THE HISTORY CLUB

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Colonial American History
Reading Group

Our Current Book

Current Reading Schedule

  1. Week 1: The American Colonies, Introduction

    Thought Questions
    - Describe how the author outlines his purpose and goals for the book?
    - Describe the waves of migrants from Asia and how they occupied North America?
    - In what ways did the Asian migrants to North America effect their environment?
    - What did different Asian migrants to North America have in common?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Introduction Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  2. Week 2: The American Colonies, Chapter 1: Natives

    Note: A good book on Pre Columbian North America is 1491 (Second Edition): New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. The second edition is worthwhile.

    Thought Questions
    - What are some of the European myths about Pre-Colombian North America (both harmless and negative)?
    - Describe the waves of migration to pre-Colombian North America
    - How did Pre-Colombian natives adapt to their environment? How did they alter their environment?
    - How and why did Horticulture take hold in pre Colombian North America?
    - How did the environment effect the development of Horticulture in different regions of pre Colombian North America?
    - Who were the Hohokam and Anasazi peoples?
    - Who were the "Mound Builders"?
    - What are some examples of pre Colombian environmental engineering?
    - What role did European plants, domesticated animals and vermin effect the North American ecosystems?
    - What are some common themes in pre Colombian beliefs that tie very different peoples together into a common tradition?
    - How did the conflict between the Aristotelian beliefs of the Europeans and the Animistic beliefs of the pre Colombians create misunderstanding?
    - How were Christian beliefs tied to Capitalism and Animistic beliefs tied to the communal living of pre Colombians?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 1 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  3. Week 3 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 2: Colonizers

    Thought Questions
    - What motivated the initial exploration of North America for different groups of Europeans?
    - How did European sea faring advances help facilitate exploration of the Atlantic?
    - It what ways were the Ottoman Turks responsible for western exploration by European powers?
    - In what ways did the Colombian exchange of plants and animals effect the environment in North America?
    - How did the spread of written knowledge spur European exploration?
    - How was the first state of Spain created and how did this impact their colonial expansion?
    - Describe the general progress of Spanish and Portuguese exploration and colonization
    - Who were the Guanche people and what was their experience with European colonizers?
    - Describe "Plantation Agriculture" and how it evolved alongside slavery?
    - Describe the four voyages of Columbus and the western myths that have attached to him
    - How did the Norse explore North America and why did it produce different results from later voyages and exploration?
    - Who were the Taino people and what was their experience with European colonizers?
    - What was the 1493 Treaty of Tordesillas?
    - Who was Amerigo Vespucci and what is his claim to fame?
    - Describe the general spread and impact of Euro-Asian-African diseases that led to the "Great Dying" in North America
    - Why was European colonization of the Americas different from the colonization of Africa?
    - Why were American native people especially vulnerable to epidemics?
    - Describe the industry and growth of African slavery
    - How did advances in agriculture in Europe contribute to colonialism?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 2 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  4. Week 4 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 3: New Spain

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the evolution of the sixteenth century Spanish empire in the Atlantic and Pacific.
    - How did the parts of the sixteenth century Spanish empire integrate together into an imperial system?
    - What was the "Black Legend"?
    - Who was Hernán Cortés and how did he destroy the Aztec and their tributary peoples?
    - What was some of the characteristics of Aztec culture and civilization and how did they compare to Europeans?
    - How was New Spain a religious mission and how was the Spanish empire "successful" in this mission even while their economic institutions faded?
    - What forms of human sacrifice did the Spanish practice in their empire and what religious justifications did they use to defend it?
    - Who was Francisco Pizarro and how did he destroy the Inca and their tributary peoples?
    - What was the institution of "conquistador" and how was it connected to Christian-Muslim conflict in Iberia and North Africa?
    - How did gender distribution and intermarriage effect the evolution of Native peoples?
    - What technological and methodological advantages did the Spanish have in war?
    - What was the institution of "encomendero" and "hacienda"?
    - How did the process of Spanish settlement colonialism unfold in the sixteenth century?
    - Describe the role gold and silver played in New Spain and how it changed Europe?
    - How did English, Dutch and French piracy effect New Spain?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 3 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  5. Week 5 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 4: The Spanish Frontier

