Regions of British Colonies — APUSH 2.3 Notes, Review, and Terms


APUSH Unit 2, Topic 2.3 covers the establishment and growth of the regions of the British Colonies.

Benjamin Franklin, Portrait, Duplessis

Benjamin Franklin was the most well-known American of the Colonial Era. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Regions of the British Colonies Summary

Following the failure of Roanoke Colony and Popham Colony, England finally established a permanent settlement at Jamestown. 13 years later, the Pilgrims sailed to New England on the Mayflower, landed at Cape Cod, and established Plymouth.

APUSH 2.3 Review Video

This video from Heimler’s History provides an excellent overview of APUSH 2.3. You can also check out our APUSH Guide provides a look at all Units and Topics in the APUSH Curriculum.

APUSH 2.3 Review Terms and Notes for Unit 2 Key Concepts and APUSH Themes

The terms and definitions that follow are related to the Key Concepts for Unit 2 and are broken into sections by APUSH Themes. Within the explanations of APUSH 2.3 Terms are links to content on American History Central that should provide a more comprehensive understanding of each topic, including the beginnings of Colonial America.

Unit 2 Key Concepts

Key Concept 2.1 — Europeans developed a variety of colonization and migration patterns, influenced by different imperial goals, cultures, and the varied North American environments where they settled, and they competed with each other and American Indians for resources.

Key Concept 2.2 — The British colonies participated in political, social, cultural, and economic exchanges with Great Britain that encouraged both stronger bonds with Britain and resistance to Britain’s control.

APUSH Themes

  1. American and National Identity
  2. Work, Exchange, and Technology
  3. Migration and Settlement
  4. Politics and Power
  5. America in the World
  6. Geography and the Environment
  7. Culture and Society

Why did England Establish Colonies in the Americas?

Overall, England wanted to follow in the footsteps of other European powers that were setting up colonies outside of Europe. At the time, nations believed in Mercantilism, an economic theory based on the idea there was a fixed amount of gold in the world, and nations gained more gold — and power — by exporting more than they imported. 

Queen Elizabeth I, Pelican Portrait, Hilliard
Queen Elizabeth I. Image Source: Wikipedia.

In the English Mercantile System, the colonies became an important source of raw materials and eventually became a market for English merchants to sell their goods and products.

In the middle of the 17th Century, England passed the first Navigation Act, which was intended to make sure the raw materials from the colonies — tobacco, cotton, timber, and fish — were shipped on English ships and arrived in English ports. 

The Navigation Acts created the closed system of trade within the growing English Empire that is usually referred to as Triangular Trade.

The English Colonies developed along the Atlantic Coast, starting with Jamestown in 1607. The last English Colony was Georgia, which was established in 1732 and settled in 1733. There were also colonies in the West Indies, which were responsible for producing sugar cane, one of the most valuable commodities of the Colonial Era.

The Four Regions of the British Colonies for APUSH

The four regions of the English Colonies were:

  1. The Chesapeake Region, which included Virginia and Maryland. The Chesapeake Colonies are also considered to be the northern region of the Southern Colonies.
  2. New England Region, which included Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.
  3. The Mid-Atlantic Region, or Middle Colonies. The Middle Colonies were New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
  4. The Southern Region and the Caribbean. The Southern Colonies were North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The colonies in the British West Indies were on St. Christopher, Barbados, Nevis, Montserrat, and Antigua.

England’s Transition to Great Britain

In the year 925, the Kingdom of England was established through the unification of the Anglo-Saxon tribes living in England. 611 years later, in 1536, during the reign of King Henry VIII, Wales became part of the Kingdom of England. Together, they were still known as the Kingdom of England. 

In 1707, England and the Kingdom of Scotland agreed to the Act of Union. Together, the new nation was called Great Britain.

The four regions of the English Colonies were developed by 1707, and 12 of the 13 Original Colonies were established before England transitioned to Great Britain.

Growth and Development of the Four Regions of the British Colonies

The Chesapeake Colonies Begin at Jamestown

Early attempts at founding colonies — Roanoke, Popham, and Jamestown — were based on making money. The expedition to Jamestown, and the supply ships that followed, were paid for by investors in the Virginia Company of London, a Joint Stock Company. After the company received a charter from King James I, the investors pooled their resources to pay for the supplies and ships and expected a profit on their investment.

At Jamestown, the goal was to find gold and silver, which failed. Early on, the colony struggled due to a shortage of food and disease. Captain John Smith took control in the fall of 1608 and the situation improved. However, he was forced to return to England and 1609 and the colony immediately suffered.

Jamestown, Indians watch Construction of Fort James, Painting, King
This illustration depicts Indians watching colonists build Fort James. Image Source: National Park Service, via

The Anglo-Powhatan Wars Begin in Virginia

Not long after Smith left, the first Anglo-Powhatan War started because the colonists were encroaching on the traditional hunting grounds of the Powhatan Confederacy. Due to threats of Indian attacks, the colonists rarely left Jamestown, and many who did were attacked and killed. As a result, the colonists were unable to gather food from outside the walls of the fort.

The Starving Time in Virginia

Jamestown suffered through a long, harsh winter that has become known as “The Starving Time.” By early 1610, most of the settlers died — only 60 survived the winter — out of approximately 500. Some survived by leaving Jamestown and moving to Point Comfort, near present-day Hampton, Virginia.

Modern forensic scientists have confirmed some of the survivors at Jamestown likely turned to cannibalism, out of desperation, in order to survive. The survivors did not kill anyone, they dug up the bodies of people who already died. They ate animals, including pets, and shoe leather.

Jamestown was saved by the arrival of supply ships in March 1610.

John Rolfe’s Cash Crop and the Peace of Pocahontas

In 1612, John Rolfe acquired some exotic tobacco seeds in the Caribbean and planted them in the Virginia soil. Tobacco was not new to Europeans, the Spanish had been trading it since the 1500s, but Rolfe’s tobacco had a sweeter taste to it than Spanish tobacco.

Virginia’s tobacco was first shipped to England around 1617. It was very popular and the high demand made it Virginia’s first Cash Crop, and, by all accounts, saved the colony from financial ruin. 

However, growing tobacco comes with a high cost. It was labor-intensive and land-intensive. Tobacco growth exhausts soil of important nutrients, so plantation owners were unable to reuse fields on an annual basis. They needed large fields to meet the demand for the product, and they needed a large workforce to plant, harvest, and prepare the crop for shipping to England.

In 1614, Rolfe married Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. The marriage ended the First Anglo-Powhatan War and is known as the “Peace of Pocahontas.”

Jamestown, Wedding of Rolfe and Pocahontas, Illustration
The wedding of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Despite the arrangement, the need for more land to grow tobacco led to further encroachment by Virginians into Powhatan lands. This contributed to the Second Anglo-Powhatan War and the Third Anglo-Powhatan War.

