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Desert Area Teaching American
History Institute

Resources for Learning About
17th Century Colonial America on the Internet

The resources available to teach about colonial history can virtually transport your students back in time to walk the streets of Plymouth, or Jamestown, seeing the sites and reading the documents, newspapers and letters of the day. The abundance of resources makes this a perfect topic for integrating the use of technology into the social studies curriculum.

Mapping Colonial America
Explore colonial maps from Colonial Williamsburg's collection in an online exhibition that includes maps dated from 1587 to 1782. The online exhibition looks at maps relating to colonial discovery, exploration, boundary disputes, navigation, trade, the French and Indian War, and the Revolutionary War. The exhibition features a zooming tool allowing a close look at map details, a glossary of terms, and a timeline of major events in history that occurred near the date a particular map was drawn. Standard 5.4.1

English Settlement
Two dramatically different English settlements, New England and Virginia, developed in the 17th century, beginning a collision of values, cultures and economies that have prevailed throughout the American story. Key features of this Biography of America site include an interactive key events chart, a map, a webography and a transcript of the video from which the site was developed. Standards 5.3.2 and 5.4 general.

Mayflower Compact, November 1620
This is the Mayflower Compact document showing the text, the people who signed it, and a stamp. Standards 5.2.2, 5.4.2, 5.4.7, 8.2.1, 11.1.1

Walking Tour of Plimoth Plantation
Plimoth was settled in 1620 by the Pilgrims and the “Strangers” who were aboard the famous Mayflower. Today Plimoth Plantation is the site of a living history museum, dedicated to recreating 17th c. lifeways in the New World. Today’s recreation includes a reconstruction of the European village occupied by the Pilgrims and of the Native American hamlet known as Hobbamock's Homesite. Standards 1.3.2, 1.3.3, 3.4.3, and 5.4.2

Mayflower on the Web
This is a complete site with history of the Mayflower, inventory, passenger lists, primary documents such as the Mayflower Compact and Thanksgiving Proclamation. Standards K.6.1, 1.3.2, 3.4.6, 5.4.2 and 11.1.1

Pilgrim Hall Museum
Pilgrim Hall Museum has a virtual gallery of Pilgrim possessions and Native American artifacts. The site also has a wealth of primary source material by and about the period. Standards 5.4.1 and 5.4.2

A Plea for Religious Liberty by Roger Williams
Roger Williams is considered one of the first to argue for freedom of conscience. Coming to America in 1630, he questioned the right of the colonists to take the Indians' land from them merely on the legal basis of the royal charter and in other ways ran afoul of the leaders of Massachusetts. In 1635 he was found guilty of spreading "new authority of magistrates" and was ordered to be banished from the colony. He lived briefly with friendly Indians and then, in 1636, founded Providence in what was to be the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In 1644, while he was in England getting a charter for his colony from Parliament, he wrote the work from which this dialogue is taken. Standards 5.4.2 and 11.3.1

John Winthrop: A Modell of Christian Charity (1630)
Description: Here John Winthrop describes the type of colony he is hoping to build in the New World. This writing is difficult for grade 5 but it might be interesting to pick out a paragraph or two to get the idea of Winthrop's goals for the colony. It will also be fun to change the spelling to modern form. Standard 5.4.2, and 11.3.1

John Winthrop: An American Nehemiah
This article from Glimpses, a magazine of the Christian History Institute, describes the underlying beliefs of John Winthrop and the migration of the Puritans to America. Winthrop's imagery of the settlement as the model Christian society, or a "city on a hill," is taken from Matthew 5:14. It became a motif that has inspired American literary and political thought into the twentieth century. From Winthrop and the Puritans, America inherited the idea that in some way this land was to be an example and beacon of light to the rest of the world. Fifth graders will need assistance with reading this article but Winthrop's ideals about the goal of America are important for students of all ages to understand.
Standard 5.4.2 and 11.3.1

The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the Court at Newton. 1637
The religious climate in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was oppressive. Ministers emphasized everyone's pious duty to pray, fast, and discipline themselves. Noting that the male members of Boston's church met regularly after sermons to discuss the Bible, she started to hold similar meetings for women in her own home. At first the women discussed the previous Sunday's sermons, but before long Anne began telling them of her own beliefs which differed from those of the Boston ministers. She attracted hundreds of people. What started as a religious point of difference grew into a schism that threatened the political stability of the colony. To her opponents, questioning the church meant questioning the State. Anne's ideas were branded as heresy. The colonial government moved to discipline her and her numerous followers in Boston. This is a transcript of her trial before the General Court. Standard 5.4.3

Anne Marbury Hutchinson
This text explains Anne Hutchinson's conflict with the religious leaders in Boston over interpretation of doctrine. She was banished from Boston for holding discussion groups in her home expressing opinions different from the appointed ministers. This site was researched and written by Sam Behling to provide background for the monument to Mrs. Hutchinson in East Chester, New York, where she was killed by Indians in 1643. Standard 5.4.3

