Discovery and Colonization of America, Reflection of This Period in Literature

Discovery of America


Renaissance (14th and 16th century) => invention of print led to quick spread of ideas, new ways of thinking developed, scholars determined to explore the secrets of physical world and discover new lands
Portugal, Spain and Italy are the main trading empires (they trade with Africa and Asia), in order to find new routes to Asia, they sail around Africa (Portuguese) and believing the earth is round, the sail westward (Columbus)

- Young Italian who believed if he sailed far enough west, he could estabilish a more direct trade route to Asia
- August 3, 1492 he and his crew departed from Palos, Spain on three vessels Santa Maria, Pinta, Nina
- October 12, 1492 they struck land on a tiny coral island in central Bahamas that they name San Salvador
- because he was sure he reached Asia, he called the Native Americans “Indios” (Indians)
- search for gold, conversion of Natives to Roman Catholic faith, discovery of more land and claiming it for Spain, using generosity of the Natives to make them work for the colonists, bringing over new diseases that the Indians were not immune against

- 11th century: Leif Erikson (Viking explorer)
- 1497: John Cabot (English), Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New England – claimed them for England
- 1524: Giovanni da Verrazano (Italian), claimed North American land for France
- 1534: Jacques Cartier (French), tried to find a Northwest passage to Pacific ocean instead of sailing around the tip of South America (as Magellan and Balboa did), explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River as far as present day Montreal
- other explorers: Gilbert, Hudson (Hudson Bay), Champlain, Drake (a “seadog”, an Englishman who attacked Spanish ships coming home with gold from Peru)

- Spain: most powerful Catholic nation during Renaissance
- England: Protestant country
- this leads to conflict as both tried to achieve religious and political dominance in Europe (1588)
- Queen Elisabeth: honor to sea dogs => King Philip of Spain offended
- Spanish Armada invades England, heavy, big ships
- England: advantage of smaller ships, Armada defeated, Spanish economy stumbles, England becomes the world’s power => colonization starts

Colonization of America

- Sir Walter Raleigh: Roanoke Colony, it was lost, no trace of the colonists were found
- King James issues Charter of 1606 which licensed two merchant groups to organize settlement in Virginia
- the two groups (Plymouth Company and London Company) were join-stock companies with one goal: to mine gold, silver and copper in America
- first settlers came in 1607 and sailed along the Chesapeake Bay, set up a settlement Jamestown, Virginia
- they concentrated more on mining than settling in and building good shelters => most of the settlers died during the first three years
- Captain John Smith: elected president of the council of settlers in 1608, received help from Powhatans, the local Indian tribe
- after Smith’s return to England: conflicts between colonists who raided Indians and the local Natives, a truce reached in 1614 when Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of Powhatans married a colonist John Rolfe
- seeing the large amounts of land, settlers started to plant tobacco (conflicts with natives who wished to leave teh lands uncultivated as hunting grounds)
- 1612 John Rolfe adapts Carribean tobacco to Virginia=> growth and prosperity
- new arragment to bring settlers to work in fields in Jamestown: indentured servitude
- an indentured servant: usually a poor Englishman, bound for a period of years to the person who paid his or her way to America, he became rich and free later on
- it is believed that the first Africans were brought as indentured servants to America

- hard times in England of the 16th century caused many people sail to America:
a) to estabilish a New England based on their religious beliefs
b) to make their fortune in the southern tobacco fields

a) New England colonies
- settled by the different branches of Puritans in search for religious freedom

Plymouth Colony
- settled by pilgrims - Separatists, the most radical of the Puritans who searched for a place where they could worship God in their own way, they stressed purity of mind
- some Separatist first left for Netherlands but were not satisfied
- permission to settle in Virginia, but they never got there
- they sailed on a ship called Mayflower (1620) and landed in Cape Cod Bay (Massachusetts) where they decided to stay
- since this was outside the area controlled by London Company and the newcomers had no government, they signed a Mayflower Compact, which established a self-governing colony based on the majority rule of male church members
- William Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth Colony
- help of the Natives
- first Thanksgiving

1630 – 1640: Great Migration: as many as 20000 Puritans settle in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Bay Colony
- settled by well-to-do Puritans who secured a royal charter allowing them to establish a colony
- 1630: 1000 settlers sail to Massachusetts
- governor John Winthrop, desire to build a city upon a hill – a model Christian community
- colony guided by English law and the Bible, everybody was expected to work for common good
- unity of church and state: New England Way (one building for town meetings and church services)
- right to vote for all male church members, set up a General Court
- believed in predestination and witches which they put on trial and hanged
- large families, education very important

b) Southern colonies

I. Chesapeake Colonies
- Virginia and Maryland
- both Catholic and Protestant settlers
- devoted much of the land to planting tobacco
- indentured servitude, some poor Englishmen came willingly, some were kidnapped in order to meet a great need for servants
- typhoid, malaria, high death rates, few women, low literacy rate
- problems of freed indentured servants: too poor to buy land, so they had to work for wealthy planters => rebellions
- Bacon’s rebellion: poor laborers and indentured servants under the leading of Nathniel Bacon settle the area guaranteed to the Powhatans, attack Indians and burn Jamestown
- House of Burgasses (Virginia assembly) finally opens Indian lands to poor colonists
- growth of slave trade

II. Colonies set up after the restoration in England
- North and South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Georgia, Delaware, Pennsylvania

- Enlightment in Europe: cause of Great Awakening in British colonies, a religious revival which was appealing mostly to ordinary people, emphasized equality of everyone before God
- Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts: launched this New England religious revival
- he believed that appealing to people’s emotions rather than to their minds would open their hearts to God
- George Whitefield

The Discovery of America and the life and prosperity in the British colonies marked the earliest history of the future United States of America.

Literature of this period
1.Colonial Literature

- letters, diaries, treatises, historical documents

- an Indian chief who, along with his tribemen helped John Smith and the settlers, he had a vision of harmonius relationship between the Natives and whites
- wrote Speech to Captain John Smith in which he exhorts Smith to peace and negotiation, he wants the guns to be removed

John Smith
- wrote true accounts of history in which, however, he play a role of a hero
The General History of Virginia

2. Puritan Literature
- religious writings, political theories, journals, histories, poetry

William Bradford
- governor and principal historian of Plymouth
Of Plymouth Plantation: history of Puritanism in America, Pilgrim’s migration likened to OT journeying of Israelites to the Promised land

John Winthrop
- governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony
The History of New England: first 19 years of the colony

Johnathan Endwards
- one of the greatest theologians and thinkers, leader in Great Awakening
Personal Narrative: autobiographical work about his Spiritual journey, written in great details, writes about his childhood, college experience and his carrier as a pastor
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: his most famous sermon

Edward Taylor
- wrote poetry, it was discovered in 1939
- source of poetic expression: religious convictions, personal humility, love for God, Bible
- themes: salvation, devil, nature, marriage
Upon a Spider Catching a fly: as the spider caught a carefree fly, so are the careless people damned to hell by satan

Anne Bradstreet
- first woman poet of colonial America, one of most admired
- intelectually active, her poems are dealing with gamily and spiritual issues, history, everyday life
- collection of poems: The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America

Cotton Mather
- a pastor, believed in witches
The Wonders of the Invisible World: superstition, witches trials

The Bay Psalm Book
“The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated Into English Metre” (1640)
- the first book both written and printed in America
- translation of the Hebrew Psalms into simple English
- product of 13 New England clergymen
- one of themost popular book in New England

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