Virginia Transforms Colonial Labor, Government, and Society

Despite the introduction of Rolfe’s tobacco, Virginia continued to struggle financially, and it needed more people to help work the tobacco fields. The colonists were also required to follow a strict series of laws — Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall — that defined how members, employees, and servants associated with the Virginia Company were required to conduct themselves.

The Virginia Company devised innovative solutions to these problems — the Headright System and the House of Burgesses. Both were introduced by the 1618 Virginia Charter, which is also known as the “Great Charter of Virginia.”

The Headright System

The Headright System encouraged a person to pay for people to emigrate to Virginia from Europe. For every person they paid for, they were given 50 acres of land. For example, the head of a family could pay for his entire family to move to Virginia and would be given 50 acres for himself and each family member. 

However, the system was intended to help wealthy plantation owners quickly build a workforce for their fields. What happened was owners would pay for Indentured Servants to move to Virginia. In this situation, the owner gained a worker for 4-7 years and 50 acres of land.

For Indentured Servants, it gave them the opportunity to move to America and start a new life. Many of them had the opportunity for upward social mobility once they fulfilled their contracts because they were given land. For landowners, it also meant they were able to vote in elections for representatives to the House of Burgesses.

The Headright System helped increase the population of Virginia and was also used in other colonies that needed workers for plantations. The Dutch used a similar system in New Netherland called the Patroon System.

Sir Edwin Sandys played a key role in the implementation of the Headright System. Image Source: Wikipedia.

The House of Burgesses

The Great Charter instructed Governor Sir George Yeardley “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” and provide “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.” 

The new General Assembly was the first representative assembly in English North America and held its first meeting — with the Governor and his Council — in the Jamestown church on July 30, 1619. The men elected by each district were called “Burgesses,” hence the name “House of Burgesses.”

The representatives were chosen for each settlement, by a vote of the landowners. Voters were referred to as “Freemen.”

Women and Captured Africans Arrive in Jamestown

The Virginia Company recruited approximately 90 women and sent them to Virginia in 1619. For the most part, their purpose was to find husbands and start families, which is widely believed to have contributed to the growth and stability of the colony. Although there were women in Virginia as early as 1608, they were typically the wives and servants of wealthy landowners.

Not long after the first meeting of the House of Burgesses, John Rolfe recorded the arrival of a ship carrying captive Africans who were offered to the Virginians. Approximately 20 of them were purchased by Jamestown landowners from the Dutch to work on their plantations.

According to various accounts, there were already 30 Africans working in Jamestown as Indentured Servants. However, the Africans that were purchased from the ship are often considered to be the first slaves in the Province of Virginia. 

New England Begins with Plymouth in 1620

Two years after Virginia’s Great Charter implemented systems that would shape the structure of colonial governments and immigration, Plymouth Colony was founded by the Pilgrims

The Pilgrims were religious dissidents from England known as Separatists. In reality, they were Puritan extremists who believed so strongly the Church of England was corrupt they were willing to leave it — and their homeland.

From 1608 to 1609, the Separatists escaped from England — it was illegal to leave without the King’s permission — and settled in Amsterdam. They lived there for a short time and then moved to Leiden, where they lived together in a small community.

Living in the Netherlands allowed them to freely practice their religion, however, they encountered social and economic problems. Because they were not Dutch, they were unable to join the worker’s guilds — unions — and had to work menial, low-paying jobs. Over time, their children started to adapt to Dutch ways, and the elders were worried they would lose their English identity.

William Brewster Publishing House, Leiden, 1922
This picture of William Brewster’s publishing house in Leiden was taken in 1922. Image Source: The Pilgrim Press by Rendel Harris and Stephen Jones.

Even though they were living far from England, they were still unable to completely escape the reach of the Church of England. One of their leaders, William Brewster, published pamphlets and books that made their way to England. English officials tried to arrest him, and he was forced to go into hiding.

In 1617, the Separatists decided to leave the Netherlands and move to Virginia, hoping it would free them from religious persecution and allow them to live and raise their children as Englishmen. Two years later, the Virginia Company of London granted them a charter, which gave them permission to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River, at the site of present-day New York City. 

In order to raise money for the trip, the Separatists invested in a Joint Stock Company to raise money and supply the journey. They were joined by investors known as the “Merchant Adventurers.” In order to raise enough money, the Adventurers decided to send a group of their own settlers on the voyage with the Separatists. They hired two ships for the trip, the Mayflower and Speedwell

After several delays, including the loss of the Speedwell due to leaks, the Mayflower left Plymouth, England on September 6, 1620 (Old Style Calendar). During the journey, the Mayflower was pushed off course by bad weather and missed its intended landing point. 

On November 9, after 65 days, the Mayflower arrived off Cape Cop and the colonists eventually decided to stay in the area. They explored the region for roughly a month, before deciding to settle in Plymouth Bay on December 20.

The departure of the Mayflower is considered by some to be the actual beginning of the Great Puritan Migration since the Pilgrims were a Puritan sect.

Embarkation of the Pilgrims, Weir
This painting by Robert Weir depicts the Pilgrims as they prepared to leave for the New World. Image Source: Brooklyn Museum.

Mayflower Compact

The day after the Mayflower arrived, there was a disagreement between the Pilgrims and the other passengers, whom the Pilgrims called “strangers.” There were concerns they did not have the authority to settle anywhere but at the mouth of the Hudson. However, they were unable to make the journey south due to the weather. 

According to William Bradford, a Pilgrim leader, “several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.” A decision had to be made before anyone left the ship. 

The leaders of both sides worked together on an agreement that would hold the group together and formed a government for the new colony — the “Mayflower Compact.” The agreement laid out rules the colonists would live by and professed their loyalty to the King.

It was the first government document written by Englishmen in America and it established self-government for Plymouth. The colony lived by it until it became part of Massachusetts in 1691.

Mayflower Compact, Ferris
This painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris depicts the signing of the Mayflower Compact. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Growth in the Chesapeake Region and New England

Although Jamestown and Plymouth struggled at first, suffering from disease, lack of food, and conflicts with Native American Indians, they were able to survive — and eventually thrive. 

Over time, Virginia and Plymouth added new settlements and expanded deeper into Indian territory, although the settlements were still close to the Atlantic Coast. 

In Virginia, growth came in the form of large plantations, known as “Hundreds.” An early plantation was Bermuda Hundred, which was established in 1613. In New England, growth came in the form of small towns like Kingston, Quincy, and Salem — which was called Naumkeag at the time.

From 1620 to 1635, the old Virginia Company of Plymouth, which became known as the Council for New England, worked to establish colonies in New England. It played a role in the establishment of both Plymouth and Massachusetts but also helped create New Haven, New Hampshire, and the Province of Maine, which was part of Massachusetts.

