American Colonial Period

The period from 1690 to 1760 saw massive changes in the social,
political and economic landscape of early America.Because of the
importance of travel and agriculture, thefirst colonies grew along the
coasts.The colonies were self-sufficient and had distinct cultures.
However, they were also linked by commerce and navigation.
By the early 18th century, New England colonies like Boston and Salem
were established shipbuilding communities as well as important ports for
ships from around the world.Colonies in Virginia and Maryland, on the
other hand, would grow agricultural economies and export tobacco
These economic changes would spur several social changes as well.The
prosperous economies attracted impoverished immigrants from Old World
countries like Italy, Germany and Ireland.This gave rise to several
ethnic-based conflicts, as Irish and Italian groups fought for scarce jobs
In the Southern plantations, however, the need for farm labor spurred
the importation of slaves.Thus, rather than mere ethnicity, conflict in
these areas were polarized according to skin color as well.
In the 1770s, these religious conflicts spawned by the Great Awakening
further polarized the colonies.Presbyterians in the middle colonies
responded to the encroaching Age of Enlightenment with a revival of
religion. This soon spread among the Puritans in New England as well as
other colonies and later, among the Baptists in the South.
This religious revival had important effects on social and political
life in the colonies.Citing religious grounds, historians like many
“common” folk felt empowered to challenge the materialism of their
wealthier counterparts.Also, historian Harry Stout argues that the
phenomenon of mass preaching and fervent crowds paved the way for new,
“democratized” forms of communication and even laid the foundations f