Unit 2 Assignment Sheet


Study Questions for Alan Taylor's Colonial America: A Very Short Introduction

  • What is Taylor’s overall project? What makes his understanding of colonial American history different than other historians who have come before him?
  • What historical approaches/methods does Taylor explicitly employ in Colonial America?
  • What historical approaches/methods does Taylor implicitly employ in Colonial America?
  • What are the topics of each chapter? Why is the order of his presentation significant?
  • What are the major points/themes/arguments of each of chapter?
  • Which examples from each chapter best support his arguments?
  • How does each chapter contribute to his overall project?
  • What are the most significant differences between the different groups he discusses?
  • What are the most significant differences within the groups he discusses?
  • How does Taylor characterize the interactions between the different groups that comprised colonial America? What’s the significance of these interactions?
  • What are some of the most important events – ones that embody the interactions or transformed the character of the relationships between the different groups?


Assignment 1. The Eve of Contact

  • Skim Nash, 1-11 for background if necessary.
  • Charles Mann, "1491," The Atlantic Monthly (March 2002), 41-53. [PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 2. The Columbian Exchange

  • Skim Nash, 24-37 for background if necessary.
  • Howard Zinn, "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress," in  A People's History of the United States, 1-22. [PDF]
  • Skim these primary documents:
    • The Letter of Columbus to Luis De Sant Angel Announcing His Discovery (1493) [LINK]
    • Bartoleme de Las Casas, Excerpts from “Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies”(1542) [LINK]
    • Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, "Indians of the Rio Grande"(1528-1536) [LINK]
  • Optional but highly recommended:
    • Michael Kazin, "Howard Zinn's History Lessons," Dissent (Spring 2004), 81-85. [PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 3. Native American Responses

  • James Axtell, "Native Reactions to the Invasion of America," in Natives and Newcomers: The Cultural Origins of North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 295-308. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. Why does Axtell believe "encounter" to be an appropriate term to characterize the interaction between Natives and Europeans in the Americas after 1492? Why does he also remark that the term is not a "perfect fit"?
  2. Why does Axtell assert that although Indians "were put on the defensive by the European invasion," it was only so in a "general sense"?
  3. What were the 5 overlapping strategies developed by the Natives in response to the European newcomers? Provide a concrete example for each strategy.
  4. How did Natives respond to the predicament of becoming economically dependent on the Europeans?" Provide examples.
  5. How is Axtell's account of Native Americans similar and different from Zinn's? What accounts for the difference?

Assignment 4. Screening Black Robe

  • Black Robe, dir. Bruce Beresford (1991).

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does the film embody elements of the recent scholarship on Native Americans?
  2. How would you characterize the various relationships between Native Americans and the French in the film?
  3. Which scenes and quotations in particular express the sentiments of recent ethnohistorical understandings of Indian-European interactions?

Assignment 5. Mapping Colonization

  • Review Chapters 2-8 of Taylor, American Colonies.
  • Skim Chapters 2 & 3 of Nash (Focus in on different patters of European settlement and varieties of British settlement).
  • Excerpts from Richard Hakluyt, A Discourse Concerning Western Planting (1584). [PDF]
  • Excerpts from Thomas Harriot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588) [PDF]
  • Take look at this clickable map: [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. Which European Empires made efforts to colonize the Americas? Where and when?
  2. What factors led the English to become interested in settling North America?
  3. Who was Hakluyt? What was his interest in colonization?
  4. Who was Harriot? What was his interest in colonization?
  5. What were the various English colonies in North America? In what ways were they similar? In what ways were they different?
  6. What's the difference between a corporate colony, a proprietary colony, and a royal colony?
  7. What happened at Roanoke