The Dutch and Swedes Establish the Middle Colonies

In 1614, the Dutch founded New Netherland, which was followed by the Swedes establishing New Sweden in 1638. New Sweden struggled and in 1655 the Dutch invaded the colony and conquered it. 

Colonists did not arrive in New Netherland until 1624 when the Dutch West India Company established the first permanent settlement — Fort Orange. It was located on the Hudson River, at present-day Albany, New York. The following year, a second trading post, New Amsterdam, was established on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, at the mouth of the Hudson. 

Because the Dutch wanted to profit from their colonies through trade and natural resources, they allowed religious freedom. New Netherland was culturally and religiously diverse, which carried over after New Netherland was taken over by the English during the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

When England took control, New Netherland included present-day New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, but also had settlements in Connecticut and on Long Island.

The Patroon System

The West India Company encouraged people to emigrate to the colony with different incentives, including the “Patroon System.” Under the system, which was similar to the Headright System, investors were given land if they paid for immigrants to move to New Netherland and work at tenant farmers. In some cases, the investor, who was known as a “Patroon,” was required to purchase the land from the Indian Tribes. 

Many aspects of the Patroon System were controversial because it was modeled on European Feudalism. In the system, Patroons had control over the daily lives of the tenant farmers. It is estimated that in the early 1700s, five families owned nearly 2 million acres of land in the Province of New York.

The Great Puritan Migration Transforms New England

The Massachusetts Bay Company was established in 1629 and was granted land south of Plymouth by the Council for New England. Existing settlements in the colony’s territory were placed under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Company, however, Plymouth continued to operate as a separate colony.

The growth of New England was based on the desire of Puritans living in England to seek refuge from the oppression of the Church of England. Likewise, the English government was glad to be rid of the troublesome Puritans. 

This illustration depicts the arrival of John Winthrop and the Winthrop Fleet at Salem in 1630. Image Source: A Treasury of Knowledge and Cyclopaedia of History, Robert Sears, 1853,

The Puritans believed it was their destiny to create the perfect religious community in the New World, which Puritan leader John Winthrop referred to as a “city upon a hill.” They believed they were God’s chosen people and were expected to lead their lives in an orderly, disciplined fashion, and that hard work was a way to exhibit their dedication to their relationship with God.

In 1630, the Great Puritan Migration accelerated, and thousands of Puritans started sailing from England to Massachusetts. They tended to move in family groups, rather than as individuals. In a short time, Boston was settled and became the capital of the colony. 

The government in Massachusetts was tightly connected to the church, which is known as Theocracy. Although local governments were democratic in nature, they were also limited to men who were members of the church. Like in Virginia, men were allowed to vote and were called Freemen.

Not all Puritans agreed with the theocratic system and believed there should be a separation between the church and the government. Some of those who dissented from the Puritan point of view went on to found new colonies and settlements, including Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and Thomas Hooker

Puritan beliefs also contributed to the Salem Witch Trials in 1692–1693.

Religious tolerance was not recognized in Massachusetts until 1691 when it was taken over by the Crown and became a Royal Colony.

The Restoration Shapes the Middle Colonies

From 1642 to 1651, England was caught up in a civil between supporters of Parliament, known as Parliamentarians, and supporters of the King, known as Royalists. At the center of the dispute was Parliament’s intention to limit the power of King Charles I.

In 1649, the Parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, took control of England. Cromwell died in 1658, and the Parliamentarians struggled to retain control. The era, known as the Interregnum, ended in 1660 when the monarchy was restored and King Charles III took the throne.

The Middle Colonies took shape after the Restoration, and they are also known as the Restoration Colonies.

Oliver Cromwell, Portrait
Oliver Cromwell. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Growth of the Middle Colonies

In 1681, King Charles II granted land to William Penn, who wanted to create a haven in America for members of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. The colony was called Pennsylvania.

Penn intended to establish a model society in Pennsylvania, based on Quaker principles, similar to what the Puritans had intended to do in Massachusetts. The Quakers were more tolerant than the Quakers, and Pennsylvania instituted religious freedom and democratic government from the very beginning.

In 1664, the English captured New Amsterdam and took control of New Netherland. Then, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, the territory changed hands twice. First, the Dutch recaptured New Amsterdam in 1672, but the 1674 Treaty of Westminster that ended the war returned New Amsterdam, and the territory of New York, to the English. This gave the English control of the East Coast of America from Maine to the Carolinas. 

The fact that the Middle Colonies did not start as English colonies contributed to a diverse population, unlike the New England Colonies and the Southern Colonies. As a result, there was a diversity of religion, culture, and government.

William Penn, Landing in Pennsylvania, 1682
This print by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris depicts William Penn’s arrival in Pennsylvania in 1682. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Delaware — the Lower Three Counties

In 1681, Penn sent agents to explore the land that had been granted to him as Pennsylvania. The agents found that Pennsylvania’s access to Delaware Bay was under the control of New York on the west bank and New Jersey on the east bank. Penn worked out a deal with the Duke of York to rent the land on the western shore of the Delaware River, which became known as the “Lower Counties on Delaware.” 

As part of the arrangement, meetings of the General Assembly alternated between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Castle, Delaware. However, the travel was inconvenient, and in 1704 the Lower Counties was given its own General Assembly. In a unique situation, Pennsylvania and the Lower Colonies shared the same Governor.

Growth of the Southern Colonies and the Caribbean

The lower Southern Colonies and Caribbean Colonies were plantation-based societies that benefited from long, warm growing seasons. The nature of the economy in these regions led plantation owners to rely on the use of African slaves for the cash crops that were exported to other colonies and England.

The Carolinas

In 1663, King Charles II granted a charter to eight men, known as the Lords Proprietors, paving the way for English colonization of the territory south of Virginia. The Proprietors promised political freedom and religious freedom to immigrants and also encouraged settlement with the Headright System.

In 1691, the Proprietors agreed to appoint a Deputy Governor for the northern region. The province was officially divided in 1712.

By 1719, people living in South Carolina felt the Proprietors were not doing enough to protect them. In part, it was due to ongoing issues with the famous pirate, Edward Teach — Blackbeard — and the Yamasee War. As British subjects, the people sought protection from the Crown. The Crown agreed and Sir Francis Nicholson was appointed as the first Royal Governor of South Carolina.

For the next decade, the Crown worked to buy the rights to the Carolinas from the families of each of the original Lords Proprietors. By 1729, King George II had purchased nearly all the rights and both colonies became Royal Colonies, under Crown control. 


British officials looked to establish a colony between South Carolina and Florida in order to create a buffer between British and Spanish territory in the South. There was also a desire to create a place where the poor and destitute in England could be sent to give them a chance at a new life. 

A group of 21 Trustees oversaw the establishment of Georgia. In 1732, a ship called Anne was chartered and 114 colonists — men, women, and children, sailed to the new colony, under the leadership of Trustee General James Edward Oglethorpe.  The first colonists arrived in 1733 and founded Savannah.

