Chapter 1 Summary: Converging Cultures, Prehistory to 1520

The people living in the Americas had almost no contact with the other continents until 1492. In the late fifteenth century, contact with Europeans changed the Americas in profound ways.

Section 1: The Migration to America

The earliest Americans probably migrated from Asia between 30,000 to 10,000 BC. Anthropologists believe the first civilization in America was built much later by the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, the same region where Mayan culture emerged. This section also covers other pre-Columbian groups, briefly discussing the geography of their settlements and their way of life.

Section 2: Europe and Africa

During the Middle Ages, feudalism emerged as the dominant political system in Europe. The Roman Catholic Church promoted stability, strong central governments appeared as the economy improved, and agricultural inventions made landowners more prosperous. The new religion of Islam gained converts in the Middle East and Africa. Trade routes expanded as the demand for goods and the labor of slaves increased.

Section 3: Europe Encounters America

Archeological evidence suggests that the Vikings were the first Europeans to arrive in the Americas. Unaware that a landmass lay between Spain and Asia, Columbus led an expedition west that was funded by the Spanish monarchy almost 500 years later. Columbus's voyage paved the way for later expeditions to the Americas led by Vespucci, Ponce de Leon, Balboa, and Magellan.

Section 4: Spain and France Build Empires

Hernán Cortés led the Spanish attack on the Aztecs and defeated the city of Tenochtitlán while its people were weakened by an outbreak of smallpox. Conquistadors took control of much of South America and searching for rumored cities of gold. A rivalry for land in the "New World" developed after the French arrived at the Mississippi River.

Chapter 2 Summary: The English Arrive in America, 1607-1763

Section 1: England’s First Colonies

Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, England broke with the Roman Catholic Church, and economic turmoil encouraged many to migrate. Looking for a northern water route to Asia, English explorers ventured to North America, although first attempts at colonization were unsuccessful.

Section 2: The New England Colonies

In the 1600s, Puritans (Separatists) broke from the Anglican Church and fled under persecution to North America on the Mayflower. These pilgrims survived with the help of local Native Americans,who taught the Europeans how to live in their new environment. The English colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine were founded. By the late seventeenth century, Native Americans were forced from most of New England.

Section 3: The Middle and Southern Colonies

English civil war stalled colonization. After the conflict's resolution, the English founded the northern colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware on the Atlantic seaboard. New southern English colonies included North and South Carolina, and Georgia. Private land ownership and toleration of diverse forms of Christianity contributed to the success of the colonies.

Section 4: Colonial Ways of Life

Tobacco, rice, and indigo became the South’s first cash crops. Indentured servants helped produce crops until largely replaced by African slaves. Due to its poor soil and coastal location, the northern colonies relied heavily on the whaling industry and cattle, sheep, and pig farms. Northern ports became large cities.

Section 5: A Diverse Society

England passed the Navigation Act and the Staple Act to profit from colonial goods. John Locke’s political philosophy became popular. The population in the colonies rose as immigration increased and living conditions improved. The Enlightenment and the Great Awakening encouraged political independence from England.

Chapter 3 Summary: The American Revolution, 1754-1789

This chapter includes the text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.

England imposed unwelcome taxes on the colonies, and the British government poorly managed American grievances. The colonists declared their independence from British control and devised a new plan for self-government.

Section 1: The Colonies Fight for Their Rights

The French lost their North American landholdings as a result of the French and Indian War, while Spain lost Florida but gained land in western Louisiana. The colonies protested the Proclamation Act of 1763, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts that restricted the expansion of settlement and raised taxes.

Section 2: The Revolution Begins

After a series of conflicts, including the Gaspee Affair in 1772 and the Boston Tea Party almost a year later, twelve colonies sent 55 delegates to Philadelphia to participate in the First Continental Congress in September of 1744. The British army fought an American militia at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the colonies declared their separation from England by sending a copy of the Declaration of Independence to King George and his Parliament.

Section 3: The War for Independence

The Revolutionary War began in 1776 and lasted for almost five years. The American, or Continental, army used guerrilla warfare that included sneak attacks against the well-trained British army. Many politicians in England did not support the war in the colonies. After several British victories, the Americans won the Battle of Saratoga, and French support helped to turn the war in favor of the United States. After the British defeat at Yorktown, Parliament withdrew all support and both sides signed the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war and recognized America as an independent nation.

Section 4: The Confederation

American leaders worked to establish a new government with “checks and balances” to ensure that a balance of power exists among all sections of U.S. government: the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Many of the new states created their own Bill of Rights. Some rights improved the status of woman, giving them access to education and the right to vote. Other states, such as Vermont, passed laws that led to the end of slavery.

Section 5: A New Constitution

Sensing the need for a strong central government, Congress met to revise the Articles of Confederation. After months of debate, delegates began to create a new constitution, which they completed in 1787. Supporters of the new document were called Federalists. Antifederalists acknowledged the need for a national government but wanted states to retain more rights.