American Colonial History (Hist. 310)


The European colonization of North America created a complex jumble of interrelated societies.  Not only did diverse First Nations already occupy the continent, but colonists also brought with them a plethora of languages, religions, and political institutions, as well as enslaved Africans who retained remnants of their own cultures.  Given this complexity, no single course can adequately cover the colonization of America by Europeans.  Furthermore, the notion of colonization obscures the extent to which contact among First Nations peoples, Africans, and Europeans led to mutual influences.  In other words, the history of colonization is not a simple story of Europeans dominating First Nations, African slaves, and land.  It is, rather, part of the story of a long and multi-sided struggle for control of North America.  The story took a dramatic turn with the American War for Independence — the formal end of the “colonial” period — but the struggle for North America by no means ended with the conclusion of the war.  In this course, we are charting only one of many possible paths through colonial American history.  We will focus primarily on the English colonial project, with close attention to the efforts of American Indians to both resist and adapt to colonization.  Although we will not treat the creation of the United States as the inevitable and natural outcome of the colonization process, we will carefully consider the colonial roots of the American Revolution.

Spring 2012 Syllabus