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Pre-Columbus to Colonial and Revolutionary Periods Timeline
30,00020,000
BCE
Native Americans cross Bering Strait from Asia to North America
1000 AD
Lief Erikson, Norse sailor, explores North America including Vinland (Newfoundland).
1450
Gutenberg perfects moveable type.
1492
Spanish Reconquista - Spain unified under rule of Ferdinand and Isabella. Jews and Moors expelled from Spain.
1492
Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain, explores Caribbean including San Salvador (Bahamas), Hispanola (Santa
Domingo) and Cuba.
1497
John Cabot, sailing for Britain, explores North America.
1498
Amerigo Vespucci, sailing for Spain, explores South American coast.
1507
New World referred to as "America" by German mapmaker who erroneously credits explorer Amerigo Vespucci with the
discovery of the continent.
1513
Juan Ponce de Leon, sailing for Spain, explores Florida.
1518
Hernan Cortes of Spain defeats Aztec emperor Montezuma in Mexico.
1524
Giovanni de Verrazano sailing for France explores New York Harbor, the Hudson River and Nova Scotia.
1534
Jacques Cartier, sailing for France explores the coast of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island (Canada). He will later
explore the St. Lawrence River as far as Quebec and Montreal.
1539
Hernando de Soto of Spain explores what is today the Southeast United States.
1540
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado of Spain explores what is today the Southwest United States.
1565
St. Augustine (Florida) founded by Spanish settlers. This constitutes the first permanent European settlement in North
America.
1585
Sir Walter Raleigh organizes the colonization of Roanoke Island, Virginia (today, North Carolina) by the British. The colony
lasts for one year. Another attempt to settle the colony in 1587 also fails when the colony disappears without a trace
sometime before 1590.
1588
English Navy defeats Spanish Armada.
1590
Richard Hakluyt publishes an anthology of notable voyages to the New World which includes accounts by English explorers
and settlers including Francis Drake, Humphrey Gilbert and Walter Raleigh. A second edition is published 1598 and piques
English interest in the exploration and colonization of the New World.
1607
Jamestown colony founded under a patent of the London Company.
1608
French explorer Samuel Champlain founds Quebec, the first permanent French settlement in North America.
1612
Tobacco introduced in Virginia colony by John Rolfe.
1613
Dutch colonists form settlements in New Amsterdam (later New York City) and by the 1620s, elsewhere in a colony called
New Netherlands (New York).
1619
House of Burgesses, an elective legislative assembly, created in Virginia colony.
1619
First black slaves arrive in Virginia.
1620
Pilgrims arrive in Plymouth (Massachusetts) and sign Mayflower Compact. Plymouth is absorbed by their larger, Puritan
neighbor Massachusetts Bay in 1691.
1628
Massachusetts Bay Colony first settled by Puritans. John Winthrop arrives two years later and becomes their leader.
1629
King Charles I dissolves Parliament and rules without it until 1640.
1634
Lord Baltimore founds Maryland which is settled mainly by English Roman Catholics. Initially, some religious freedom is
permitted.
1635
Roger Williams, exiled from Massachusetts Bay Colony for advocating separation between church and state and for
questioning the validity of the Massachusetts Bay charter. In 1636 he founds Providence (Rhode Island) and establishes a
policy of religious tolerance there. The colony is recognized and granted a charter by England in 1644.
1636
Puritan clergyman Thomas Hooker and others leave Massachusetts and found Hartford (later the colony of Connecticut).
1636
Harvard College founded.
1638
Anne Hutchinson is tried and ex-communicated. She leaves Massachusetts and goes to Rhode Island where she founds
the town of Portsmouth.
1638
Sweden establishes a colony, New Sweden in what is present day Delaware. The colony is dominated by Swedish and
Dutch settlers.
1639
Puritan settlers found New Hampshire led by John Wheelwright.
1642
Civil War breaks out in England between supporters of King Charles and Parliamentarians and Puritans.
1647
Massachusetts law requires that all sizable towns institute some form of public education.
1649
King Charles I (a Stuart) is executed in England. Puritan Oliver Cromwell creates a Commonwealth in place of the
monarchy.
1651
First Navigation Act passed by Parliament. No colonial goods may be imported to England in non-English ships.
1660
The Royal House of Stuart returns to the throne in England when Charles II assumes the throne, ending the Interregnum.
1660
Navigation Act of 1660 requires only English built vessels with crews that are at least three- quarters English may trade in the
American colonies. Certain enumerated goods of colonial origin - including indigo, sugar and tobacco - may only be shipped
to England or to other English colonies.
1663
Charles II creates the colony of Carolina (later North and South Carolina). The proprietors of the colony (led by Anthony
Ashley Cooper) establish a feudal society there.