Assignment 6. Jamestown & the Settling of Virginia

  • Alan Taylor, American Colonies (Penguin, 2001), chapter 6. [PDF]
  • John Smith, “The Starving Time,” (1609) [LINK]
  • Thomas Dale, Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall (1611) [LINK]
  • Nathaniel Bacon, The Declaration (1676). [LINK]
  • If you have time, begin reading Assignment 7 as it's quite long.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What did it take until after 1580 for the British to begin considering colonization of the region that would become Virginia?
  2. What factors led the English to become interested in settling North America?
  3. How did England's experience with Ireland play into North American colonization?
  4. What happened at Roanoke?
  5. Who was Powhattan?
  6. What were the first encounters between Powhattan's people and the English like?
  7. What was the Virginia Company? What were the goals of those who established it?
  8. How successful was Jamestown initially? What was the "starving time"?
  9. Why were the Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall instituted?
  10. Despite the difficult beginnings of the Jamestown settlement, what was the first turning point?
  11. How did tobacco shape labor, land, and economic conditions in the Chesapeake?
  12. What was the headright system? Why was it instituted? How did it lead to the development of a class system in Virginia?
  13. Why is the establishment of the House of Burgesses significant?
  14. What is indentured servitude? How does it differ from slavery?
  15. How did the shortage of women affect the development of Chesapeake society?
  16. Why did the Chesapeake become increasingly stratified as the 17th century progressed?
  17. What was Bacon's rebellion?

Assignment 7. Slavery and Freedom in the Chesapeake

  • Edmund Morgan, "Slavery and Freedom: The American Paradox," Journal of American History, Vol. 59, No 1 (June 1972), 5-29. [PDF] (This is a long reading -- read as much as you can for the first assignment.)
  • "Anthony Johnson: A Free Black Planter on Pungoteague Creek," from Robert Divine, et. al. America: Past and Present, Vol. 1, 6th Edition (New York: Longman), 76-77. [PDF]
  • "Virginia Laws on Slavery from the Colonial Era to the Present."[PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 8. New England

  • Review Chapter 5 of Taylor, Colonial America.
  • Mary K. Geir & W.A. Speck, "New England," in Colonial America: From Jamestown to Yorktown (Palgrave: 2002), 68-84. [PDF]
  • John Winthrop, "A Modell of Christian Charity" (1630). [LINK]
  • "Trial and Interrogation of Anne Hutchinson" (1637). [LINK]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What was it about Puritanism spiritually and also politically that led the Puritans to leave England?
  2. What's the difference between Pilgrims and other Puritans?
  3. What was the Great Migration? Who was its leader?
  4. How did the pattern of settlement evolve in Massachusetts Bay?
  5. What was the relationship between religion, commerce, and profit in Mass Bay?
  6. How did land distribution operate? What did the typical Mass Bay farm and village look like?
  7. What's significant about Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams?
  8. What was the typical Mass Bay family like?
  9. How did Winthrop's religious orientation form his understanding of the proper social order for the colony?
  10. Characterize the covenant created by the colonists aboard the Arbella. What obligations did the colonists have to God? What potential dangers did Winthrop warn his fellow colonists to be concerned with?
  11. What does Winthrop mean when he says, "wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us?" Who in particular might be watching for the success or failure of the colony, and why?

Assignment 9. Puritan Political Economy

  • Margaret Ellen Newell, "Regulation in the Wilderness," and "The Promotional State" in From Dependency to Independence: Economic Revolution in Colonial New England (Cornell University Press, 1998), 36-71. [PDF]
  • John Cotton on the "Just Price," (1639) [LINK]
  • Optional Reading: Carl Degler, "The Beginnings," in Out of Our Past: The Forces that Shaped Modern America (Third Edition, 1984), pp. 1-9. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is a moral economy?
  2. How did Puritanism impact the economy? Was there a Puritan ethic that underlay the spirit of capitalism or did Puritanism serve as an obstacle to capitalist economic development?
  3. To what extent was there regulation in Puritan New England? Did this change over the course of the 17th century?
  4. Who was Robert Keayne? What can we learn from studying his interesting career?
  5. What role did the Mass Bay authorities play in promoting economic development? What examples does Newell provide?

Assignment 10. Slavery Entrenched, Expanded & Diversified

  • Skim Nash, 11-16, 44-48, 60-62,95-96, 99-105.
  • Ira Berlin, “Time, Space, and the Evolution of Afro-American Society on British Mainland North America,” Journal of American History, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Feb., 1980), 44-78. [PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 11. How to Review

  • Sample Test. [PDF]
  • Sample Response 1. [PDF]
  • Sample Response 2. [PDF]

Assignment 12. Tying Up Loose Ends

  • Bring in any questions for clarification.