The colonial history of the United States covers the history of European settlements from the start of colonization of America until their incorporation into the United States. Small early attempts—such as the English Lost Colony of Roanoke—often disappeared; everywhere the death rate of the first arrivals was very high. Nevertheless successful colonies were established.
America actually began in two different places for two different reasons. In 1607, some 100 men and boys sailing from England landed in present-day Virginia and founded Jamestown. Inspired by the success of Spanish explorers who had found gold in South America, these adventurers hoped to get rich. Instead of gold, however, they found a hostile environment that probably would have destroyed the colony, but for the resourcefulness of Captain John Smith, who managed to organize and motivate the settlers and save them from starvation.
In 1620, a group of English men and women came to America with a different mission. Having given up on the Church of England, which they thought had become too much like the Catholic Church, these Separatist Puritans sought to establish an ideal church in America. Led by William Bradford, these Pilgrims arrived in present-day Massachusetts on a ship called the Mayflower.
Over the next century or so, Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony were joined by other colonies, including Pennsylvania, settled largely by Quakers fleeing persecution in England; Connecticut, established by a man fleeing persecution by the Puritans in Massachusetts; Maryland, which the English king granted to an English Catholic named Lord Baltimore; and Georgia, which had been established for English debtors.
The four distinct regions of Colonial America were: New England, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake Bay Colonies (Upper South) and the Lower South. Some historians add a fifth region, the Frontier, which was never separately organized.
Colonial America E-Books
The links below represent our ever growing collection of books and source documents designed to tell the tale of Colonial America without the filter of either the public education system or the media.
American Historical Documents 1000 A.D – 1900 – Read in succession these documents afford a condensed view of the political progress of the American people; freed from any prejudice save that which swayed the makers of the history themselves.
Bay Psalm Book – The first book written and printed in the New World, The Bay Psalm Book holds a unique place in our cultural and religious history. Richard Mather and a group of his fellow New England clergy transcribed biblical psalms into metered verse.
Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions by B.F Morris – A detailed look at the founding of our country from a Christian perspective and makes extensive use of original source documents.
Colonial America by George P. Fisher – This volume tells the tale of the American colonies from conception to 1765, the date of the Declaration of War between England and France.
Colonial Immigration Laws by Emberson E. Proper – We find the genesis of American cosmopolitanism in the early charters granted to the colonizing companies, which gave the promoters permission to transport not only liege subjects, but all such strangers as might be willing to present themselves.
Columbus And the New World by James W. Buel – The story of Columbus is at once an epic and an elegy; a narration of bold conception, persistent courage, heroic attainment, mingled with the gall of national ingratitude and the malevolence of personal jealousies.
Colonial Furniture in America by Luke Vincent Lockwood – The object of the present volume is to furnish the collector, and other persons interested in the subject of American colonial furniture, with a trustworthy handbook on the subject.
George Whitefield – Field Preacher by James Paterson Gledstone – Because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America. The greatness of Whitefield’s labors is not easily realized, and not even a three-volume life could outline it. One month’s labors are recorded in this brief sentence—”he preached to ten thousand persons every day for twenty-eight days”.
Great Awakening of 1740 by Rev. Frederic L. Chapell – The chief religious fact of the eighteenth century, the great revival of spiritual religion, is usually termed the Great Awakening of 1740, because its chief intensity, in this country, culminated about that time.
King Philip’s War by George M. Bodge – The basis of the main body of the work, the services of the soldiers in Philip’s War, is drawn from the ancient account books of Mr. John Hull, Treasurer-at-war of Massachusetts Colony, from 1675-1678
Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases – Culminating in the notorious Salem witch trials of 1692, a rising tide of witchcraft hysteria flooded the Puritan communities of 17th-century New England. This volume recaptures the voices from both sides of the controversy with 13 original narratives by judges, ministers, the accused, and others involved in the trials and persecution of the accused.
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan – Pilgrim’s Progress is a great work of English literature. Originally composed in the 17th century and written while Bunyan was imprisoned for conducting un-authorized religious services outside the Church of England. This spiritual allegory has entertained and delighted innumerous readers for over 300 years.
Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn – “Fruits of Solitude” is a mine of pithy comment upon human life,
The Founding of a Nation; The Story of the Pilgrim Fathers – Volume One by Frank M. Gregg – This story is a narrative-history of the Pilgrims of Plymouth.
The Great Awakening by Joseph Tracy – The Great Awakening carried profound consequences for the future. It was the first experience shared by large numbers of people throughout all the American colonies, and therefore contributed to the growth of a common American identity.
The Life of Margaret Winthrop by Alice M. Earle – Margaret Tyndal Winthrop (1591 – 1647) was the wife of John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The pair are notable for the survival and character of the love-letters which they wrote to each other in which the couple put their love of God before their love of each other.
The Life and Times of Roger Williams – Roger Williams was famous as a leader of the Rhode Island Colony. Roger Williams (1603 – 1683) was a Puritan dissident and theologian who left England to migrate to the New World. He was a supporter of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
The Mayflower Compact – The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 English colonists on the ship Mayflower on November 11, 1620, was the first written framework of government established in what is now the United States. The compact was drafted to prevent dissent amongst Puritans and non-separatist Pilgrims who had landed at Plymouth a few days earlier.