Savannah Georgia in 1734, Illustration
This illustration depicts Savannah in 1734. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

By the 1740s, the economy of Georgia was struggling and failed to compete with the other colonies. Many of the colonists complained about the hard work and hot climate they had to endure in order to succeed and turned to the use of slaves. On January 1, 1751, Parliament voted in favor of officially allowing the Trustees to make use of slave labor in Georgia.

Sugar Cane in the British West Indies

In the British West Indies, plantations formed around the production of Sugar Cane, which was used to produce molasses. In turn, Molasses was used to make rum, which was important to the economy of New England, where rum distillation was a major industry.

In 1733, Parliament passed the Molasses Act. It was a Navigation Act that was intended to encourage American merchants to buy their molasses from the British plantations in the West Indies, instead of the Spanish or French plantations.

The act levied high taxes on barrels of non-British molasses and merchants were supposed to pay the taxes when their ships were inspected by British customs officials.

However, American merchants were able to smuggle Spanish and French molasses at a lower cost. If they were caught by customs officials, they simply bribed the officer, who was usually happy to look the other way.

Sugar Cane Plantation, Enslaved Workers, Sugar Act Image
This illustration depicts enslaved workers on a Sugar Cane Plantation. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Four Separate Regions in 1754

By 1754, the four regions of the British Colonies were well-established. However, they remained separate, because of cultural differences, economics, and geographical barriers. There was no incident or event strong enough or important enough to force the colonies to work together for a common cause.

The situation started to change in 1754. In anticipation of renewed hostilities with France, the Board of Trade asked colonial leaders to meet in Albany, New York. One reason for the Albany Congress was to develop a unified defensive strategy. However, some of the colonies from the Chesapeake and Southern Regions, including Virginia, declined to attend.

During the Albany Congress, Benjamin Franklin and others suggested an alliance of the colonies, known as the Albany Plan of Union. Although it was approved by the members of the Congress, it was rejected by colonial legislatures and British officials.

However, it was a significant event in American history, because it was the first time colonies from different regions discussed the formation of a unified colonial government.

Local Government Spreads Democratic Principles in Colonial America

After the House of Burgesses was established, the charters for the colonies usually provided for a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and a General Assembly. The assembly was elected by the colony’s voters, who were called Freemen. 

In Puritan colonies, church members could vote. In the other colonies, landowners could vote. 

This was something entirely new. In Europe, almost none of the Freemen in America would have been able to vote on anything. They would have been excluded due to their social standing or religious beliefs.

It is true that certain groups in the colonies — particularly women — were excluded from voting. However, women were also excluded from voting in other parts of the world. A rare exception is the Iroquois Confederacy, where women controlled the selection of chiefs for the Great Council and the affairs of their nations, tribes, and bands.

Indentured Servants and enslaved workers were also prohibited from voting, regardless of race, in all regions of the British Colonies. Again, this was the common practice at the time in most parts of the world.

Despite limited representation at the beginning, the House of Burgesses and the Mayflower Compact helped foster self-government and representative government in the English Colonies. 

The concept of local democracy, where many citizens had the right to vote, contributed to the ideas of the American Revolution, which ultimately led to the United States Constitution. Today, the United States of America stands as the world’s oldest, continuous democracy.

Geography – Mountain Ranges

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Geography. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order.

Appalachian Mountains

The Appalachian Mountains, stretching from present-day Alabama to Newfoundland, served as a natural barrier in the eastern portion of the British North American colonies during the 18th century. They influenced settlement patterns, as colonists found it challenging to cross this rugged terrain, contributing to the development of distinct regional cultures and economies.

Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob, NPS
The Appalachian Mountains, as seen from McAfee Knob. Image Source: National Park Service.

Blue Ridge Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are a prominent mountain range in eastern North America, extending from Georgia to Pennsylvania. Characterized by their distinctive bluish appearance, these mountains are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain system.

Geography – Territories

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Geography. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order. 

Carolina Backcountry

The Carolina Backcountry refers to the inland and western regions of the Carolinas during the colonial period. This area was characterized by its frontier conditions, including rugged terrain, dense forests, and limited European settlement. It was inhabited by a mix of Native American tribes and European colonists. Over time, the Carolina Backcountry became more settled and integrated into the broader colonial society.

New Hampshire Grants

The New Hampshire Grants, also known as the Bennington Grants, were a disputed land area in the colonial period, located in what is now Vermont. These land grants were issued by the colonial governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth, in the mid-18th century, after he became Governor of New Hampshire in 1741. The controversy over these land titles arose when New York also claimed jurisdiction over the same territory. This land dispute, known as the New Hampshire Grants Controversy, persisted for decades and had political implications, contributing to the region’s distinct identity and Vermont’s eventual statehood in 1791. It is most famous for being the home of Ethan Allen, a hero of the American Revolution, Seth Warner, the hero of the Battle of Hubbardton, and the Green Mountain Boys.

Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire
Benning Wentworth. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Ohio Valley Region

The Ohio Valley, located west of the Appalachian Mountains, was a significant region in British North America during the colonial period. It became a hotbed of conflict due to competing colonial claims and Native American alliances. The struggle for control over this fertile land played a pivotal role in the lead-up to the French and Indian War.

Piedmont Region

The Piedmont region, situated between the Appalachian Mountains and the coastal plain, was characterized by rolling hills and fertile soil. In the 18th century, it attracted settlers who engaged in agriculture, particularly tobacco cultivation. This region played a crucial role in the development of the Southern colonies’ plantation economy.

Tidewater Region

The Tidewater region, found along the Atlantic coast of Virginia and Maryland, was characterized by flat, low-lying terrain and a network of navigable rivers and estuaries. It played a significant role in the early history of the Southern colonies, serving as a hub for agriculture, particularly the cultivation of tobacco, and establishing a plantation-based economy. The Tidewater’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean also made it a crucial center for trade and commerce during the colonial era.

Geography — Waterways

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Geography. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay, located on the East Coast of North America, encompassed present-day Maryland and Virginia. It was a significant geographical feature in the colonial era, shaping the economies of both colonies. The Chesapeake Bay region was known for its tobacco cultivation, which was central to the economic success of the Southern colonies.

Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, a group of interconnected freshwater lakes in North America, were pivotal in the colonial period for their role in trade and transportation. They formed a vital link between the interior of the continent and the eastern coastal colonies, facilitating the movement of goods and people and shaping regional economies.

Hudson Bay

Hudson Bay, situated in northern North America, was a remote and sparsely settled area during the colonial period. It was primarily important for its fur trade, as European powers vied for control of this lucrative resource in the broader context of imperial competition.

Hudson River

 The Hudson River, flowing south from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, served as a crucial waterway for the Dutch and English colonists in the northeastern part of British North America. It facilitated trade and transportation, contributing to the economic development of New York and the surrounding region.