    Thought Questions
    - How did horticulture and nomadic lifestyles effect the spread of Spanish colonialism?
    - Who was Cabeza de Vaca and what role did he play in the Spanish empire?
    - How and why was the experience of Native Americans and the Spanish different in Northern Mexico compared to Central Mexico?
    - Who was Hernando de Soto and what role did he play in the Spanish empire?
    - Who was Francisco Vázquez de Coronado and what role did he play in the Spanish empire?
    - Who were the Mississippian peoples and how did they experience the Spanish empire?
    - How did the Spanish empire develop in Florida and New Mexico?
    - Who were the Pueblo peoples and how did they experience the Spanish empire?
    - Describe the mission system as it occurred in New Mexico
    - What was the Pueblo revolt of 1680?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 4 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  6. Week 6 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 5: Canada and Iroquoia

    Thought Questions
    - How did English, French and Dutch piracy against the Spanish facilitate and influence non-Spanish colonization?
    - Why did the French develop transient instead of stationary colonization?
    - How did the Native - European fur trade develop and change native societies?
    - In what ways did Europeans and Native Americans become dependent upon each other and how did this effect their relations?
    - How was the French tribal model of colonization different from the Spanish conquistador model?
    - Who were the Iroquois and Algonquian peoples?
    - How did the native conceptions of trade and diplomacy differ from the French conceptions of trade and diplomacy?
    - How did the Native pragmatic experience in trade demonstrate the mythology of the naive Natives?
    - How did Native trade effect the environment?
    - Why was the St. Lawrence River Valley and the Great Lakes a favorable place for French colonization?
    - How did the French settlement of Quebec develop?
    - Who were the Huron peoples and how did they function in the French fur trade and the Five Nations peoples?
    - Who were the Iroquoian Five Nations? What Iroquoian peoples remained outside the Five Nations?
    - How did European trade and firearms change Native warfare and ritual warfare?
    - Who was Henry Hudson and how were the Dutch involved in the fur trade and create new conflicts?
    - How and why did the French attempt to convert Natives to Christianity and how was it different because of the fur trade from the Spanish methods?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 5 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  7. Week 7 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 6: Virginia

    Thought Questions
    - How did geography and native power make Virginia one of the last places occupied and a "left over" to the late arriving English?
    - What was the role of "promoter" in English colonization?
    - How did the experience of Irish conquest effect British colonization of America?
    - Who were the caste of "West Country Men" and how did they lead English colonization?
    - How was social engineering a part off English colonization in contrast to French, Dutch and Spanish colonization?
    - How was the government of Britain different from the governments of France and Spain?
    - What were the environmental and geographic conditions around Jamestown?
    - Who was Humphrey Gilbert and what was his role in British colonialism in Ireland and America?
    - How were attitudes about and actions against Colonial settlers by Promoters similar to how promoters viewed and interacted with Native Americans?
    - What was "logic" behind Colonial treatment of Native Americans?
    - How did the government of the Jamestown colony evolve in the first decade of settlement?
    - How did Tobacco effect the fortunes of the Virginia settlers?
    - How was food used as a weapon by settlers and Native Americans?
    - How were the motives and actions around the founding of Maryland different from the founding of Virginia?

    Articles
    The Age of Exploration - Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
    The Roanoke Colonies - Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
    Brief Biography: John Rolfe
    Brief Biography: Pocahontas
    Brief Biography: Powhatan
    Brief Biography: Opechancanough

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 6 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  8. Week 8 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 7: Chesapeake Colonies

    Thought Questions
    - How did circumstances change in the Chesapeake during the middle 17th century?
    - In what ways did Bacon's rebellion effect the balance of power in Virginia?
    - How did "counties" come to dominate the governments in the Chesapeake and what effect did this have on social development?
    - What were "Little Commonwealths" and how did they fit into the English social hierarchy?
    - How did a gender gap in the Chesapeake effect the development of "Little Commonwealths" and effect social, labor, and economic conditions?
    - How did the lives and prospects of indentured servants differ from the lives of slaves and how did this evolve over the 17th century?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 7 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  9. Week 9 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 8: The New England Colonies

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 8 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff
  10. Week 10 :: The American Colonies, Chapter 9:

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 9 Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680-1800 by Allan Kulikoff

Journals That May Be Of Interest

How To Participate in the Reading Group

This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about Colonial American History, mainly in the area that would become the United States from c.1585-1763.

Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of your previous experience in studying history. The goal is to read, learn and enjoy something meaningful. We read about a chapter each week.

Each week I will create a new Facebook post on our page for that week’s reading where the group can interact.

Everyone is encouraged to post their favorite or most meaningful quote from the chapter (about a paragraph with the page number/location) in the comments for the Facebook post covering those chapters. This is an easy, no pressure and meaningful way to express your thoughts on a chapter and is also a great way for individuals to go back and look at what others found meaningful. It keeps the focus on the author’s work rather than an opinion.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be avoided (you, your, you’be) in replies.

Comments about the chapter or book are welcome as long as they are polite, respectful, relevant, non-partisan and constructive and focused on the author's work not someone else’s comment. A helpful guideline is that you are addressing the group, not an individual when you write. If you enjoy or agree with a post, liking their comment is a meaningful way of engaging the group.

Please before you comment, remember others here are good people with feelings. Using second person pronouns should be avoided (you, your, you’be) in replies.


Of course if you don't want to post a quote or comment, you're still welcome to read along with us.

Individuals who understand English as a secondary language are welcome to participate. Please do not worry if your English is flawed, you are among friends who want you to be here. It’s wonderful you are interested in learning about our history and culture.


I will pick the books because someone needs to do it. All the books are from respected authors in Colonial American History that also have a reputation for being good writers. I've picked books from a variety of topics and viewpoints that collectively provide a good overview of the period. The optional supplemental reading will expand on or show a different viewpoint on the topic/period/event.

The books I would like us to consider reading are:

  1. The First Frontier by Scott Weidensaul
  2. Before The Revolution by Daniel Richter
  3. American Colonies by Alan Taylor (Our Current Book)
  4. The Americans: The Colonial Experience by Daniel J. Boors tin
  5. Colonial America: A History to 1763 by Richard Middleton

Click Here For Our Complete Reading List

The first five books will provide a good solid overview of Colonial American History and the remaining books will explore a particular aspect of the history of Colonial America with a final book on Colonial America in 1750 at the end of the colonial era. The first two and second two books form nice comparative overviews of the period. All the works are college level in scholarship, well written and intended to be accessible to the general reading public and could easily be read by interested high school students.

My intentions for the supplemental reading will generally follow this plan for the first fiver books we read:

Book 1: The First Frontier – Supplemental Readings about the Virginia and the Carolinas. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Eurasian region.

Book 2: Before The Revolution – Supplemental Reading about the New England Region including Plymouth and New Haven. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Latin American area.

Book 3: The American Colonies – Supplemental Reading about the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland  and Rhode Island and religious minorities in the Colonies.  The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the area of central west Africa.

Books 4: The Americans: The Colonial Experience - Supplemental Reading on New York, Delaware, the area that would become Vermont and the French fur trade in the area around upstate New York. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the Caribbean and East Indies.

Book 5: Colonial American to 1763 – Supplemental Reading on Georgia, Spanish Florida and New Mexico. The comparative supplemental reading for the entire book will focus on the experience in Ireland.

The books come in an accessible format, so if you use text to speech for a vision impairment this will not be a problem. Some of the books are available through the Nation Library Service for the Blind. All are available in print from your local public library (possibly through inter-library loan).

I am open to changing books if their is a group consensus.

If someone discovers they are more drawn to the supplemental reading than the primary book wonderful. Please share what you find meaningful with the group.

If someone is being disruptive, please ignore them or hide their comments, please do not respond. It is not worth your effort or time. Disruptive people get fuel from engagement to continue their negative behavior. They won’t be here long. I take the civility, decorum and inclusiveness of the group very seriously.

I hope we find a group of open minded, intellectually curious and active individuals. I don’t mind if we’re quiet, but I hope we are meaningful. It is my intention to act as a moderator/facilitator/participant, not as a teacher. Ideally the group will self moderating and sustaining.

There are wonderful episodes in American History. There are tragic and shameful episodes in American History. Honestly studying history is learning about both, not ignoring one or pretending the other does not exist.