American Colonies in Early 1600 and 1700.

Last Updated: 10 Aug 2020
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America’s colonial history can be described in terms of the economic, political and social events of the early sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The two centuries came with two sets of societies altogether. No historian will contest the fact that the start of the 1600 and its formative years marks the starting point of the American colonies’ history of existence. The American native society had a tight hold of their territories albeit without any form of a structured government but had a well organized defense outfit to check intruders (Adams, 1921).

The invasion by the English and other European giants and subsequent formation of the thirteen colonies was characterized by tribal and cross culture fights pitting mainly the native tribes against the colonizing English between 1600-1650. This points to an era of cultural disorientation and societal instability. Disease, poor weather and tribal warfare made it impossible for meaningful political, social and economic endeavors to materialize. Small-scale farming was the main economic activity in this era. The introduction

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of tea and tobacco in early 1600 gave the American colonies the opportunity of agriculture for trade and subsistence. The 1700 came with a different social, economic and political arrangement (Adams, 1921). The thirteen colonies each had an elaborate governance structure. The American colony of Pennsylvania had its first constitution in1701, no doubt then that the society already had a sense of respect for human rights and freedoms as they would call it ‘the Charter of Privileges’. This new set of laws guided governance and people’s conduct within and without the society (Schlesinger & Arthur, 1993).


Agriculture took a new angle during this era. Large scale farming replaced the old fashioned small scale and subsistence farming of the early 1600. Big plantations were put up by wealthy landowners of the southern colonies who also engaged in hunting. This agrarian culture effectively put to an end the perennial hunger of the previous decade. There is a marked difference in the educational setup of the two eras. The early sixteenth century saw nothing much of formal education.

Public schools were established and grammar schools became common place between 1700 and 1750. College education gained value and in effect Yale College was founded in 1701. Later, a pioneer journal was published and the freedom of the press and liberties was enacted (Schlesinger, 1993). The era of 1600-1650 had witnessed a culture of ignorance and disenfranchisement coupled with religious and cultural intolerance. Impunity went unpunished resulting in many killings and murders with anti-establishment figures being banished or executed.

The society of the 1700-1750 era led a different lifestyle compared to that of 1600-1650. These people were a lot more economically stable (Gipson, 1936-1970). A pointer to this is their love for fashion and big life contrary to their early sixteenth century counterparts where starvation and hard labor punctuated their lives. The former had enough to spend and spare and even dress well owing to a healthy economy while the latter barely managed to scrape through life. The Great Awakening movement by Jonathan Edwards in the 1730s and 1740s

demonstrates a great difference in religious faiths of the two eras as he calls his group ‘new lights’ and the previous religions ‘old lights’. With this evangelistic movement, the religious and social orientation changes and differs greatly from that of the 1600 - 1650 era.


Adams, Truslow. J [1921]. The Founding of New England. Atlantic Monthly Press. New York.

Gipson, L [1936-1970] The British Empire Before the American Revolution (15 volumes) Pulitzer Prize.

Schlesinger, Jr. , Arthur M. [1993] The Almanac of American History. Nobles Books, Greenwich, CT.

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