The Colonial Period
Trends and Themes of the Era
- Spain dominated the early years of European
exploration of the New World, with France a distant second. England
did not get seriously involved in the New World until nearly a century
after Columbus landed.
- After England defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, the
balance of power in the New World (and in Europe) shifted. After
initial hardship in the colonies, English settlements showed the
New World could bring profit and offered religious freedom. A quick
buildup of colonial settlements began along the east coast of North
America and continued through the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries.
- Under its mercantilist economic policy, England
created laws ensuring that its colonies existed primarily to enrich
the mother country. England did not enforce these laws too strictly,
employing a policy of “salutary neglect,” for fear of alienating
the colonists and thereby helping France’s interests in the New
- After the 1763 French and Indian War, England no longer
worried about France as a threat, but faced huge war debts. England
believed the colonies should bear the brunt of the debt because
the war was for their benefit. England ended salutary neglect to
the colonist’s dismay and anger.