Digital History

The Colonial Era Timeline, Digital History ID 2929

17th Century

1607 May 13: The first permanent English colony is founded in Jamestown, Virginia.

1619 July 30: Virginia's House of Burgesses convenes; it is the first legislative assembly in English North America.

August: A Dutch ship carries 20 blacks to Virginia. We now know that these were not the first blacks to arrive in Virginia.

1620 May 21: The Mayflower Compact, signed by 41 adult males in Provincetown Harbor, Mass., represents the first agreement on self-government in English North America.

December 26: The Pilgrim Separatists land at Plymouth, Mass.

1621 December 25: Massachusetts Governor William Bradford forbids game-playing on Christmas day.

1622 March 22: Indian attacks kill one-third of the English settlers in Virginia.

1624 John Smith publishes his General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, which describes his rescue by Pocahontas.

May: The Dutch establish the colony of New Netherland.

May 1: The Maypole at Mare Mount. In what is now Quincy, Mass., Thomas Morton and others set up a May Pole, engaged in drinking and dancing with Indian women, and celebrated "the feasts of the Roman Goddes Glora, or the beastly practises of the Madd Bacchinalians," according to Massachusetts Governor William Bradford. Morton was deported to England.

1632 Charles I grants Lord Baltimore territory north of the Potomac River, which will become Maryland. Because the royal charter did not restrict settlement to Protestants, Catholics could settle in the colony.

1634 Massachusetts' sumptuary law forebodes the purchase of woolen, linen or silk clothes with silver, gold, silk, or lace on them.

1636 June: After being expelled from Massachusetts Bay Colony, Roger Williams founds Rhode Island, which becomes the first English colony to grant complete religious tolerance.

1637 November 7: Massachusetts banishes Anne Hutchinson for preaching that faith alone was sufficient for salvation.

1638 March: The first Swedish colonists settle in Delaware.

1654 The first Jews arrive in New Amsterdam, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Brazil.

1660 May: Massachusetts forbids the celebration of Christmas.

December 1: Parliament adopts the First Navigation Act, which requires all goods carried to and from England to be transported on English ships and that the colonies could export cotton, ginger, sugar, tobacco, and wool exclusively to England. Other Navigation Acts were enacted in 1662, 1663, 1670, and 1673.

1661 September: Governor John Endicott orders an end to persecution of Quakers in Massachusetts, where three Quakers had been executed.

1662 A synod of Massachusetts churches adopts the Halfway Covenant, which permits baptism of children whose parents had not become full church members.

1664 Maryland adopts a statute denying freedom to slaves who converted to Christianity. A similar act was adopted by Virginia in 1667.

September 7: The Dutch surrender New Netherland to the English, who rename the colony New York. The Dutch temporarily regained possession in 1673 and 1674.

1669 John Locke drafts the Fundamental Constitutions for the Carolinas, which combines a feudal social order with a stress on religious toleration.


June 24: King Philip's War begins. Relative to the size of the population, this conflict between the New England colonists and the Mohegans, Naragansetts, Nipmucks, Podunks, and Wampanoags was the deadliest in American history.

1676 September 19: Jamestown, Virginia., is burned during Bacon's Rebellion. Declining tobacco prices, a cattle epidemic, and a belief that the colony's governor had failed to take adequate measures to protect Virginia against Indian attacks contributed to the rebellion, which petered out after its leader, Nathaniel Bacon, died in October 1676.

1681 March 4: Charles II grants William Penn a charter to what is now Pennsylvania.

1682 Mary Rowlandson publishes an account of her captivity among Indians.

1684 June 21: Charles II revokes Massachusetts' charter on the grounds that it had imposed religious qualifications for voting, discriminated against the Church of England, and set up an illegal mint.

1685 James II consolidates the New England colonies into the Dominion of New England and names Sir Edmund Andros governor, who dissolved the New England colonies' assemblies.

1689 Leisler's Insurrection. Following the overthrow of James II, Jacob Leisler, a German merchant, force New York's governor to flee. He was subsequently executed for treason.

