Colonial period in the history of United States of America

  • Describe in detail the colonial period in the history of United States of America. (CSS 2008)
  • Account for America's emergence as an imperialist -colonialist power after 1898. (CSS 2004)
  • Explain the characteristics of Colonial assemblies and representative government from 1776 to 1789. (CSS 2004)


Why England failed to take the initiative in the colonization of the American continent? What factors were responsible for the British interest in establishing their colonies in the areas that are now part of the United States of America? (CSS 2009)


Exploration of America

Europe towards Exploration of the New Land

Until the 15th century nobody knew that there was a continent across the Atlantic. The first and most famous of these explorers was Christopher Columbus whose voyage of exploration finally brought the Americans and Europeans in contact. Columbus was born in 1447 in Genoa, Italy; he was a son of a wool comber. He spent eight years seeking to be financed for his trip to explore the Indies across Atlantic Ocean. Christopher Columbus, a Genoese sailor, believed that sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean was the shortest sea route to Asia.

Ignorant of the fact that the Western Hemisphere lay between Europe and Asia and assuming the earth's circumference to be a third less than it actually is, he was convinced that Japan would appear on the horizon just three thousand miles to the west. Like other seafarers of his day.

Christopher Columbus

Columbus was ready to sail for whatever country would pay for his voyage. Either because of his arrogance (he wanted ships and crews to be provided at no expense to himself) or ambition (he insisted on governing the lands he discovered), he found it difficult to find a patron. He was twice rejected

by Portuguese, and the rulers of England and France were not interested. With influential supporters at court, Columbus convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain to partially underwrite his expedition. In 1492, Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, had fallen to the forces of the Spanish monarchs.


Voyages of Columbus

1st voyage, 1492: San Salvador, The Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola

2nd voyage, 1493: Dominica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica

3rd voyage, 1498: St. Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad, Margarita, Venezuela

4th voyage, 1502: St. Lucia, , Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama


Once Columbus landed in America he discovered that there were already civilizations living in America. He named the Native of America as Red Indians, thinking that he had landed in India and those peoples are Indian.


Native Americans

Before Europeans there were four civilizations living in America and they were

Red Indians




John Cabot

John Cabot of Venice came five years later on a mission for the king of England. His journey was quickly forgotten, but it provided the basis for British claims to North America.


Name of America in Beginning

New World

Strange Land

Golden Land

Name of America

After the death of Columbus in 1506, Amerigo Vespucci, another Italian navigator, sailed extensively along the American coast and is considered to be the first to realize that the Indies were in fact a ―New World‖ and not part of Asia. The first map that identified known parts of the Western Hemisphere as ―America,‖ after Vespucci, was published in 1507.


Colonization in the New Continent 

The first permanent European settlement in what was to become the United States was established by the Spanish in the middle 1500s at St. Augustine in Florida. However, it would not play a part in the formation of the new nation. That story took place in settlements farther north along the Atlantic coast in Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and the 10 other areas colonized by a growing tide of immigrants from Europe.


Treaty of Tordesillas

Columbus returned from his first voyage, they persuaded Pope Alexander VI to issue an edict giving Spain all lands west of an imaginary line through the Atlantic. Portugal was not satisfied. Through the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), the two countries agreed to move the line further west and give Portugal exclusive right to the territory to the east. Although the result of the shift was unknown at the time, the change put the eastern quarter of South America (Brazil) in the Portuguese sphere


Colonial Period

Most settlers who came to the British colonies in the 1600s were English. Others came from The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, and later from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Some left their homelands to escape war, political oppression, religious persecution, or a prison sentence. Some left as servants who expected to work their way to freedom. Black Africans were sold into slavery and arrived in shackles. 

By 1690, the population was 250,000. Less than 100 years later, it had climbed to 2.5 million. The settlers had many different reasons for coming to America, and eventually 13 distinct colonies developed here. Differences among the three regional groupings of colonies were even more marked.

Causes of Colonization

Improvement in Technology

In Europe, there occurred a rebirth of classical learning. Columbus and other navigators lived in a time when creativity was vitally at its peak and navigator and mariners were being financed to find out the shortest and safest routes to Asia. Europeans were improving in technology from gun powder to the sailing compass. There were also major improvements in shipbuilding and map making.


Renaissance in Europe

1400 AD onwards is considered that to be the rising time of Europeans after the Dark Age which was 200 to 1200 AD. The Europeans now we're making progress in every field of life and were keenly involved in learning and exploring. The technology of the printing press after 1450 also spread the knowledge across Europe which played a very important role in educating the common man in Europe.


Religious Conflicts in Europe

The later years of the renaissance were a time of religious zeal and conflict in Europe. The dominant Roman Catholic culture was threatened by the Othman empire while the Protestants revolted against the pope‘s authorities in Rome led to a series of wars between Protestants and Catholic Christians. The reforms by Protestants were known as Protestants Reformation. 

Expanding trade

Roots to Asia were blocked after Othman had taken over the city of Constantinople in 1453. Europe were dependant on Asian for trade, herbs and agriculture therefore they were in extensive need to find any other route to Asia.

Search for New Routes

To maintain the trade relation with Asia Europeans wanted to find out the shortest possible root which can again connect them to the sub-continent. They started financing navigators for exploration of new sea routes, which ultimately led them to the discovery of America. Although in 1448 Vasco De Gama was the 1st person to reach India by the route of Africa.

Pressure of population

15million Peoples were living in Europe before America

Trade and Agriculture

Since Europe is not an agrarian continent therefore it heavily depended on the agriculture of Asia to fulfill the demands for their huge population. But the discovery of America gives them a land where they were able to cultivate the crops themselves with ideal weather and big rivers i.e. Mississippi and Missouri.


Desire for wealth

By the time America was discovered it was known as a ―Golden Land‖. The normal perception was as if there is a lot of gold in America which can be easily excavated. This was another important factor leading toward the colonization of the New Land.

Imperial Race

The Imperial powers of Europe were in race of having more and more land of America. As in older days the country with most colonies and vast majority of land was considered to be a super power. Which today is been replaced by economy and technology.


Royal Proclamation

Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, between Spain and Dutch republic by which each state would have the right to determine the religion of his own state and also colonial claims were adjusted.


related notes