First lesson - February the 6th, 2008
“Earth”: the conditions of the discovery of America
British Patterns of Colonization
To understand the history of the US, it is important to understand the conditions in which the settlers arrived in America: the scientific, religious, economic and financial background.
The crusadesThe discovery of America was not an accident but the result of a large current of human affairs, the logical results of a series of development which began centuries before.
The crusades were the first manifestation of European extension. They led men to look beyond the limits of Europe: Marco Polo even went till Asia. At these occasions, people were exposed to contacts with orientalgoods. They saw some countries were far more advanced in some domains including spices and fabrics for example. They discovered that food could have another dimension with spices, that you could find pleasure in food and with fabrics. Those were things that could change everyday life: the goal of the business that was developed afterwards was to make profit but it was not the first one.
Theproblem was that the road was very dangerous: The weather was very hard and there were often big attacks. Therefore, there was very soon a motivation to try to find easier and cheaper route and to try to make the journey easier.
In the 15th century, seagoing trade was at his highest: better ships were built, better maps were drawn, and better knowledge of astronomy was developed.
Ship constructionmade real progress with the development of the Caravelles: it was a real save of time because those ships could go much faster.
Moreover, the discovery of the astrolabe and of the magnetic compass helped finding the position of a ship on the sea.
All those significant progress enabled men to develop more confidence to go trading on the sea: safer and cheaper roads to join Asia and “TheIndies” led them to America.
But business development was not the only reason of the wish of expansion of Europe: it was combined with more political reasons. The fall of the Holy Roman Empire and of its control over other lands led, a few centuries later, to the beginning of the notion of nation and kings became more independent. At the End of the 15th century, the four countries who werethe leaders of expeditions were Portugal, Spain, France, and the Netherlands.
Christopher Columbus was an Italian from Geneva but he made his expedition with the money of the Spanish crown.
When Britain started getting interested in these expeditions, they had to wait a bit longer to materialize their wish for exploration. It was, until the reign of Elizabeth the first, a poor and overpopulatedcountry, what explains the main reason why Elizabeth wanted to join the explorations and did it.
The crown in England was poor and could not finance expeditions, so the British pattern of development was very different from the ones of other countries:
- Expeditions were financed by private money and investors (they contributed to the enrichment of the country by creating a new economicactivity.
- Overpopulation explains why people didn’t want to come back but wanted to settle, to stay and to develop the country (it enabled to regulate the British overpopulation, to empty the country a bit, what was also helpful for the economy.
The first Settlements
After the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1607, James the 1st became King of England and encouraged immigration for economicand financial reason: He thought the colonies in America would help Britain financially (+ see upper). Moreover, there were great religious conflicts at that time in England and the separation of the parties involved in it could be anything but bad for the country.
1607: Jamestown Virginia
1620: Mayflower Massachusetts
1619: Arrival of the first slave ship in Virginia
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