The first French and Indian war, King William's War begins. Colonists launch attacks on Port Royal, Nova Scotia, and Quebec, and the French and their Indian allies burn Schenectady. The 1697 Treaty of Ryswick restored the pre-war status quo.

April 18: The New England colonies out Royal Governor Edmund Andros.

1692 March: The Salem Witch Scare begin when a group of young girls claims that they have been bewitched. When Massachusetts Governor William Phips halted the trials in October, 19 people had been hanged, one man had been crushed to death, and two people had died in prison. In 1697, one of the Salem witch judges, Samuel Sewall, publicly repented his role in the affair.

18th Century

1700 Population of the British colonies: approximately 275,000. Boston, the largest city, has about 7000 inhabitants.

Samuel Sewall publishes The Selling of Joseph, one of the first expressions of antislavery thought in the American colonies.

1702 May 4: Queen Anne's War, the second French and Indian War, begins. It lasts until 1713.

1704 February 29: French and Indian forces attack Deerfield, killing fifty and taking a hundred residents captive, in one of the most violent episodes in Queen Anne's War.

April 24: The Boston News-Letter is the first successful newspaper in the British colonies.

1705 Massachusetts prohibits marriages between whites and blacks.

1711 September 22: The Tuscarora Indian War (1711-13) begins. Surviving Tuscaroras move northward and join the League of the Six Nations.

1713 April 11: The Treaty of Utrecht ends Queen Anne's War. France cedes Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to Britain.

1716 January: South Carolina settlers, aided by Cherokees, defeat the Yamassee Indians, and move southward into lands claimed by Spain.

1721 May: Connecticut prohibits Sunday travel except for attendance at worship.

1733 May 17: The Molasses Act levies heavy duties on rum and molasses imported from the French and Spanish West Indies.

1734 The Great Awakening begins in New England, ignited by Jonathan Edwards, who sermons in Northampton, Mass., emphasize human depravity and divine omnipotence.

1735 Peter Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal is acquitted of seditious libel, helping to establish the principle of freedom of the press.

1739 June 9: George II grants James Oglethorpe a charter for Georgia to serve as a buffer against Spain and as a haven for debtors. Georgia was the only one of the original 13 colonies to forbid slavery.

August: George Whitefield, a Methodist preacher, arrives from England, and preaches from New England to Georgia.

September 9: The Stono slave rebellion in South Carolina.

1740 Population of the British colonies: approximately 889,000.

1741 The Negro Conspiracy of 1741, an alleged plot to burn down New York City, leads authorities to burn 13 blacks alive, hang eight, and transport 71 out of the colony.

1744 King George's War, the third French and Indian war, begins. It lasts until 1748.

1745 June 16: New Englanders capture Fort Louisbourg, a French stronghold in Nova Scotia. The fort was returned to the French at the end of King George's War, outraging New Englanders.

1751 Benjamin Franklin publishes his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, perhaps the most influential essay written by an American colonist.

1752 June: Benjamin Franklin demonstrates that lightning is form of electricity by flying a kite and a key during a thunderstorm.

1754 30-year-old Benjamin Banneker, an African American, constructs the first clock made entirely in the American colonies.

May 28: The fourth and most important French and Indian War (1754-1763) begins when British and French and Indian forces clash near Fort Duquesne (the site of present-day Pittsburgh) for control of the Ohio River Valley.

July 19: The Albany Congress, called to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois in event of war with the French, approves Benjamin Franklin's "Plan of the Union" of the colonies, with a president general named by Britain and a grand council with legislative power. The plan was rejected by the colonies and the Crown.

1757 August. 10: A day after surrendering to French Gen. Montcalm at Fort William Henry in northeastern New York, many British troops die in an ambush by France's Indian allies. James Fenimore Cooper makes use of this incident in The Last of the Mohicans.

1759 September 13: In the climactic battle of the war, Britain defeats the French on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec. Both French Gen. Montcalm and British commander James Wolfe die in the battle.

1760 Population of the British colonies: approximately 1,610,000.

1763 February 10: France cedes Canada to Britain under the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years' War.

May 7: Pontiac's Rebellion begins when the Ottowa Indian chief leads an attack on Detroit. After failing to receive French aid, the conflict ends in October.

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