Home FEATURED American History: 1500 to 1700

American History: 1500 to 1700

multiethnic thoughtful girls playing chess in modern room
Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

The period between 1500 and 1870 in the American history highlights important events as well as social, economic and political trends in the history of women and men of the United States and around the world. The period between 1500 and 1508 that the Indian culture flourished in Florida and the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus landed on the islands of Jamaica and Martinique. Several epidemics mostly disease saw a decrease in populations but this did not prevent the founding of the oldest European settlement in States.

Between 1510 and 1519, the Catholic Church began its involvement in colonization of the New World. This process led to the establishment of three dioceses in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. Under the pressure of the Catholic Church, Burgos’ Laws ended its exploitation of the natives in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

It is during the same period between 1510 and 1519 when the exploration of the coast of Florida began and two hundred men and three ships were involved in the undertaking. Between 1514 and 1519, advocacy for better treatment of native populations began and this led to freedom of Indian slaves and championing the cause in form of writings and meetings.

The modern American economy traces its origin to the desire of European settlers for economic gain in the period between 1500 and 1800 and participation of women of different origins. The New World progressed from being marginally successful to being a small and a self-reliant economy and eventually to a highly complex industrial economy. During this period, United States evolved and developed complex institutions consistent with its growth level.

In as much as the involvement of women in the economy was consistent, the level of involvement kept increasing over time within the period between 1500 and 1800. The first inhabitants of North America were Native Americans and they were organized in tribes and confederations of tribes. They traded among themselves and had little or no contact with people in other continents before the arrival of European settlers.

The wilderness in North America offered less gold to the early explorers and this made them not to stay. In 1607, those who eventually settled was a band of Englishmen who built the first permanent settlement in what later became United States. The early settlers settled in new homelands for numerous reasons. Some wanted to escape religious persecution while others were business people.

The success of England in colonization the modern day United States was because of its use of charter companies. Charter companies were basically a group of stockholders who wanted to extend England’s national goals and to make personal economic gains.

The King and the private sector provided finance to companies as well as political and judicial authority. The colonies made profits at a slow rate and this led to turning over their charters to the settlers. This led to huge political implications that became evident later in the history of United States. Colonialists were left to build their lives, that of the community and of the economy and this eventually led to the beginning of the construction of a new country.

In Massachusetts fishing was the primary source of wealth though in colonies people lived on small farms which sustained their lives fully. As the colonies grew, supportive industries began developing such as sawmills, shipyards and iron forges. This continued and by 1800, patterns of development became clear.

By the year 1770, colonies in North America were politically and economically ready to be part of the self-government movement that dominated English politics. There were disputes between America and England about taxation and this led to war against the British and independence of the colonies. During the period between 1775 and 1783, there was the political and economic American Revolution that was encouraged by the emergence of the middle class.

This led to the achievement of the intended goal of independence and creation of a new nation, the United States. In 1787, the U.S Constitution was adopted and it has been in effect to date. The constitution established that the whole nation was to operate as a unified market. In this regard, there were no taxes and additional tariffs on trade between states. It stipulated that the federal government was responsible for the regulation of commerce, the establishment of bankruptcy laws, fixing rules governing patents and creation and regulation of money among other duties.

One of the Founding Fathers of the nation Alexander Hamilton urged the government to create a national bank and to assume all public debts that had been incurred by colonies. This led to the charter of the bank in 1791 and lasted until 1811 after which a successor bank was chartered. In 1848, women rights groups began getting involved in activities aimed at reshaping and perfecting the American society.

It is during the same year that political participants began getting involved with the issue of slavery. By 1860, 16% of the U.S population lived in urban areas and nearly 35% of its income came from manufacturing. This is because of the fast spread of the Industrial Revolution to the US. Cotton cloth production was the leading industry and urbanized industry was limited to the Northeast.

The ten year period between 1845 and 1855 marked the increased influx of European immigrants who were poor and ended up at the ports if arrival.The South was rural and depended on the North for manufactured goods and capital. The South through their control of the federal government protected the interests of the South, for example, slavery. The period between 1856 and 1864 marked indicators of clearer economic policy, chartering of the first pacific railroad and drafting of a national bank code.

Between 1861 and 1865 there was the American civil war that was motivated by differences in the abolishment of slavery between the South and the North. The victory by the north sealed the economic system and destiny of US. This was in regard to the abolishment of slave trade which led to reduction in profit for the owners of cotton plantations in the South.

