Discuss some of the ways Dutch and French societies in North America differed from those established by the English with regard to labor systems, trade, attitudes towards Indians, settlement, and notions of freedom. Also, compare the Chesapeake and New England colonies. Explore the various reasons for the colonists’ emigrating to North America, their economies, gender roles, demographics, religion, and relations with Indians.

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There are many questions here, but most of them call for a comparison of British North American colonies to each other, as well as to those established by France and (briefly) the Netherlands. It may be useful to look at France first. In general, and with a few exceptions, the...

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There are many questions here, but most of them call for a comparison of British North American colonies to each other, as well as to those established by France and (briefly) the Netherlands. It may be useful to look at France first. In general, and with a few exceptions, the French colonies amounted to less of a "footprint" on North America. Most were small trading outposts and, despite sporadic efforts by the French crown to encourage families to settle, were populated mostly by men. By and large, French Canadian settlements specialized in the fur trade, and therefore cultivated alliances with Algonquian Native peoples. Because they did not make large demands for land, French settlers had less overt conflict with Native peoples, and when they did, it was usually in the context of broader wars between various peoples and especially the English. Dutch settlements were limited to the area now encompassing New York City, as well as the Delaware River valley (which they settled with mostly Swedish and Finnish people). The Dutch colonies were solely commercial in nature, and generally carried on amicable relations with at least some Native peoples around them. New Amsterdam in particular was notable for its religious tolerance and its diversity. This colony, however, fell into British hands in the 1660s, and it was renamed for the future James II, the Duke of York.

There was considerable diversity among Great Britain's North American colonies. The Chesapeake colonies were, like those of some other European powers, explicitly founded for financial gain. Once a cash crop—tobacco—proved viable, they turned to slave labor, which had solidified into racial slavery by the late seventeenth century. Demands for land led to conflicts with area Native peoples, which led to their almost total defeat by 1700. The Carolina low country, also established as a source of cash crops, closely resembled the society of the English Caribbean, as significant majorities of enslaved African men and women cultivated rice for sale on the growing Atlantic market. Despite an early attempt to create a debtor haven, Georgia quickly went down the same economic and social path.

On the opposite end of the social and economic spectrum from these slave societies was Britain's New England colonies. In general, these colonies were founded as havens for Puritan religious minorities. They were settled by families who sought religious uniformity, and, significantly, featured general social equality. This was in large part due to the fact that the climate did not favor the kinds of large-scale cash crop agriculture that existed in the Chesapeake and South Carolina. The New England economy remained diverse in comparison to the Chesapeake, with farmers growing a variety of crops. Though the religious cohesion of these colonies declined with time, they retained a significant amount of social mobility and a rough economic equality, at least in the countryside. Still, New England colonies came into bloody conflict with Native peoples almost as quickly as did Virginia.

Finally, New York and especially Pennsylvania, which was established as a Quaker refuge, were diverse, largely due to their policy of religious tolerance. They did, however, become quickly dominated by large landholding elites, much as did the Chesapeake. In Pennsylvania in particular, however, the interior was settled by small farmers who spread into the South, especially Virginia and North Carolina, by the mid-eighteenth century. The Carolina backcountry north to Pennsylvania became almost a colony in itself, featuring yeoman farmers, some of whom were religious dissenters. In Pennsylvania, these people came into conflict with Native peoples, and deeply resented the policy of restraint toward Natives taken by the colony's leadership.

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