- Transformation of the Americas
European powers arrived in the Americas, conquered and claimed large territories of land which they wanted to exploit through agriculture, mining activities, as well as industrial activities, but had no work force thus which triggered forced labor. The native Indians resented forced labour and some preferred to die rather than to be slaves hence the European powers used the trans-Atlantic trade to obtain slaves from Africa.
The Africans were considered physically strong thus would provide a much needed workforce in the vast plantations. The European on their part provided the needed technology and innovation to facilitate uptake of the farm proceeds.
More Africans were procured, and some even kidnapped and shipped to the Americas. They increased in population that contributed to the shaping of the cultures of where they settled. They would perform rituals and other practices that they used as a form of connection and as an identity. However, some practices were seen as socially unacceptable by the masters and hence were forbidden, resulting into the erosion of the African religious practices and culture.
The transformation also affected the regions’ demographic structure and composition. As more immigrants settled in the Americas, the population increased while altering its composition significantly with the proportion of men and women of African origin in the Americas growing steadily. The transformation greatly affected work habits, family structure diet and even the ratio of men and women such as in Africa where women outnumbered the men. Similarly, more Europeans voluntarily migrated to the Americas though it constituted a minority. There were changes in the social and political organisation during this transformation.
Stockwell M. (2012). The American Story: Perspectives and Encounters to 1865, 1-36.
Dark passages: http://digital.films.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=44114&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=320&h=240&ref=
2. Origins of Early Colonies
The colony of Jamestown was America’s first permanent English colony in Virginia. It was sponsored by a group of investors who hoped to benefit from the venture. However, the colony was faced by a number of problems among them, opposition from the native Powhatan Indians who lived in the colony, an unfamiliar climate, brackish water and lack of food that led to disease and death. The original colonists who settled were upper class Englishmen thus lacked enough labourers and farmers with skills.
The problems in the colony continued even further due to lack of stable leadership after the departure of Captain John Smith, the colony’s leader. War between the colonists and the Indians ensued while disease and starvation killed many English men and women causing abandonment in 1610. New leadership soon arrived when new settlers arrived from England under the new charter issued by King James I. A governor provided leadership, with a group of advisors and military law established to punish those who disobeyed.
On the other hand, the colonies of New England colonies like Plymouth and Massachusetts had colonists, who were seeking religious freedom (Stockwell, 84). Their motivations were of a religious nature rather than economic. They did not invest heavily in staple crops instead they could rely on artisan industries like shipbuilding, painting and carpentry. Chesapeake and New England differed greatly in the type of people who settled as evidenced by the composition of the populations. In New England colonies, the population was mainly made of English and White, and they had a reputation as a place where religious freedom was exercised. In contrast, the Chesapeake population was a composition of black slaves who worked in the tobacco plantations. Therefore, the economy motivated the settlers of the Chesapeake colonies.
New England was characterised by towns and villages which were surrounded by small farms while the Chesapeake colonies, large plantations and little urbanisation characterized the colonies (Stockwell, 81).The colonists in the Chesapeake colonies did not relate well with the natives. For instance, when they were disillusioned by poor tobacco prices between 1660 and 1700, they took out their frustrations on the local Native Americans, the Indians. In terms of their political structure, the colonial government in the Chesapeake colonies like Virginia resembled that of England’s county courts while, in New England colonies like Massachusetts, they adopted a theocratic government where a royal governor could appoint justices who set tax rates and performed other duties.
South Carolina is one of the thirteen original colonies. Before the arrival of the French and the Spanish explorers, the land was inhabited by small tribes of the Native Americans. After initial resistance of the locals against the Europeans, the English settled along the coast in 1670. Settlers built plantations and slaves worked on the plantations growing profitable crops. By 1720, the slaves formed the largest population in South Carolina and by the time of American Revolution, and South Carolina was one of the richest colonies in America. It relatively experienced minimal leadership conflicts as in the case of Jamestown leading to economic growth.
Stockwell M. (2012). The American Story: Perspectives and Encounters to 1865, 37-70.
3. A Distinct American Nation
As Stockwell states, Americans often celebrate their diversity today that was not an easy thing bringing people from varied backgrounds together in the colonial America. In a period marked by rivalry between European powers who wanted to seize control of empires, the American society was characterised by diversity of drawn from the inhabitants who were from different backgrounds. By 1750, the colonies already had a very diverse ethnic population as immigrants did bring their customs and traditions with them. The American colonies largely constituted the blacks, reds and whites who came from different and diverse regions. However, these customs and traditions could later become part of the American culture which could be described as having a strong work ethic.
The British colonial governments in America shared some political, society and cultural practices. For instance, in all the thirteen colonies the government in these colonies was a representation of the English government. The general assembly was elected by voters. In colonies such as those in New England like Massachusetts and Plymouth, annual meetings were held where free men could be heard (Stockwell, 85). Slavery was a common practice in all the colonies. Africans were brought to America to work in agricultural fields as slaves and others as house servants. For example in Virginia, most slaves worked in tobacco fields.
Unlike England or any other place, the American colonies had people of varied and opposite tastes, habits and theological views. People from different cultures and origins coming led without asperity and could unite when the time came for making important decisions like one in politics. The realisation and recognition of each other’s diversity and appreciating it, the American people and colonist, for instance, united against the repressive acts passed by the British government which was seeking to deny them freedom of choice for their leaders. By 1750, Americans had united to form one nation with people of different colors; whites, the reds and Africans which is not the case with most countries that experience frequent conflicts relating to racial discrimination.
Stockwell M. (2012). The American Story: Perspectives and Encounters to 1865, 72-110.
4. The American Revolution from a Different Perspective
In trying to claim more control over the colonies, Britain passed various acts that were meant to bring law and order in colonies like Massachusetts. However, such acts were objected strongly regardless of their intention. The independent nature of the local government in Massachusetts for instance meant it would elect members to the executive council, and they could hold town meetings without seeking consent of the governor and would often result in errant behavior. Therefore to curb such unwarranted behaviour it was important that parliament pass an act with a view of bringing the administration under control. The Massachusetts act provided for more control by the royal governor as it could appoint and dismiss the council (Stockwell, 29). Its goal was to take away the executive powers from the hands of the democratic part of the government and also help squelch the revolution.
However, the act was termed as intolerable by the colonists and saw them get united even further against Great Britain. Consequently the continental congress was called to discuss a united action against the British. The congress approved a Declaration of Grievances that explained that colonists had certain rights including the right to choose representatives who would govern them. The colonists also staged a colony-wide boycott of all British goods. The congress then urged its people to take up arms and defend themselves in case the British attacked (Middlekauff, 2005, p. 240–258).
As expected, the British sent soldiers to suppress the revolution with them targeting the leaders of the revolution. War ensued with both sides losing men although the British suffered bigger losses and thus had to retreat (Stockwell, 140)
Middlekauff, R. (2005). The glorious cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stockwell M. (2012). The American Story: Perspectives and Encounters to 1865, 140.
The Massachusetts Government Act:http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/mass_gov_act.asp