Modern history

Conclusion: European Empires in North America

When John Smith died in 1631, the English were just beginning to establish colonies in North America. Despite Smith’s love of adventure, he realized early on that a successful empire in Virginia required a different approach than the Spanish had taken in Mexico and Peru. North American colonies demanded permanent settlement, long-term investment, and hard work. Liberal land policies, self-government, and trade formed the touchstones of colonies along the north Atlantic coast.

Yet as European colonists found different ways to prosper in Virginia, Massachusetts Bay, Quebec, and New Amsterdam, they faced daunting choices.

Most important, should they create alliances with local Indians for sustenance and trade, or should they seek to dominate them and take what they needed? Smith, Miles Standish, and many other early settlers supported an aggressive policy, much like that of Spain. In Virginia this policy ended persistent threats from the Powhatan Confederacy by the 1640s. But many Europeans, especially in New England, New Amsterdam, and Canada, advocated a different approach. Some, like French Jesuit priests and Puritan missionaries, focused on the spiritual and material benefits of conversion. Far more argued that building alliances was the most effective means of advancing trade and gaining land, furs, and other goods valued by Europeans.

Throughout the early and mid-seventeenth century, English, Dutch, and French colonists profited from trade relations and military alliances with Indian nations. Nonetheless, European demands for land fueled repeated conflicts with tribes like the Pequots in the 1630s and the Wampanoags and Narragansetts in the 1670s. The exhaustion of furs along the Atlantic coast only increased the vulnerability of those Indians who could no longer provide this valuable trade item. Already devastated by European- borne diseases, their very survival was at stake. Indians in New Amsterdam as well as

New England resisted the loss of their land and livelihood, often with violence. It was such violence that led to the death of Anne Hutchinson. In 1642 she and her six youngest children moved to the outskirts of New Netherland after the death of her husband. They lived on an isolated farm on what is now Pelham Bay in the Bronx. A year later, Anne and all but one of her children were massacred by Indians outraged by Dutch governor William Kieft’s 1643 slaughter of peaceful Indians on Manhattan Island.

Still, as European settlements reached deeper into North America in the late seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, their prosperity continued to depend on trade goods and land that were often in Indian hands. At the same time, a growing demand for labor led wealthier settlers to seek an increased supply of indentured servants from Europe and enslaved workers from Africa. Over the next half century, relations between wealthy and poor settlers, between whites and blacks, between settlers and Indians, and among the European nations that vied for empire would only grow more complicated.

Chapter Review


Identify and explain the significance of each term below.

Protestantism (p. 31)

Church of England (p. 31)

Jamestown (p. 36)

Powhatan Confederacy (p. 36)

House of Burgesses (p. 38)

indentured servants (p. 38)

Bacon's Rebellion (p. 41)

Pilgrims (p. 43)

Mayflower Compact (p. 44)

Puritans (p. 44)

Pequot War (p. 47)

King Philip's War (p. 48)


Answer the focus questions from each section of the chapter.

1. How did the Protestant Reformation shape the course of European expansion in the Americas?

2. How did the French and Dutch colonies in North America differ from the spanish empire to the south?

3. How did the virginia colony change and evolve between 1607 and the 1670s?

4. How did the growth of the English colonies on the mainland and in the west Indies shape conflicts in virginia and demands for labor throughout North America?

5. How did the Puritans' religious views shape new england's development?

6. why did conflict between New England settlers and the region's indians escalate over the course of the seventeenth century?



• Martin Luther denounces indulgences, sparking the Protestant Reformation


• England breaks with the Roman Catholic Church


• Council of Trent (Catholic Church)


• Acoma pueblo uprising in New Mexico

• Edict of Nantes (France)


• Jamestown founded under leadership of Captain John Smith


• First permanent French settlement in North America founded at Quebec


• Dutch traders establish a settlement on the Hudson River


• John Rolfe experiments with tobacco cultivation in Virginia


• House of Burgesses established in Virginia

• First Africans arrive in Virginia


• Pilgrims found Plymouth settlement in Massachusetts


• Dutch establish New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island


• Puritans found Massachusetts Bay colony


• Maryland founded


• Roger Williams moves with followers to Rhode Island


• Pequot War


• Anne Hutchinson banished from Massachusetts Bay colony


• English civil war


• Monarchy restored in England


• House of Burgesses passes acts that allow enslavement of African laborers


• Dutch surrender New Amsterdam to the English


• King Philip's War


• Bacon's Rebellion

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