Roughly half of the settlements in the colonial period failed. These colonies were, contrary to our popular understanding, largely business enterprises. The image of dour pilgrims fleeing religious intolerance misrepresents the reality of the colonization of America, not only in terms of simple numbers– separatists accounted for a minority of those who left England– but also because the thirst for freedom of religious expression as it existed in New England often meant the suppression of divergent views. It was only in areas such as Maryland and Rhode Island that religious freedom existed in any meaningful sense.
Another common misconception concerns the prevalence of indentured and transported colonists. Fully 2/3 of those who made the voyage across the Atlantic were “bound over“– either contracted to labor for a term of so many (usually seven) years or suffering punishment for crimes committed in the old country. If you’ve read Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders then you’ll recall that Moll is subject to this form of discipline for her thievery. The demand for workers, especially in the labor-intensive tobacco fields, was so pronounced that slavery was adopted as a quick economic fix to increase productivity and diminish costs. If initially indentured servants and African or Indian slaves were roughly equal in terms of their social status, with the growth of chattel slavery racial distinctions began to deepen, eventually leading to the slave-system of the plantation south.
On Thursday we’ll talk about Maura’s technology lecture and hit on some of Judy’s remarks. Don’t forget to read your Winthrop and the assignment from the Norton.