Kennebec River

The Kennebec River is a major waterway in the northeastern United States, flowing through the state of Maine. It extends for approximately 170 miles, originating in Moosehead Lake and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The Kennebec River played a crucial role in the region’s history, serving as a transportation route for Native American peoples, early European explorers, and settlers. It was also significant during the fur trade era and the logging industry.

Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain, located in the northern part of the American colonies, was strategically significant during the French and Indian War. Control of this waterway was contested between the British and the French due to its accessibility and role in the movement of troops and supplies.

Samuel de Champlain, Discovery of Lake Champlain, Illustration
This illustration depicts Samuel de Champlain during the discovery of Lake Champlain. Image Source: The Founder of New France: A Chronicle of Champlain by Charles W. Colby, 1920.

Ohio River

The Ohio River, flowing through the interior of North America, held great strategic and economic importance during the colonial period. It served as a natural boundary and a transportation corridor, facilitating westward expansion for settlers and traders. The Ohio River Valley became a focal point of colonial rivalries and conflicts, ultimately contributing to the outbreak of the French and Indian War.

Potomac River

The Potomac River is a major waterway on the East Coast of the United States, stretching approximately 405 miles from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay. It flows through multiple states, including West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Potomac River has historical significance as it served as a vital transportation route for early American settlers and played a pivotal role in the development of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

St. Lawrence River

The St. Lawrence River, running from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, was a vital waterway in the North American colonial landscape. It played a pivotal role in the fur trade, as it provided access to the interior of the continent. Additionally, the St. Lawrence River was a contested area between the British and the French, leading to conflicts such as the Seven Years’ War, known as the French and Indian War in the American colonies, over control of this crucial route.

Work, Exchange, and Technology — Business

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Work, Exchange, and Technology. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order. 

Council of New England

The Council for New England, established in 1620, was granted a royal charter by King James I to promote and oversee English colonization in the northeastern region of North America. Although it had limited success in establishing colonies directly, it played a role in encouraging settlement and laying the groundwork for future English colonies in New England, such as Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay.

Georgia Trustees

The Georgia Trustees were a group of philanthropists led by James Oglethorpe, established in the early 18th century, tasked with founding the colony of Georgia. Their mission was to create a haven for debtors and the impoverished, while also acting as a buffer between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. The Trustees’ strict regulations, including a ban on slavery and large landholdings, shaped the early development of Georgia.

Indentured Servitude

Indentured servitude was a labor system prevalent in the American colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. Under this arrangement, individuals, often impoverished or seeking passage to the New World, signed contracts (indentures) binding them to work for a specified number of years (typically 4-7) in exchange for passage, room, board, and eventual freedom. While indentured servants were not enslaved for life, their labor was controlled by masters, and they had limited legal rights. Indentured servitude was a significant source of labor in the colonial period, particularly in the Chesapeake region.

Joint-Stock Companies

 Joint stock companies were a prevalent form of business organization in the early colonial period. These companies allowed investors to pool their capital and share both profits and risks in ventures such as colonization. The most notable example was the Virginia Company, which financed the settlement of Jamestown in 1607.

Lords Proprietors of Carolina

The Lords Proprietors of Carolina were a group of eight English nobles who received a royal charter from King Charles II in 1663 to establish and govern the Carolina colony. They played a significant role in the colony’s early development, overseeing its governance and land distribution, and exerting substantial influence in shaping Carolina’s political and economic landscape.

Virginia Company of London

The Virginia Company of London was a Joint Stock Company founded in 1606 by King James I of England with the purpose of establishing colonies in the New World. The company received a charter from the king granting it the right to settle and govern a large area of land in what is now modern-day Virginia. The company funded the establishment of the Jamestown colony, which was the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Typically referred to as just the “Virginia Company,” it played a key role in the colonization and development of the region, but it eventually lost its charter and was dissolved in 1624.

Virginia Company of Plymouth

The Virginia Company of Plymouth, also known as the Plymouth Company, was an English Joint Stock Company established in 1606. It was one of the two companies granted charters by King James I to colonize North America, the other being the Virginia Company of London. The Plymouth Company wanted to establish settlements in the northern parts of Virginia, which included present-day New England. The Plymouth Company’s charter was eventually revoked, and its territory was absorbed by the Massachusetts Bay Company.

King James I of England, Portrait, Critz
King James I. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Power and Politics — British Legislation and Policies

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Power and Politics. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order. 

English Bill of Rights (1689)

On December 16, 1689, the English Bill of Rights was passed. It was designed to control the power of the monarchy and make it subject to the laws of Parliament. It was the product of the Glorious Revolution, which permanently established the ruling power of Parliament. The English Bill of Rights set the stage for a constitutional monarchy in England.


Mercantilism was an economic theory and policy that dominated European thinking in the 16th to 18th centuries. It emphasized the idea that a nation’s wealth and power were determined by its accumulation of precious metals, primarily gold and silver. To achieve this, mercantilist governments sought to maintain a favorable balance of trade by exporting more than they imported, establishing colonies to provide raw materials, and enacting protectionist measures like tariffs and monopolies. Mercantilism had a profound influence on colonial economic policies and contributed to tensions between American colonies and Britain, which sought to extract economic benefits from its colonial possessions.

Molasses Act (1733)

The Molasses Act of 1733 was a piece of British legislation that imposed high import duties on molasses, rum, and sugar imported into the American colonies from non-British Caribbean sources, primarily the French West Indies. The act aimed to protect the sugar plantations in the British West Indies and generate revenue for the British Crown. However, it was widely evaded through smuggling and was deeply unpopular among colonial merchants, contributing to the rise of illicit trade and colonial opposition to British economic policies. However, the unwritten policy of Salutary Neglect contributed to lax enforcement of the law’s provisions.

Navigation Acts

The Navigation Acts were a series of British laws passed in the 17th and 18th centuries to regulate colonial trade and ensure that most of it benefited the British Empire. These acts required that certain colonial goods could only be transported in British ships, that goods bound for the colonies had to pass through British ports, and that certain key exports (like tobacco and sugar) could only be sold to Britain. These measures were intended to maintain British economic dominance over the American colonies but also generated tension and resentment, ultimately contributing to colonial discontent that led to the American Revolution.

Salutary Neglect

Salutary Neglect was a policy of British non-interference in the internal affairs of its American colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. This policy allowed the American colonies a degree of self-governance and economic freedom. While British laws were technically in place, they were often loosely enforced, leading to a sense of autonomy among colonial governments and businesses. Salutary Neglect encouraged self-reliance and self-government in the colonies, but it eventually ended with increased British control and regulation, contributing to colonial discontent and the American Revolution.

Power and Politics — Colonial Legislation

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Power and Politics. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order.

Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall (1610)

The “Lawes Divine, Morall, and Martiall” were a set of rules and regulations established in 1610 for the English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia. These laws, devised under the leadership of Sir Thomas Gates and Sir Thomas Dale, aimed to maintain order, discipline, and social cohesion in the struggling colony. They covered aspects of daily life, including religious practices, social behavior, and military organization, reflecting the challenges and priorities of the early years of English colonization in America.

Great Charter of Virginia (1619)

The “Great Charter of Virginia,” also known as the “Charter of the Virginia Company of London,” was a foundational document issued in 1619. It granted the Virginia Company settlers certain rights and privileges, including the establishment of an assembly (the House of Burgesses) with the authority to make local laws. This charter marked a crucial step in the evolution of representative government in the American colonies.

Mayflower Compact (1620)

The Mayflower Compact, signed in 1620 aboard the Mayflower ship by Pilgrim colonists heading to Plymouth, Massachusetts, is a significant historical document. It established a social contract among the settlers, outlining principles of self-governance and cooperation. This compact laid the groundwork for democratic governance in the New England colonies and remains an early example of a written constitution in American history.

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (1639)

The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, adopted in 1639, is often considered one of the earliest written constitutions in American history. It established a government structure for the Connecticut Colony and emphasized the importance of representative government. This document served as a model for later colonial and state constitutions, reflecting the democratic principles that would shape the United States’ political development.

Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641)

The Massachusetts Body of Liberties, enacted in 1641, was a comprehensive legal code in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was a pioneering document in American legal history, codifying individual rights and providing a framework for due process and the rule of law. It served as an early model for the protection of civil liberties and became an influence on subsequent colonial and state legal systems.

Maryland Act of Toleration (1649)

The Maryland Act of Toleration passed in 1649, was one of the earliest examples of religious tolerance in the American colonies. It granted religious freedom to all Christians, including Catholics, in the Maryland colony. This act was a response to religious tensions in the region and sought to promote religious diversity and peaceful coexistence.

Concession and Agreement of the Lords Proprietors of the Province of New Caesarea, or New Jersey (1668)

On June 24, 1664, the Duke of York gave the territory that became New Jersey to Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Berkeley and Carteret wrote the “Concession and Agreement,” which guaranteed land to settlers, along with religious freedom and personal rights they did not have in England, and it provided for a General Assembly — a representative government — elected by the people. One of the most important things the Concession and Agreement did was establish that only the assembly of New Jersey could levy taxes on the citizens. 

New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges (1683)

The New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges, issued in 1683 by the English colonial governor Thomas Dongan, provided certain rights and freedoms to the inhabitants of New York. It included provisions related to representation, property rights, and the administration of justice. This charter played a role in shaping the legal framework of New York and its relationship with the British Crown.

Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties (1701)

The Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties established the legal framework for the colony of Pennsylvania. It emphasized religious freedom, trial by jury, and representative government. It reflected William Penn’s commitment to religious tolerance and democratic principles, making Pennsylvania a haven for religious minorities and a pioneer in colonial governance.

Power and Politics — English Wars

Anglo-Dutch Wars

The Anglo-Dutch Wars were a series of conflicts that occurred in the 17th century between the English and Dutch Republic (Netherlands). These wars primarily revolved around commercial and colonial rivalry, as both nations sought control of valuable trade routes and overseas territories. The First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654), the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667), and the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674) were marked by naval battles and had significant implications for the balance of power in Europe and global trade. The final conflict ended with England taking control of New Netherland.

Power and Politics — Colonial Rebellions, Revolts, and Uprisings

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Power and Politics. These Terms are listed in chronological order. 

Bacon’s Rebellion (1675–1676)

Bacon’s Rebellion, which took place in 1676 in the Virginia Colony, was a significant uprising led by Nathaniel Bacon against the colonial government, primarily due to grievances related to land rights, Native American conflicts, and perceived unfair treatment by the colonial elite. The rebellion highlighted tensions between settlers on the frontier and the ruling class in Jamestown. While it was ultimately suppressed, it had lasting implications for Virginia’s social and political structure, including increased reliance on African slave labor.

Bacon's Rebellion, Burning Jamestown
This illustration depicts the Burning of Jamestown that took place during Bacon’s Rebellion. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Coode’s Rebellion (1689)

Coode’s Rebellion was a revolt against the Calverts led by John Coode. The uprising took place in the wake of the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the Protestant monarchs William and Mary being placed on the English throne. Coode organized a Puritan army called the “Protestant Associators” and fought with Maryland’s provincial forces, which were led by Catholic planter Henry Darnall. Coode and the Puritans won and took control of the colony. In the aftermath, Maryland became a Royal Colony. Coode remained in control until 1691 when the new Royal Governor, Nehemiah Blakiston, arrived. Soon after, restrictions were applied to Catholics, and the Church of England was established as the official church of Maryland.

Leisler’s Rebellion (1689–1691)

Leisler’s Rebellion was a significant event that occurred in the late 17th century, specifically in New York, from 1689 to 1691. It was led by Jacob Leisler, a German-born merchant, and militia captain. The rebellion arose in the context of political unrest following the Glorious Revolution in England. Leisler and his supporters, primarily from the Protestant merchant class, seized control of New York City and established a provisional government. The rebellion highlighted tensions between colonists of Dutch and English descent, as well as political and religious divisions. Ultimately, it ended with Leisler’s arrest and execution for treason in 1691.

New York Slave Revolt (1712)

The New York Slave Revolt of 1712 was a significant slave uprising in the city of New York. Enslaved Africans and some Native Americans staged a rebellion, resulting in a violent confrontation with white colonists. The revolt was brutally suppressed, leading to the execution of several enslaved individuals and the enactment of stricter slave codes in the colony. This event highlighted the tension and oppression faced by enslaved people in the northern colonies during the early 18th century.

New York Slave Conspiracy (1741)

The New York Slave Conspiracy of 1741, also known as the Great Negro Plot, was a widespread fear of a supposed slave insurrection in the city of New York. The panic led to the arrest, trial, and execution of numerous enslaved individuals, as well as some poor whites. Historians continue to debate the extent of an actual conspiracy, but the event reflects the anxieties and social divisions in the colony, including concerns about slave revolts and social unrest.

Power and Politics — Colonial Alliances and Confederacies

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Politics and Power. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order. 

Covenant Chain with the Iroquois

The Covenant Chain with the Iroquois refers to a series of agreements and diplomatic relationships established between the British colonies in North America, particularly New York, and the Iroquois Confederacy during the 17th and 18th centuries. This alliance was built on mutual cooperation and trade, with the British providing goods and protection in exchange for the Iroquois’ support and assistance in various conflicts. The Covenant Chain played a significant role in shaping colonial and indigenous relations, contributing to the balance of power and diplomatic complexities in the northeastern region. In 1753, a delegation of Iroquois declared the Covenant Chain was broken, because British settlers continued to encroach on their lands.

