European Colonization of North America

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Why did English colonists settle in North America?

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English colonists had many reasons for settling in North America. The settlers of Jamestown came for riches and adventure. The early maps of Jamestown showed that there was a Northwest Passage near the colony, even though none existed. These men hoped to find a waterway to China and lots of gold. It took John Smith and tobacco to make Jamestown prosperous.

English colonists also came for religious freedom. The Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Quakers settled in Pennsylvania, and Catholics settled in Maryland. Each group practiced a religion that was harassed in England. England was able to use the New World as a place to dump religious dissenters, thus turning a liability into an asset as the colonists developed the New World and started to send raw materials back to the mother country.

Some English colonists arrived out of desperation. Some non-church members arrived with the Pilgrims in order to escape England. Many indentured servants came to the New World and paid for their passage with labor. The lucky ones who survived disease and various other hardships received land. James Oglethorpe established Georgia as a colony for the "deserving poor." Some people left for the New World in order to escape debts or criminal charges in England. While they did not make up the majority of the colonists, the New World would continue to be a place where one could reinvent oneself and try to make a better life.

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