The Colonial Period
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 World.
  • 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.
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