Dominion of New England

The Dominion of New England was a short-lived administrative entity created by King James II of England in 1686. It aimed to strengthen royal control over the American colonies and consolidate them into a single administrative unit. The Dominion included New England, New York, and the Jerseys. Sir Edmund Andros was appointed as its governor-general. The Dominion of New England faced resistance from colonial assemblies and religious groups, leading to its downfall after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689. The overthrow of the Dominion marked a return to colonial self-government and played a role in shaping the future structure of American colonial governance.

Edmund Andros, Portrait
Sir Edmund Andros. Image Source: Wikipedia.

New England Confederation

Following the Pequot War, the Puritan colonies in New England formed an alliance. The colonies were Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Saybrook, and New Haven. The purpose of the alliance, which is also called the “United Colonies of New England,” was to defend against attacks from Indian tribes and New Netherland, while promoting the Puritan faith. The New England Confederation also dealt with boundary disputes and coordinated military efforts during the English Civil War. The alliance was replaced with the Dominion of New England.

Culture and Society — Puritan Origins, Beliefs, and Practices

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Culture and Society. These Terms are listed in alphabetical order. 

John Calvin

John Calvin was a 16th-century French theologian and reformer, known for his role in the development of the theology of Reformed Christianity, which is also known as Calvinism. His influential work “Institutes of the Christian Religion” laid out key theological principles, including predestination and the absolute sovereignty of God. Calvin’s teachings had a profound impact on the Protestant Reformation and influenced the development of various Reformed and Presbyterian traditions.


Calvinism is a branch of Protestantism founded on the theological principles of John Calvin. It emphasizes the doctrines of predestination (the belief that God has preordained the salvation or damnation of individuals) and the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life. Calvinism has had a significant influence on the development of Protestant theology and has given rise to various denominations, including Reformed, Presbyterian, and some Baptist churches.

Church of England

The Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, is the national church of England. It was established during the English Reformation in the 16th century by King Henry VIII, who sought to assert his authority over the church and separate it from papal control. The Church of England retained many Catholic traditions and practices while adopting some Protestant theology. It has since evolved into a diverse denomination with a broad range of theological views.


Congregationalism is a form of Protestant church governance and theology that emphasizes the independence of congregations that are formed by voluntary compacts. Each congregation governs itself, based on a specific set of rules and the rules applied to all aspects of religious and social life — inside and outside of church services. There was no distinction between church and state in Puritan communities. However, male members of the church had a higher social status and were also allowed to vote for “selectmen” who were responsible for managing the daily affairs of a town.

English Reformation

The English Reformation was England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church and the establishment of the Church of England (Anglican Church) as a separate entity under the control of the English monarch. This movement, driven by various factors including King Henry VIII’s desire for an annulment, political power struggles, and theological debates, resulted in changes in religious practices and the relationship between the English Crown and the church.

Halfway Covenant

Puritans who emigrated to America believed each of them had been predestined by God for salvation. Those people were referred to as the “Elect.” However, they could not be fully accepted into the church until they underwent a conversion experience and testified to it in front of the congregation. Once they could testify, they were allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper — communion — and have their children baptized. 

After moving to America, the children of many Puritans did not have a conversion experience. This created concerns over the future of individual churches. 

The Halfway Covenant was introduced in 1662. It allowed all children to be baptized into the church, but they were not admitted as full church members until they were at least 14 years old and could testify to their conversion experience.

This modification to church membership requirements was intended to maintain the church’s influence and increase participation in religious life.

King Henry VIII

King Henry VIII of England (1491–1547) was a significant figure in the history of the English Reformation. His desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had not borne him a male heir, led to a break with the Roman Catholic Church. Henry VIII established the Church of England in the 1530s, with himself as the head, a move that allowed him to annul his marriage and remarry. This event marked the beginning of the English Reformation and removed England from papal authority.

King Henry VIII, Portrait
King Henry VIII established the Church of England. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German monk, theologian, and reformer who is often credited with sparking the Protestant Reformation. In 1517, he famously posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, criticizing the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences. Luther’s teachings emphasized salvation by faith alone and the authority of the Bible.

Original Sin

Original sin is a Christian doctrine that asserts that all humans inherit a sinful nature as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. According to this belief, sinfulness is a universal condition from birth, and it separates humanity from God. The concept of original sin has been especially prominent in Western Christian traditions, including Catholicism and various Protestant denominations, influencing their views on salvation and the need for redemption through faith in Jesus Christ.


Puritans were members of the Church of England who wanted to “purify” the church and remove anything that was not mentioned in the Bible. The word was initially used as an insult to identify people associated with the group. Ultimately, there were two Puritan groups. The first was the Separatists, who believed the Church of England was so corrupt they had to separate themselves from it. The non-separating Puritans remained part of the Church of England and worked to reform the church from within. Both groups were Congregationalists and both believed they had covenants — contracts — with God because they had been elected — predestined — as His chosen people

Puritan Work Ethic

Puritan Work Ethic emphasized the values of hard work, thrift, frugality, and a strong sense of duty as essential components of a righteous and virtuous life. Puritans believed that worldly success and prosperity were signs of God’s favor and that diligent labor was a means of fulfilling their religious calling. Puritans believed God intended them to perform work, rather than to rely on others to do the work on their behalf.


Predestination is a theological doctrine associated with Calvinism, which asserts that God has already determined the eternal fate of individuals — whether they will be saved or damned — before they are born. It is a controversial and complex theological concept that emphasizes God’s sovereignty in salvation. Predestination has been a subject of debate and discussion within Christian theology for centuries.

Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation, which began in the early 16th century, was a religious and social movement that challenged the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. It led to the establishment of various Protestant denominations and significantly altered the religious landscape in Europe. Key figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin played pivotal roles in the Reformation, which was marked by theological debates, the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages, and the emergence of new religious traditions.

Culture and Society — Important Events

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Culture and Society. These Terms are listed in chronological order. 

Battle of Severn (1655)

In 1655, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector and a Puritan, required English subjects to submit to the Commissioners of Parliament. Governor Willliam Stone, a Catholic, refused and planned to attack Puritans living in Providence, Maryland, who were led by William Fuller. Stone gathered his forces and attacked on March 25 at Horn Point. The Puritans won the battle and took control of Maryland until 1657 when control was restored to the Calverts.

Salem Witch Trials (1692–1693)

The Salem Witch Trials were a series of infamous events that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, between 1692 and 1693. These trials and persecutions were marked by the mass hysteria and accusations of witchcraft. Many individuals, primarily women but also some men, were accused of practicing witchcraft, and numerous trials took place, resulting in 20 executions by hanging and one individual pressed to death with heavy stones. The Salem Witch Trials are often cited as a cautionary tale of religious extremism, fear, and the dangers of mob mentality in colonial America. They also had lasting cultural and legal implications, influencing later perceptions of witch hunts and the protection of individual rights in the American legal system.