1663
Navigation Act requires that all imports to the American colonies from other European countries must be transported from
England on English ships.
1664
Sir George Carteret and John, Lord Berkeley found New Jersey.
1664
After a naval blockade and without a shot being fired, Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant surrenders New Netherlands to
English forces. The English rename the colony New York in honor of the Duke of York. The Dutch are permitted to stay and
are granted religious freedom.
1664
The Maryland Colony passes a law that mandates the life long servitude of black slaves. New York, New Jersey, the
Carolinas, and Virginia will later pass such laws.
1667
The Virginia House of Burgesses passes a law stating that the conversion of blacks to Christianity does not bring about their
release from servitude. This law encourages planters to convert more slaves to Christianity.
1673
French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet "discover" the interior of North America including the Great
Lakes and the Mississippi River. In 1682 French explorer LaSalle reaches the mouth of the Mississippi and claims the
surrounding territory, which he names Louisiana for Louis XIV of France.
1676
Nathaniel Bacon leads a group of frontiersmen from Western Virginia in a rebellion against Virginia Governor William
Berkeley which results in Bacon’s burning of Jamestown. Bacon and fellow rebels also crush the Susquehannock Indians
who have been attacking the settlers of Western Virginia. The rebelliondisintegrate when Bacon dies suddenly in October
1676.
1680
New Hampshire, long a territory of Massachusetts, becomes an independent colony.
1681
William Penn, a Quaker, receives a charter from King Charles II making him proprietor of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was
characterized by a government which permitted religious tolerance and which sought friendly relations with local Indian
tribes. Many settlers of Pennsylvania are Quakers.
1686
King James II creates the Dominion of New England and names Edmund Andros its governor. The Dominion includes all of
the colonies north of Pennsylvania and deprives the colonies of their independent status and dissolves their colonial
legislatures.
1688
King James II is deposed in what is known as the Glorious Revolution. James II's fervent Catholicism and disregard for
traditional civil liberties and absolutist acts alienated many and led to the Revolution. American colonists have similar
objections to James II.
1689
William and Mary of Orange become King and Queen of England. Parliament passes a Bill of Rights protecting the liberties
of Englishmen.
1689
Edmund Andros is jailed and the Dominion of New England dissolves in the colonial response to the Glorious
Revolution. New England colonies, one by one reestablish their representative assemblies.
1690
King William’s War begins in the colonies. American colonists fight French and Indians.
1692
Hysteria over the presence of alleged witches in Salem, Massachusetts leads to the execution of 20 individuals - 14 of them
women.
1696
Navigation Act of 1696 limits all colonial trade to English built ships.
1697
Treaty of Ryswick between England and France ends King William’s War.
1699
Wool Act (a Navigation Act) forbids the export of wool from the American colonies in an effort to protect Britain’s wool
industry.
1700
Colonial population is about 275,000; Boston is the largest city with 7000 inhabitants.
1702
Queen Anne’s War (the War of Spanish Succession) begins. In America, English and colonists fight French, Spanish and
Indians.
1703
Delaware breaks away from Pennsylvania and forms a separate government. The region had originally been settled by
Swedes and called New Sweden.
1713
Treaty of Utrecht ends Queen Anne's War.
1717
Scots-Irish immigration becomes prevalent. Most settle in Western Pennsylvania. Significant numbers of Germans (known
as Pennsylvania Dutch) also begin to settle in Pennsylvania at about this time. Non-English settlement is already common
in New York State.
1732
Georgia colony founded by James Oglethorpe and his partners. Oglethorpe sees the colony as a haven for those in debtors'
prisons.
1732
Benjamin Franklin begins publication of "Poor Richard's Almanac", a compilation of weather predictions, proverbs and
epigrams.
1733
Molasses Act - places high duties on all sugar, rum and molasses from non-British islands in the Caribbean. It is designed
to protect British planters in the West Indies.
1734
Jonathan Edwards, Congregationalist clergyman preaches a series of sermons in Northampton Massachusetts that initiate
the Great Awakening. Over the next ten years a eligious revival, led by Edwards and George Whitefield, sweeps the
country.
1740
King George’s War (the War of Austrian Succession) begins in Europe. The American phase largely occurs between 17431748.
1745
During King George's War, American forces capture the French fort of Louisbourg at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.
1748
Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle concludes King George's War - Louisbourg is returned to the French.
1750
Iron Act passed by Parliament - bans the construction of iron mills and steel furnaces in the American colonies. This is
designed to protect the British iron industry.
1754
The French and Indian War (the Seven Years War) begins.
1754
Albany Congress - at an intercolonial meeting, Benjamin Franklin presents his Albany Plan to unify the English colonies in
America. The plan is later rejected by individual colonial assemblies and by the British government.
1760
George III becomes King of England.