After the war, the north expanded rapidly and industrialists later came to dominate social and political aspects of the nation. After the end of the civil war, the country was divided because of the difference in the political status between the North and the South. The North were endowed with finances and industries while the south was dependent on agriculture. Political leaders passed different laws in a bid to ease the sectional conflict between the two regions.

The author of the bookThrough a Woman’s eyes’ is J. Mead, and the book was first published in 2014. In chapter one of the book, he explains that America includes the economic systems, places and people of the US. Also, modern Americans inherited the name from the natives of North America. He explains that looking through the beginning of American history through women’s eyes requires creativity.

In as much as most cherished myths of the American nation emphasizes family origins, the incursions in the western hemisphere were dominated by males. Additionally, this is the same case as the introduction of slavery to America because most women slaves were held back in Africa. The author explains that Americans like thinking that their country is unique as set out by their democratic beliefs, Christian heritage and geographical location.

However, this seems outdated in this age of internet and other forms of technological advancement as well as the existence of numerous religions and cultures.  Mead explains throughout the chapter that division of labor reinforced the dominance of women because as men prepared fields and performed their duties that took them to the forests women performed duties that ensured that they remained in the villages.

They performed their duties communally and this form of gendered division of labor continued even after European colonization. In the chapter, the author explains the different roles played by women even in significantly influencing religious activities.

Also, they influenced politics through control of food supplies and thereby having a role to play in planning wars and raids. Also, they influenced adoptions into clans, arranged marriages and charged the public treasury.

This implies that women played political, cultural, social and economic roles in the society. However, the author explains that despite the importance of their contributions and sexual freedom, most Native American women held no official political office.

Also, their roles in high status religious matters varied in different groups. Whatever roles they performed, Native American women faced challenges just like men during the European invasion.

The conflicts between Europeans and Americans had adverse effects on native women. The Spanish invaders were mostly male and their main focus was on wealth to be gained and the labor from the natives.

A century after an all men Spanish invasion, the effects of the gender relations were evident in the form of marriages across racial, cultural and religious barriers being frowned upon. During the early stages of slavery, the work on plantations was not distinguished by gender.

The African women worked alongside men in sugar plantations and the entire process was grueling and hectic. The brutal working conditions and poor health led to low fertility rates among African women. Most of them were worked to death because the cost of replacing them was cheaper than sustaining them.  Of all the differences in cultures, only Native American societies lived together as a family, engaged in complimentary tasks and participated in different political roles as determined by their communities.

In the 16th century, the interaction between men and women was between people who were unknown to each other and this led to of different cultures.In this chapter, the author asserts that the women of the US had made tremendous strides during the period between 1840 and 1865. This is in regard to the formation and joining of social movements with the aim of reforming the American society.

Women participated in challenging all forms of slavery and in undertaking systematic reforms in their own status as women. It is during this period that they began demanding for inclusion in the democratization process of politics in America. Also, they had started taking part in the American Civil War and the activities during the war changed their experience. Some women became landowners by displacing others and some challenged crucial elements of the American society and way of life.

Those who owned slaves lost the right to hold slaves and those who were slaves became free. This implies that women challenged even their own notions of womanhood, a sign of their involvement in the process of national change. After the Civil War, women from both the north and the south began getting more involved into public life as socially involved citizens and as employees of civic organizations. The author explains that the Gold rush period provided an opportunity for California’s women to exploit different business opportunities and on the other hand exposed them to greater vulnerability to exploitation.

In 1860, the population of women had increased tremendously and in communities where women were scarce, the roles that were previously performed by women became premium jobs. Capital accessibility made it possible for some women to take advantage of the available capital to accumulate property even for their families. Most women engaged in activities that would ensure upward mobility though they encountered violence, isolation and suffered from the adverse effects of poverty. While individual women acted as examples of remarkable resourcefulness, the overall prospects of women in California during the gold rush period was divided along race and class.

The working lives of women varied and even as some women were prospecting for gold, they were more likely to perform chores for those willing to pay more. In migrant families, the domestic work by married women provided cash to the economy of the family. The sources that are revealed through this show a range of experiences of women with economic success and failure in the gold fields. Further, the author extensively explains that the expansion of the American continent was a defining moment for the country’s experience and after the 1840s migrants comprised of young American families.

The men were responsible for economic fulfillment while the women were responsible for child bearing. After the discovery of gold, the model of the migration changed though the process of overland migration was hindered by the outbreak of the Civil War. The war had a lasting impact on the expansion because after the war it took a different form characterized by movement along the railroad. During the migration, the women were in conflict because they had different ways of life.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here