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An Empire of Regions: A Brief History of Colonial British America

Eric Nellis
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 366
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  • Book Info
    An Empire of Regions
    Book Description:

    "This smart, knowing book examines the evolution of early America in terms of region. I know of no better way to come to terms with the development of the British colonies." - Alan Gallay, The Ohio State University

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8690-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  5. A Note on Usage
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xvii-1)
  7. Introduction Many and Varied New Worlds
    (pp. 3-27)

    Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) was but one of a great many European explorers to visit themundus novus, the “New World,” in the wake of Columbus. Among the many names available to christen Europe’s New World, including Columbus’s, Vespucci’s name stuck, likely because of the map of the world published in 1507 by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller, who labeled the region with a modified version of Amerigo, “America.” Even then, the continents were mostly referred to as the “Indies” (las Indiasto the Spanish, who retained that usage well into the eighteenth century) or the “New World,” until “America”...

  8. Chapter 1 Europe in the Age of Exploration: The Portuguese and Spanish Empires
    (pp. 29-59)

    The apparently contradictory remarks of Erasmus (1466–1536), the Dutch-born theologian and philosopher, define a Europe that seemed to be enjoying a glorious awakening of human ideas, skills, and energy but was also enduring seemingly endless wars, famine, plagues, poverty, and cruelty. Erasmus was a product of an age that was asking questions of itself.

    The earliest European observers of America noted that it resembled Europe in some minor ways. But most were just as quick to record its specific kinds of flora and fauna, its immense scale, and its range of climates that were benign in places and forbidding...

  9. Chapter 2 The French and Dutch in North America and the Caribbean Melting Pot
    (pp. 61-87)

    While the English, Dutch, and French would not make permanent colonies in the Americas for a century after the Spanish, the French in particular had shown early interest in the possibilities of settlement. Indeed, French explorers, traders, and fishers were active in the northern reaches of the North Atlantic throughout the sixteenth century, leaving behind failed settlements and temporary trading posts. Even after the French established permanent enclaves in Acadia in 1605 and at Quebec in 1608, it took another half century before Louis XIV officially committed France to an American Empire.

    Between the end of the fifteenth century and...

  10. Chapter 3 The English Colonies in Mainland North America Before 1650
    (pp. 89-127)

    From the moment the northern Europeans followed the Iberians to America, Africa, and Asia, they began to eclipse the Spanish in global importance. Changes came quickly. By the early seventeenth century, they had established permanent colonies in the Americas and intruded upon Spanish trade and Portuguese claims in Africa and Asia. By 1700, the English and French had established settlements and trade relations in India, and the Dutch had wrested control away from the Portuguese in what is now Indonesia. As noted, the Dutch even intruded temporarily into the northern coastal area of Portuguese Brazil. Spain ended up competing in...

  11. Chapter 4 The Growth of New England and the Chesapeake: 1650–1700
    (pp. 129-157)

    The Massachusetts Bay enterprise was the most self-conscious of the early chartered communities. It wasted no time in defining itself, and the clearest example of the Puritans’ rush to record the mission is Winthrop’s journal of 1630–1649, including hisHistory of New England. Sermons were published with an eye to posterity, and descriptive letters flowed across the Atlantic to England, describing the new Zion. There was promotional literature too, and William Wood’sNew England’s Prospectof 1634 is a lively celebration of New England’s condition and potential. One of the most important of the era’s chronicles is Edward Johnson’s...

  12. Chapter 5 The English Civil War, the Restoration, and the First British Empire in America
    (pp. 159-177)

    The creation of permanent English societies in scattered parts of the Caribbean and North America marked a turning point in the history of the British Isles and led the way to abona fideempire in the western Atlantic. But, while the outlines of colonial British America were being traced, an explosive series of political issues shook the British homeland. Early Stuart ideas and policies provoked a string of political crises that culminated in the English Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles I in 1649. Then, in the brief interlude between 1649 and 1660, before the resumption...

  13. Chapter 6 Transition: Imperial Wars and British Politics 1689–1748
    (pp. 179-204)

    War or the threat of it colored much of the history of colonial North America. The Spanish fought with natives in Florida, as did the French in the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes region, as did the English along the entire Atlantic littoral from the Maine frontier to Florida and west into the Appalachians. These could be as irregular as chance encounters between traders and native hunting parties or involve thousands in awful, organized wars such as the destruction of Huronia, the Powhatan wars, or King Philip’s War. The Tuscarora and Yamassee wars in the early eighteenth century followed the...

  14. Chapter 7 The Regions of Colonial America: Northern Society and Politics in the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 205-246)

    Thewhitepopulation of the thirteen mainland colonies reached 1 million in 1750. It then doubled and, by 1790, doubled again. Britain’s economy began its transition to manufacturing, capital accumulation, urbanism, and technological innovation as Anglo-America, with some minor exceptions, remained steadfastly agricultural into the Revolutionary era. In 1750, England had begun a steady march toward urbanization. While the term “urban” has no absolute parameters, estimates suggest that, if one uses a base measurement of 10,000 for a town or city, 16 per cent of the English population was “urban” in 1750, rising to 21 per cent by the end...

  15. Chapter 8 The Regions of Colonial America: Society and Politics in Eighteenth Century Chesapeake and the South
    (pp. 247-278)

    The northern reaches of the slave societies began abruptly south of where the Pennsylvania and Delaware borders touched Virginia and Maryland. One of the timeless references in American geography is the “Mason-Dixon Line” named for the English surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. In the 1760s, they were commissioned to define the southern boundary of Pennsylvania and the northern boundaries of Maryland, Delaware, and parts of what is now the state of West Virginia. Then and for generations to follow, the line came to denote the division between two distinct American realities, “the North” and “the South,” terms loaded with...

  16. Chapter 9 Christian America and the Great Awakening
    (pp. 279-297)

    The stirring phrases that precede the free speech clause of the Bill of Rights of 1791 reflected established colonial practices. Eighteenth century Americans understoodtheir“religion” to mean the Christian religion and if, over time, “free exercise” would eventually include the entire range of the world’s religions, in 1791 “free exercise” was understood to apply to Christian sects. Colonial America was too vast, its peoples too spatially and socially mobile, its growth too rapid, its doors too open, and its jurisdictions too diverse to allow any Christian variant to dominate the whole completely. By the middle of the eighteenth century,...

  17. Chapter 10 The New Empire and the Revolt of the Colonies, 1748–1776
    (pp. 299-332)

    In the middle of the eighteenth century, colonists were engaged in Christian revivals and settling new frontiers. They enjoyed a measure of political stability and the prospects of continuing economic improvement. As for the Crown, during and after the 1740–1748 war, it began to reassess the empire’s objectives. In 1748, Lord Halifax was made president of the Board of Trade, which had been established in 1696 as the “Lords Commissioners of Trade and Foreign Plantations.” The board was nominally responsible for colonial affairs. For Halifax, the appointment was a step toward political advancement, and he took it seriously. In...

  18. General Reference Bibliography
    (pp. 333-338)
  19. Index
    (pp. 339-366)