Module 4- brit america to 1700 lecture

Module 4
British America to 1700
growth in the colonies
Demography involves the study of populations and how the dynamics of population
growth change over time. The demography of colonial America was very interesting.
Initially, the colonists, when they first arrived, had the very difficult challenge of
creating settlements and creating a self-sustaining economy. And in the midst of that,
they often fell victim to disease or warfare. But after that so-called starving time ended,
the American Colonies grew dramatically in population. One reason was that they had a
higher birth rate and a lower death rate than was the case in Europe. That was largely
because the average age of the colonist was much lower than that in Europe which
meant that women had a much longer time to have babies. And many of them had 7, 8,
10, 12 children over time. And as the Colonies grew, they became more secure and less
susceptible to disease. And, as a result, the population grew dramatically so that during
the 18th Century, the American population was doubling every 25 years. And by the
time of the Revolution, it was well over 1 million people.
race based slavery
During the late 17th Century, a very important change occurred in the American
Colonies. Up to that point, Indentured Servants were the primary source of labor for the
American Colonies. That changed, however, in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries as
the number of enslaved Africans increased dramatically. Many plantation owners,
especially in the Southern Colonies such as Virginia and South Carolina, preferred slaves
over servants for several reasons. First, slaves served for life. Unlike indentured servants
that served for a fixed number of years and then they were free. At the same time, the
plantation owners preferred African workers because many of them coming from West
Africa were already experienced at the growing of rice, which in South Carolina became
a hugely profitable crop. Over time as the number of enslaved Africans in the Colonies
grew, and the number grew dramatically in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries,
especially in the Southern Colonies, those Colonies felt the needs to create slave codes.
That is the colonial legislatures dominated by whites created very specific restrictions on
slaves outlining what it meant to be a slave, that they were to serve for life, and that they
were essentially under the complete control of their owner or master. So by the 18th
Century, slavery had become the norm rather than the exception, especially in the
South. And of course, ultimately, it would become the most important force in the
shaping of American social history up through the Civil War.
ideas and the revolution
During the early 18th Century, 2 very powerful and very different movements spread
from Europe to the American Colonies and had profound effects. The first was called
The Enlightenment. As a result of major scientific discoveries in the 17th Century
known as The Scientific Revolution, The Enlightenment emerged in Europe in the early
18th Century. And what it entailed was an embrace of reason and scientific exploration
and study as opposed to just accepting what one traditionally had known as truth or
values or ideas. So The Enlightenment was very skeptical. It was very curious. It
involved a great deal of scientific investigation and a commitment to the use of reason
and understanding the world. At the same time that The Enlightenment was popular in
the Colonies, so too was something very different called The Great Awakening. During
the early 18th Century, a wave of emotional religious revival spread across the Colonies.
And it served to democratize religion in America. Many congregations split between
those who were called Old Lights and those that were called New Lights. The Old Lights
tended to believe in hierarchy and the power of ministers. The New Lights were in many
respects trying to democratize religion to give power more to the individual person for
the process of converting to Christianity and gaining salvation. Revivalist ministers
caused great confusion in congregations by telling people that you really don't have to
depend on your minister for salvation. You can choose to receive it yourself. So these 2
very different movements The Enlightenment and The Great Awakening occurred at the
same time. In many respects they warred against one another. But taken together, over
time, they helped provide many of the ideas and the forces and the energies that led to
the American Revolution.
women's roles in English colonies
The European colonist[s] who migrated to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries
brought with them stereotypical notions about the inferiority of women in European
society. That meant that in the colonies, women were relegated to the traditional roles
that they had occupied in Europe. That is, primarily wives and mothers.
Colonial families usually had large numbers of children. Over a dozen was quite
common. At the same time, women were expected to be help mates to their husbands,
dealing with all of the domestic duties, including farm work, at the same time that they
were dutiful wives and caring mothers.
In addition, however, the colonies and the environment in the colonies provided
unexpected opportunities for women to break out of those traditional domestic roles.
For example, the high death rate in the early years of colonization meant that many
women had to assume control of a farm or a business. Women were especially
prominent in the operation of taverns and inns, places of accommodation.
So while traditional attitudes toward women dominated in the colonies, there were
exceptional opportunities for at least some women to exercise their independence and
be the equals, especially economically, of men.
The Societies and Economics of the Colonies
The diversity of the English colonies along the Atlantic sea board in America is no better
illustrated than in the differences in religious practice and customs. New England, for
example, was primarily founded by Puritans escaping the tyranny and repression that
was facing them in England. At the same time, the middle colonies, especially
Pennsylvania, were just the opposite; that is, they were open to people of all faiths. Even
though they were a Quaker commonwealth, they allowed people with different religions
to settle and live and participate in the economic social and political life of the colony.
Further south, the Southern colonies tended to be Anglican; that is, the official national
church of England. The result was a religious stew where all of these different
ingredients, all of these different religious beliefs, were evident in the colonies and yet
they differed dramatically in terms of which colony was willing to practice what form of
religious toleration.
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