Beginnings to 1700
Background info in textbook: pp. 1-15
Christopher Columbus
First voyage from Spain--1492
• Searching for Asia, he landed
in the Bahamas (He named the
island San Salvador.)
• Mainland South America-1498
• Central America--1502
• Several hundred Native
American tribes already existed
in the Americas by the time he
•First Native Americans could have arrived between 12,00070,000 years ago
•European colonists did not arrive until the late 1500s
• Wrote letters and memos to the Crown
and to royal officials, providing the first
written descriptions of America
• His letters described his discoveries and
provided an account of the problems of
• What was his view of the natives?
Native American Culture and
• Written records are
• Focus on folklore
and oral history
• Usually greeted
colonists as friends
•Instructed Europeans in agriculture,
woodcraft, and survival of “bitter northeastern
winters” (7).
Literature of the Period
Native Americans and Explorers
• Native American Tradition
– Oral tradition
– Focus on nature
• Explorers’ Accounts
– Non-fiction: journals, letters, memos, briefs.
– Descriptions of landscape, etc. of the New
– “Briefs” were used to influence colonial policy
John Smith
• Founded Jamestown (VA)—1607
– First successful English colony in America
• 1614 explored and named New England
• His story of his rescue by Pocahontas has
been questioned—Did he exaggerate?
– The story is well established in our culture today.
• Egoist: How much of his story is fact?
• Energetic promoter of the potential of the
New World for English settlers
Pilgrims and Puritans
Plymouth Colony
• Mayflower, 1620Plymouth Colony
• Passengers were Puritans who were critical of
the Church of England.
• Left England for Holland then came here.
• Later called “Pilgrims” by William Bradford.
– In the past: tried to purify the Church from within
– Now: chose to withdraw from the Church.
• Because of this, they became known as Separatists
• Eventually, Plymouth Colony was absorbed by
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Puritans’ Grand Purpose
“We shall be as a City upon a
Hill, the eyes of all people are
upon us; so that if we shall deal
falsely with our God in this work
we have undertaken and so
cause him to withdraw his
present help from us, we shall
be made a story and a by-word
through the world.”
-John Winthrop, Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony--1630
• Like Plymouth, MBC was founded by
Puritans who wanted religious reform.
• Led by John Winthrop on the Arbella
• Unlike Separatists because they wanted to
reform the church from within.
• Established a theocracy
• Settlements in Boston, Charlestown,
Watertown, Lynn, Medford, etc.
• Poet Anne Bradstreet came on the
Pilgrims and Puritans
Values and Beliefs
• Humans exist for the glory of God.
• Natural depravity of humans
• The Bible is the sole expression of
God’s will.
• Predestination (John Calvin’s belief):
God has already decided who will
achieve salvation and who will not.
• Hard work, self-discipline (“Puritan
• Education (The Puritans founded
How does Predestination work?
• No one knows if they are “chosen” so,
all devout Puritans searched their
souls with great rigor and frequency
for signs of grace.
• The “elect” that will be saved mustn’t
take election for granted, thus
everyone must live as if they know
they were elected
The Decline of Puritanism and
The Great Awakening
By the early 1700s, people were
attracted to more liberal
Protestant groups
Great Awakening: 1720
-Series of religious revivals—conservative reaction to the “Enlightenment”
-led in part by Jonathan Edwards
-Preaching and religion itself became more emotional
–Straitlaced Puritanism was seen as “old fashioned,” but “the ideals of
hard work, frugality, self-improvement, and self-reliance are still regarded
as basic American virtues” (8).
Puritan Literature
• Wrote theological studies, hymns,
histories, biographies and autobiographies
with the purpose of spiritual insight and
• Fiction and Drama = Sin
• Puritans did write poetry as a vehicle for
spiritual enlightenment and moral
Puritan Literature
• The writing style of the Puritans
reflected the plain style of their lives –
spare, simple, straightforward .
• Puritan Plain Style  characterized
by short words, direct statements, and
references to ordinary, everyday
• Literature of the Colonies
– from The General History of Virginia by John
– from Of Plymouth Plantation by William
– Captivity narratives
• Puritan Literature
– “To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne
– from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by
Jonathan Edwards
– The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
– The Crucible by Arthur Miller