IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > I. North America, 1500–1789
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
I. North America, 1500–1789
1. Overview
 
For nearly 300 years before the founding of the American republic, North America had experienced a series of socioeconomic, cultural, and political transformations. In relatively rapid succession, European exploration, settlement, and colonial expansion culminated in an era of reform, revolution, and the birth of the United States and, later, the Dominion of Canada. The exploration and settlement of North America had roots in the transformation of European society from a relatively stable world of feudal agriculture to the dynamic world of commerical capitalism. During the early 16th century, European monarchs gave trading rights to commercial capitalists, encouraged their involvement in international trade, and facilitated European expansion overseas. Although Spain “discovered” the New World and soon controlled vast stretches of land in the Caribbean and South America, the Netherlands, France, and England later gained increasing access to North America.  1
European expansion and settlement in North America ushered in a new set of social and cultural interactions among diverse peoples from Africa, America, and Europe. While these interactions were salutary for Europeans, especially elite white men, they were quite destructive, even devastating, for the indigenous peoples (See North American Chiefdoms) and for Africans. Under the onslaught of European weaponry, diseases, and declining access to arable land, the Native American population in New England, for example, declined from nearly 120,000 in 1570 to about 12,000 in 1670 and continued to drop in subsequent decades. For their part, although the first Africans to arrive in North America occupied a status much like that of European indentured servants, they soon experienced treatment that foreshadowed their transition to a status of slaves for life. Thus, when the new nation embarked upon its political career with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, it did so with huge gaps between its democratic promise and its reality as an elite, slaveholding, white male republic. Progress toward government by, for, and of the people would take years to achieve in North America. While Canada would remain within the British colonial empire, its future was profoundly shaped by developments in the new republic south of the border.  2
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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