Salem Witch Trials, Howard Pyle
This illustration by Howard Pyle depicts the Salem Witch Trials. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Politics and Power — 13 Original Colonies

The following APUSH Terms and Definitions fall under the theme of Politics and Power. The colonies are listed in order the first European settlements were established.

1. Virginia (1607)

Virginia was the first successful English Colony and started with the establishment of Jamestown in 1607. It was a business venture, intended to mine gold and silver, which were never found. Around 1612, John Rolfe planted a new kind of tobacco that was successful and became Virginia’s first Cash Crop.

2. New York (1614)

The Colony of New Netherland was established in 1614, but colonists did not arrive until 1624. That was the year the Dutch West India Company established the first permanent settlement — Fort Orange —  in New Netherland. Fort Orange was on the Hudson River, at present-day Albany, New York. The following year, a second trading post, New Amsterdam, was established on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, at the mouth of the Hudson.  In 1664, English forces captured New Amsterdam. Soon after, King Charles II gave the colony to his brother, James, the Duke of York, who renamed it “New York.”  Although Dutch control was restored in 1673, England regained control in 1674.

3. New Jersey (1620)

The territory that became New Jersey was originally part of New Netherland and then New York. The Dutch established a trading post at Bergen in 1620, which was followed by others including Fort Nassau and Pavonia, which is present-day Jersey City. In 1638, the Swedes moved into the area and established New Sweden. In 1655, New Netherland captured New Sweden and incorporated the settlements. After the English took control of New Netherland, the area was renamed New Jersey. The Duke of York granted the land between the Hudson River and Delaware River to his friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley. At one point, the colony was divided into East Jersey and West Jersey. In 1702, the two regions were merged into a Royal Colony called the Province of New Jersey.

4. Massachusetts (1620)

Massachusetts was founded by Puritans seeking religious freedom in the New World. It started with the establishment of Plymouth Colony in 1620. More colonists followed the Pilgrims and established settlements like Salem, however, most of those became part of Massachusetts Bay Colony, which received its charter in 1629. Over time, Plymouth also became part of Massachusetts. Strict Puritan enforcement of religious ideology led to the banishment of some colonists, including Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, who founded other colonies.

5. New Hampshire (1623)

The establishment of the New Hampshire Colony started in 1622 when the Council for New England gave a grant to Captain John Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges for the territory between the Merrimack River and Kennebec River. In 1623, two settlements were established along the Piscataqua River. In 1629, Mason and Gorges divided the territory in the colony, and Mason was given a grant for his portion, which he called “New Hampshire.” New Hampshire was founded as a business venture and often fell under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

6. Delaware (1631)

The first European settlement in Delaware was established by the Dutch in 1631 near present-day Lewes, Delaware. However, the settlement was destroyed in a dispute with local Indians. The first permanent European settlement was Fort Christina, which was built by Peter Minuit in 1638 at present-day Wilmington. It was the first settlement of New Sweden. Like the other Middle Colonies, Delaware changed hands from the Dutch to the English. In 1681, William Penn sent agents to explore the land that had been granted to him as Pennsylvania. They found that Pennsylvania’s access to Delaware Bay was under the control of New York on the west bank and New Jersey on the east bank. Penn worked out a deal with the Duke of York to rent the land on the western shore of the Delaware River, which became known as the “Lower Counties on Delaware.”

7. Maryland (1632)

Maryland was founded in April 1632 when King Charles I granted a charter to Cecilius Calvert, Lord Baltimore. Like Virginia, Maryland was a plantation colony, focused on the growth of tobacco as a Cash Crop. Maryland was intended to be a haven for English Catholics but also tolerated other religions. Over time, Protestants took control of Maryland and placed restrictions on Catholics.

8. Connecticut (1636)

Connecticut was officially founded in 1636 when a group of Puritans, led by Thomas Hooker, left Massachusetts and established a settlement at present-day Hartford. The three River Towns — Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor formed a unified government under the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the first written constitution in America. Connecticut purchased Saybrook Colony in 1642 and New Haven Colony merged into Connecticut in 1665.

9. Rhode Island (1636)

Rhode Island started in 1636 when Roger Williams purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and established a settlement, which he called Providence Plantations, on the east bank of the Moshassuck River, on Narragansett Bay. Williams was a Separatist minister, who was banished from Massachusetts in 1635 for his religious beliefs and criticism of Puritan leaders and the King. Two years later, another group of Massachusetts dissidents, led by Anne Hutchinson, founded Portsmouth.

The Banishment of Roger Williams (c. 1850) by Peter F. Rothermel. Image Source: Wikipedia.

10. Pennsylvania (1638)

In 1638, the Colony of New Sweden was established by the settlement of Fort Christina at present-day Wilmington, Delaware. Five years later, Fort New Gothenburg was built on Tinicum Island which is the present-day site of the Philadelphia International Airport. It became the first permanent European settlement in what would become Pennsylvania. In 1681, King Charles II granted a charter to William Penn for the establishment of a new colony between Maryland and New York. The King named the new colony Pennsylvania, in honor of Penn’s father, Admiral William Penn. The first settlers arrived in December 1681 and Penn arrived in October 1682.

11. South Carolina (1663)

In 1663, King Charles II granted a charter to eight men, known as the Lords Proprietors, paving the way for English colonization of the territory south of Virginia. The Proprietors promised political freedom and religious freedom to immigrants and also encouraged settlement with the Headright System. However, the natural terrain divided Carolina into two distinct regions, and it was officially divided in 1712. 

By 1719, people living in South Carolina felt the Proprietors were not doing enough to protect them from pirates and Indians. As British subjects, the people sought protection from the Crown. The Crown agreed and Sir Francis Nicholson was appointed as the first Royal Governor of South Carolina. South Carolina focused on rice, Cotton, Tobacco, and Indigo plantations.

12. North Carolina (1663)

After South Carolina became a Royal Colony, the Crown worked to buy the rights to the Carolinas from the families of each of the original Lords Proprietors. By 1729, King George II had purchased nearly all the rights and both colonies became Royal Colonies, under Crown control. The only family that retained its rights was that of George Carteret.  North Carolina had a significant agricultural industry with Tobacco, Rice, Indigo, and livestock.

13. Georgia (1732)

British officials looked to establish a colony between South Carolina and Florida in order to create a buffer between British and Spanish territory in the South. There was also a desire to create a place where the poor and destitute in England could be sent to give them a chance at a new life. A group of Trustees oversaw the establishment of Georgia. The first colonists arrived in 1733 and started laying out the town of Savannah. Colonists were given 50 acres of land and silkworms as an incentive to help Georgia prosper.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Regions of British Colonies — APUSH 2.3 Notes, Review, and Terms
  • Date 1607–1754
  • Author
  • Keywords AP US History, Regions of the British Colonies, New England Colonies, Chesapeake Colonies, Middle Colonies, Caribbean Colonies
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 12, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 23, 2024