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Early institutions of British Colonies in America.

1 Identify the forces that led to the development of slavery in the colonies.
2 Describe some of the political, economic and religious problems encountered by Virginia and Massachusetts Bay Colony.
3 What was life like in the Plantation South, backcountry, and New England?

Identify the following terms in brief and accurate statements:

1 indentured servant
2 mercantilism
3 John Punch
4 John Cabot
5 Hernan Cortes
6 Invincible Armada
7 Iberian colonization
8 Elizabethan Poor Laws, 1601
9 London Company
10 resident council
11 Capt. John Smith
12 headright system
13 Plymouth Company
14 Pilgrims
15 Leyden separatists
16 Middle Passage
17 joint-stock company
18 enclosure movement
19 Protestant Reformation
20 Commercial Revolution

Solution Preview

European colonization of the Americas, and the institutions it created, were set in motion just hours after Columbus set foot on a Caribbean island. The subsequent clash of cultures, though violent and often oppressive, laid the groundwork for the establishment of a permanent European presence in the Americas.


The "peculiar institution" was hardly new to Old World societies, but the excessive labor demands of the New World colonies firmly embedded the African slave trade and exploitation of their labor in the development of the American colonies. Portugal, Spain, Holland and Britain held successive monopolies on the African slave trade. By the middle of the 18th century, the English monopoly was established, and their colonies thrived because of it. Massachusetts and Virginia required labor for construction and planting, the West Indies for cane processing, and Central and South America for the mining of precious metals. This demand could not be met by European settlers and indentured servants, as they were difficult to recruit and control. In most cases, natives were impossible to control, due to overwhelming numbers and well-established societies. Migration of English subjects ebbed during the civil war of 1640, further reducing available labor. The labor supply would therefore come from African slaves in bondage. Originally, the justification for their use was quasi-religious, as the "heathen" tribes could be used to do "God's work" in the colonies. Soon thereafter, erroneous assumptions of inferiority and institutional racism gave way to legalization and acceptance (by the colonizers) of newly defined societal roles. The breeding in bondage made the labor force self-perpetuating, as opposed to the indentured servants who met labor needs only until their employer's contract was satisfied. Instead of a limited flow of European immigrants, African slaves would meet increasing labor needs for generations to come.


The obstacles faced by American colonists gave rise to the myths of "frontier spirit" and "Yankee ingenuity," but NO colonies would have survived without "a little help from their friends," most of which rapidly became mortal enemies.


Both Jamestown and Plymouth faced incredible economic hardships due to poor planning, worse leadership and outright greed. In Virginia, a decade of dismal failures ensued because of lack of supply, poor choice of landing sites, and unorganized labor. Their financial backers, the London Company, demanded swift retrun of investment, causing many settlers to vainly search for gold and other commodoties rather than ...

Solution Summary

In three separate parts, this solution discusses the origins of slavery in the American colonies, the problems facing the first colonizers, and the regional differences of colonial life. Included is a list of relative terms defined in brief.