
In 1585 an expedition sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh settled on Roanoke Island
off the coast of present-day North Carolina. The colony soon failed, in part because the
settlers were more concerned with hunting for gold than with learning how to sustain
their colony by agriculture. In 1587 Raleigh dispatched a larger group led by John
White to the region, which he had named Virginia to honor Elizabeth I, known as the
Virgin Queen. About a month after the colonists landed, Virginia Dare was born, the
first birth to English parents in America. John White soon sailed back to England for
additional supplies. The war with Spain prevented his returning to Roanoke until 1590,
by which time the settlers had disappeared. The mystery of what happened to Raleigh's
Lost Colony has never been solved.
The first permanent English settlement in North America was Jamestown.
Established in 1607, Jamestown was a project of the Virginia Company of London, a
joint-stock corporation chartered in 1606 by King James I of England for the purpose of
trading in and colonizing North America. After a series of catastrophic misadventures,
in which thousands of immigrants died because of disease, starvation, and a war in
1622 with Native Americans, the Crown revoked the company's charter in 1624 and
took control of the colony as a royal province. Executive power in the new regime was
vested in appointees of the Crown, but the colonists were eventually permitted to retain
the representative assembly, called the House of Burgesses, that had been founded in
1619.
After the colonial government removed controls on the production of tobacco,
there was a major expansion in the economy and in the English population of the
Chesapeake Bay region. The incessant demand for labor to grow tobacco created a
harsh system of indentured servitude. In the last quarter of the 17th century, when it
became prohibitively expensive to import English laborers, English colonists in the
United States followed the lead of European nations and began importing Africans
kidnapped from their native countries. These African slaves emerged as the
predominant agricultural labor force in the southern mainland.
French and Dutch Activities
During the decade following the settlement of Jamestown, France and the
Netherlandsthe other leading maritime nations of Europeactively entered the
contest for territory in North America. The French quickly recognized the importance of
controlling the Saint Lawrence River, the best available route to the interior. In 1608, as
the first step in their strategic design, they founded Québec. The brilliant achievements
of such explorers as Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet, and Robert Cavelier, sieur de La
Salle brought vast areas of the interior, including the entire Mississippi River valley,
under nominal French ownership during the next 75 years. Consolidation of this

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History In addition to cross-references contained in the following account of U.S. history, the reader is referred, for supplementary materials, to the history sections of articles on the individual states and to separate articles on U.S. presidents. Colonial Developments The United States did not emerge as a nation-state until near the end of the 18th century, but national history is properly introduced with a brief survey of the chief events leading to the formation of the Union. The voyages, in the last years of the 15th century, of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, pioneer navigators who helped to open the European era of exploration and colonial expansion, were the decisive initial developments. On the strength of Columbus's explorations and those of later Spanish navigators, Spain staked out a vast domain in North, Central, and South America. Cabot, sailing in the service of Henry VII, king of England, reached the North American mainland in 1497. On the basis of this voyage, England later claimed the entire continent. Among other early voyagers to North America were Giovanni da Verrazano of Italy and Jacques Cartier of France. Sailing under the flag of France, they initiated a protracted period of French colonial activity. The lands these navigators “discovered” had actually been inhabited for at least 20,000 years before Columbus's arrival. In 1492 the indigenous population of Indians (as Columbus misnamed them) numbered more than 90 million, of whom abo ...
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