What contributions did the Europeans make to the North American colonies?

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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The primary contribution to the colonies of course was by the British. America not only adopted the English language, but the law in 49 of the 50 states is based on the English Common law. The law of England was the law of the colonies. A significant element of that Common Law was the "rights of Englishment" to which all colonists were entitled; in fact the dispute between England and the colonies primarily revolved upon the colonist's perception that they had been denied the "rights of Englishmen," including the right to be taxed only by their elected representatives.

Other European cultures also contributed.The Dutch had a limited colonization period in America, but left indelible imprint:

  1. Place names: Haarlem, Wall Street (the wall erected for defense against Indians) and Broadway (Breede Wegh) .
  2. Dutch Family Names: Roosevelt, Van Buren, Renselaer.
  3. Additions to the English American culture and vocabulary: Words like boss, cookie, crib, snoop, stoop, spook, kill (creek) and Santa Claus as well as Rip Van Winkle.

A Swedish colony was founded in 1638 on the Delaware River near present day Wilmington, but lasted only until 1655, when the Dutch forced them to become part of New Netherland. It was the Swedes who introduced the log cabin to America

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Aside from governmental systems and traditions, which tended to mimic those of England, the contributions made by Europeans were immense-they created the cash crop agricultural system, imposed European mores concerning property ownership and diplomatic relations on natives, and fought large scale wars against each other on American soil, to name a few massive contributions.

We shouldn't downplay the impact of African slaves, however, whose traditions, music, cuisine, and most importantly, labor helped shaped the cultural landscape of the colonies, especially the South. Many slaves, after all, were brought over precisely for their expertise in cultivating rice and other crops. And of course, constant interaction with Native Americans helped shape the governments and the societies of all of the colonies-how to deal with Indians, for example, was at the heart of political disputes in Pennsylvania in the 1750s all the way to the Revolution.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Europeans as a whole made almost all of the contributions to the North American colonies.  The only other group that made any real contribution to the colonies were the African slaves who were brought over to work in the colonies of what is now the Southern United States.

The colonies of North America were made up almost exclusively of Europeans and Africans.  Outside of the French colonies in what is now Canada, the Native Americans were comprehensively excluded from the society of the colonies.  Europeans, then, contributed the mass of the population and all of the societal and governmental forms that created the North American colonies.

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