1760
The population of the 13 colonies is approximately 1.6 million.
1763
Treaty of Paris concludes the French and Indian War - France gives England all her territory in North America including
Canada and all lands east of the Mississippi River. France holds on to a few islands in the Caribbean and to the port city of
New Orleans.
1763
Proclamation of 1763 issued by King George forbids American settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains.
1764
Sugar Act passed by Parliament as a means of raising revenue from the American colonists. An accompanying act provides
a means of more effective enforcement of existing acts.
1764
Committee of correspondence formed by Massachusetts House of Representatives to communicate common grievances
with other colonies.
1765
Stamp Act - a direct tax on all printed material in the American colonies. Colonists protest act through mob action, boycotts
of British goods, the Stamp Act Congress, etc. Many colonists refuse to pay the tax.
1765
Quartering Act - requires colonies to house British troops in the American colonies.
1765
Stamp Act Congress meets and protests taxation without representation and other British measures as violations of the
colonists’ rights as British citizens.
1766
Stamp Act repealed by Parliament on same day that it passes the Declaratory Act.
1766
Declaratory Act - declares Parliamentary supremacy over American colonies "in all cases whatsoever."
1767
Townshend Acts - place duties on colonial importation of glass, lead, paints, paper and tea for purpose of raising revenue to
pay for the defense and administration of the American colonies. Widespread American boycotts of British goods
result. Several colonial legislatures protest the acts.
1770
Boston Massacre - British troops fire on a belligerent Boston mob. Three colonists are killed, eight are injured.
1770
Townshend Acts repealed by Parliament except for the tax on tea
1770
Population of the American colonies is about 2,205,000.
1773
Tea Act - repeals export tax on English tea heading for America, but maintains three penny import tax on Americans. A
virtual tea monopoly is granted to the East India Company. A widespread boycott of British tea results.
1773
Boston Tea Party. Boston colonists empty East India Company tea into Boston Harbor in protest of Tea Act.
1774
Coercive (Intolerable) Acts passed by Parliament in response to the continuing rebelliousness of the Massachusetts
Colony. The Boston Port Act forbids any trade ships from entering or leaving Boston harbor until the East Indian company is
reimbursed for tea. The Administration of Justice Act allows British officials accused of crimes in Massachusetts to be tried in
British, rather than American courts. The Government Act dissolved the Massachusetts Assembly and provided that all
Massachusetts officials be appointed by the King or the royal governor. The act also limited the number of town meetings in
the towns of the colony to one a year. The Quartering Act authorized the army to quarter troop wherever needed in all British
colonies.
1774
The Quebec Act created a government for British Canada that did not include an elective assembly and jury trials were not
guaranteed. The Southern boundary of Canada was defined as the Ohio River which meant that it included territory claimed
by various American colonies.
1774
First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia with representatives from all of the colonies except Georgia. The Congress
issues a Declaration and Resolves which oppose the Coercive Acts and other British measures and which assert the rights of
colonists and colonial assemblies.
1775
Battles of Lexington and Concord erupt between Massachusetts militia and British troops when British troops march to
Concord to destroy a colonial arms depot there. Revolutionary War begins.
1775
Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia and appoints George Washington as commander of the Continental
Army. The Congress still rejects a declaration of independence.
1776
Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" is published and is widely read. Paine offers a clear and persuasive argument for
independence from Britain.
1776
Declaration of Independence adopted by the Second Continental Congress.
1776
British exhibit military superiority at battles of Long Island (Brooklyn) and several other losses in the New York area,
Washington's Continental Army flees to New Jersey and eventually Pennsylvania.
1777
Americans win important Battle of Saratoga and British General Burgoyne surrenders his force of 5700 soldiers to American
General Gates.
1777
France officially recognizes the independence of the United States. In early 1778 the U.S. and French sign a treaty of
alliance and a treaty of amity and commerce which said that if the British and French were to go to war, that France would
not make peace until the independence of the U.S. was assured. France declares war on Britain in July 1778. Spain and
the Netherlands will later join France in a war against Britain.
1780
Pennsylvania enacts a law mandating the gradual abolition of slavery. Massachusetts adopts a bill of rights that applies to
blacks and whites equally.
1780
British win the Battle of Charles Town and inflict heavy casualties on the Americans
1781
British General Cornwallis surrenders 8000 men to an army of 1600 American and French troop. The French also provide a
key naval blockade. Cornwallis' surrender spells the end of British hopes for victory. By the end of the year battles have
virtually ceased between British and American troops.
1782
Many loyalists begin to leave the United States for Canada and elsewhere.
1783
Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War is signed. Britain recognizes American independence and promises the
withdrawal of British forces from American territory. Americans promise to respect the rights and property of loyalists and to
help British merchants collect all debts owed to them by Americans.