Launchpad: Colonial New England

Colonial New England

Background | Mapping Colonial New England | Crisis in the Colonies: King Philip's War, Bacon's Rebellion, and the Pueblo Revolt


Read the following background about the development of English towns and their expansion in Massachusetts in the seventeenth-century.

On the Settlement of Towns:

These towns were a product, not of long continuous development, but instead, of a rapid process of town planning which was not constrained by existing physical structures and property lines of previous European settlement. The tightly clustered settlements of large and small land holders living adjacent to one another were focused on the meetinghouse and maintained a high degree of internal social order and self-maintenance. Attendance at religious worship and at town meetings was obligatory and enforced by town meeting. There was a strong sense of interdependency and community early on and on a daily basis. The nucleated village, one of many forms present in England during the medieval period, is associated with attempts to reorganize and control agricultural production and to facilitate control over the village's population through an emphasis on ordered land use and face-to-face observation of each villager's daily activities.

(from Susan McGowan, "The Landscape in the Colonial Period")

Mapping Colonial New England

For more information on the changes in towns and Indian relations between the 1630s and the 1670s, you can use Digital History's Dimensions of Change in Colonial New England.

Now look at the maps below.

  • What information appears on each map? List some of the symbols and what you think they might mean.
  • How many English towns (represented by a small circle topped by a cross) are there in the 1630s? How many in the 1670s? How many Indian settlements (in Wood's map, represented by a small triangle for wigwam, sometimes palisaded) in the 1630s? How many in the 1670s?
  • How much of New England appears in each map? What are the blanks spaces? Looking at the 1630s map, are the blank spaces occupied? Who is occupying them?
  • Look at the place names. What do they tell you? What can you infer about the map's north/south orientation?
  • Why are maps made? Who makes them and for whom? What sort of "prospect of New England" is represented in these two maps?

Construct a chart creating a list of items to compare and then fill in the information.  Write a brief comparative paragraph about these two maps of New England for later reference in the activity.

  • What does Wood's map tell about the settlement of New England in the 1630s?
  • What does Foster's map tell about the settlement in the 1670s?
  • What similarities and differences do you notice in terms of scale, orientation, place names, and the use and meaning of symbols?

Read Edward Johnson's essay below. Edward Johnson Describes the Founding of the Town of Concord in Massachusetts Bay, 1635 and in an annotated version as a PDF.

  • How does Johnson describe the role of the Indians in the settlement of New England?
  • How does Johnson explain the Divine role in the settlement of New England?

Read Metacom or King Philip, Metacom Relates Indian Complaints about the English Settlers, 1675 and an annotated version as a PDF.

  • What are some of Philip's complaints about the English settlers?
  • What is his account of the history of relations between the English colonists and the Indian villagers?
  • How would you describe the negotiations between the English officials and the Indian representatives?
  • Who recorded this statement? Why might that information be important?
  • In what ways has the passage of time been important in shaping the relations between the English and the Indians?

Go back to the maps after reading and discussing the texts as well as reviewing the key concepts. Choose one map to create a visual story. Choose two or three details (symbols, names, or other features). Explain what those details tell us about English and Native American communities in New England in the 1630s or 1670s. Use information from the text documents as part of your annotation. After you have annotated two or three details you will have a map with several "balloons" around it that tell a visual story about the map's meaning.

Write a short paragraph that compares the map and the text as a view of English colonization in Massachusetts.

Crisis in the Colonies: King Philip's War, Bacon's Rebellion, and the Pueblo Revolt

Read the background essay on your group's particular conflict, either: New England's King Philip's War; Bacon's Rebellion or the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

  • How did the three conflicts differ? How were they the same?
  • What role did religion play in each conflict?
  • How did conflicts between English settlers in coastal regions and those living in newer frontier regions to the west contribute to tensions with Native Americans?
  • How did the author's perspective (background, experience, interests, values, etc.) influence his or her record of events?