|Reasons for Settling the New World
There were many reasons why people colonized North America. One of the main reasons is that the New World presented people with an opportunity to earn a decent living and perhaps even to become wealthy. During the time of colonization, profitable jobs were scarce in England, and land was very difficult to obtain because it was expensive. By moving to one of the colonies, an individual had a better chance to earn a living than if they remained in England. Once in the New World many settlers earned a living by becoming farmers, hunters and businessmen. Some of these settlers became indentured servants as well.
Another reason that people traveled to the New World was to acquire land. Most settlers were given free land or land at low cost. Land not only gave settlers feelings of independence, it also provided them with status and allowed them certain rights in the community, including voting.
Religion was another reason that people came to the New World. Some settlers wished to have the chance to worship freely, while others came to America to escape religious persecutions. Some of these groups were the Puritans, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Huguenots and Jews.
In the bigger picture, kings and queens were interested in creating colonies because colonies contributed to the political, economic and military superiority of a country. As the English, Dutch, Spanish and French strove for economic and political superiority, their quest took them into newly discovered lands. The equation Land = Power = Money was at play in this quest, and these lands became important staging areas for the military might of these European powers.
Prior to your childs selecting one of the activities for this lesson, you need to outline the five reasons why colonists came to America (religious freedom, opportunity to get rich, find a job, to be with family members, and to strive for economic, political and military superiority).
Option 1: Have your child develop an advertising poster using information from the teachers presentation about why people colonized the United States. This advertisement could include any combination of factors and should try to entice people to join the colonization efforts.
Option 2: Encourage your child to talk to family members about what they know about relatives who immigrated to the US and investigate your relatives motivations. Have your child complete a family tree using the flags of your family members countries-of-origin as the "leaves" on the tree.
Option 3: Ask your child to imagine him or herself as a colonist who came to the colonies in search of religious freedom. Have your child write a letter back home telling how his or her life has changed since arrival in the colony. This letter should try to persuade family members to join him or her in the colonies.
Option 4: Write a letter or an entry into a diary as if you were sailing to a new home in the American colonies. What are you feeling? What do you miss? What are you eating/wearing? What do you hope your new home is like?
Richard Hakluyt the Elder was part of a family that promoted English settlement of North America during the sixteenth century. The primary source used for this lesson contains almost three dozen reasons supporting colonization of the continent.
The Jamestown colony suffered a casualty rate of almost 80 percent in the first half of its second decade as a colony. The letter of indentured servant Richard Frethorne details the realities of life in the Jamestown settlement.
Since both texts retain the language of their respective authors, your child should be made aware that sentence structure and spelling have changed in the English language since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Primary Source Readings
Alternative: Create the chart and conduct the discussion using your childs proposed reasons and realities to drive the discussion.
High School Extension Activities
Option 1: In spite of the problems and challenges that the colonists experienced, they eventually overcame adversity. Have your child research why it was important to overcome this adversity and how success was achieved.
Option 2: There were benefits and drawbacks for a country to send people overseas to colonize the New World. Have your child explore shifts in power and the power struggles between colonies and their "parent" countries.
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