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties 1641
"The Body of Liberties" of the Massachusetts Colony was the first code of laws established in New England, and therefore in a sense are America's "Magna Charta." These 100 laws were the basis for justice in 17th century colonial New England. It will be interesting to check out the rights of women and servants. Did anyone have freedom of religion? Standard 5.4.3

The First Virginia Charter 1606
By this charter of 1606, King James I of England gave the London company (later called the Virginia Company) the right to settle and develop a huge area of North America named Virginia after Queen Elizabeth. This transcription has difficult language but will help students see the thinking behind the English push for colonies in the New World. Standard 5.4.2

Instructions for the Virginia Colony, 1606
Here is a primary source from the early 1600's giving instructions for settling the New World by means of joint stock companies. Standards 5.4.3 and 5.4.5

Virtual Jamestown
After viewing a panorama of James Fort, students can think about why Jamestown was founded at this location and why the fort was built in a triangle. They will also find a wealth of primary sources such as labor contracts, reports to the colonial authority in England, and firsthand accounts and letters about life in Jamestown in the hard early years. Standards 5.4.1, 5.4.2 and 5.4.3

Jamestowne Society
This site has background information on Jamestown, including the key players such as John Smith, and Pocahantas. It is very readable and uses period art to illustrate the topics. Standards 5.3.2, 5.4.1, 5.4.2 and 5.4.3

Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeological Project
Pictures, diagrams, and text describe the work being done to learn about the history of this 1607 colony. There are well organized links to some of the more than 1500 artifacts that have been found during the seven years of excavation. Interpretations by archaeologists of these findings have even changed the historical record. Standards 3.4.3 and 5.4.2

The Terrible Transformation
At the beginning of the 17th century, both rich and poor Britons see the newly established American colonies as the land of opportunity. As changes in England's economy and word of hardships in America stem the flow of white bond servants, English planters bring more enslaved Africans to America to raise their profitable tobacco, sugar, and rice crops and to provide other forms of labor in the North. Gradually, laws are enacted that define legal status by race, ensuring that Africans and their descendants will be slaves. Resistance leads to rebellions in South Carolina and New York. The impact of slavery was felt by everyone -- North and South, black and white, the enslaved and the enslaver. Standards 5.4.6 and 8.2.3

To clarify in the minds of students that England was not alone in European colonization of North America in the 1600s, it is important to take a look at the history of the Spanish, Dutch, or French colonies from the period. Sadly, much less good material is available.

Spanish Colonies

St. Augustine
At this commercial site, readers learn that the Spanish settled along the coast of Florida because Spain feared the region would become a staging area for French pirates to attack Spanish trade galleons. The king of Spain sent Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to secure the area. Menendez arrived off the coast of Florida on August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine. Eleven days later, he and his 600 soldiers and settlers came ashore at the site of the Timucuan Indian village of Seloy and hastily fortified the village and named it St. Augustine. Students may take a virtual tour of the old Spanish fort at http://www.coping.org/travels/staug/fort/content.htm Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

Fort Mose: Free African Settlement
Established in 1738 by Colonial Spanish Florida's Governor Manuel Montiano, Fort Mose gave sanctuary to Africans challenging enslavement in the English Colony of Carolina. Approximately 100 Africans lived at Fort Mose, forming more than 20 households. Together they created a frontier community that drew on a range of African backgrounds blended with Spanish, Native American and English cultural traditions. Standard 5.4.6

Santa Fe History
Readers of the Santa Fe site learn that after several aborted attempts to settle the northern territories (New Mexico and Colorado) under Coronado, Juan de Oñate founded a Spanish settlement in 1598, which he named San Gabriel. It was located near today's San Juan Pueblo about 30 miles north of Santa Fe. Since Oñate's experiment at San Gabriel didn’t prosper, the provincial capital was moved to Santa Fe in 1610. Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

French Colonies

Tracing the History of New France
Choose from a selection of eight themes including land, Amerindians, the seigneurial system, administration of government, economy, religion, population, and wars. This exhibition presents a selection of documents under each theme, the originals of which are held by the National Archives of Canada. Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

Virtual Museum of New France
Here is a wealth of historical information supported by rich graphics on topics such as Living in Canada at the Time of Champlain; Settling in New France; The habitants in New France; Personal Hygiene in Canada, 1660-1835; and, The Education of Children in New France. Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

Dutch Colonies

Nieuw Nederland
Americans sometimes forget that the Middle Colonies began as a Dutch possession in the 1620s. The 17th century Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland was sited between the South River (Delaware River) and the Fresh River (Connecticut River) with the center on the North or Great River (Hudson River) practically in the present USA states of New York, Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey. Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

The United States of America and the Netherlands
This site, which is part of the award winning From Revolution to Reconstruction Project of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has the full story of the Dutch in America. Standards 5.2.4 and 5.4.5

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