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to the Virginia Company and other corporations that
organized and financed settlements in North America
and the West Indies.
In 1558, England ceded Calais to France, losing the last
remnant of its Angevin empire in continental Europe.
Yet, that same year, the political and diplomatic condition of England changed in ways that eventually
encouraged further American exploration and other
enterprises, though that was far from clear at the time.
Later in 1558, Queen Mary, Catholic wife of Philip
II of Spain, died, and her Protestant sister Elizabeth
ascended the throne, shifting England’s enmity away
from France and towards Spain, especially once the
execution of Mary, Queen of Scots removed a focus for
French intrigue. Rivalry with Spain encouraged the
plundering of Spanish New World treasure ships and
settlements and intrusions on Spanish trade, especially
when the Revolt of the Netherlands and the beginning
of the Eighty Years War against Dutch Protestants from
1566 weakened Spanish power to protect its New World
In 1562, John Hawkins, England’s first major slave
trader, began carrying human cargo and other merchandise between Africa and the Spanish Caribbean,
as well as plundering Spanish settlements. Six years
later he was attacked by a f leet of the Viceroy of Mexico
off Veracruz, heightening hostility between Spain
and England and encouraging the kind of privateering, or licensed piracy, by English ‘sea dogs’ that was
already being practised by French corsairs against the
Spanish. Most famously, Francis Drake, ‘El Diablo’ to
the Spanish, and a f leet of six ships led by the Golden
Hind, attacked Spanish ships and settlements near the
Isthmus of Panama and encouraged slaves to destabilize the Spanish empire in Central America and parts
of South America from the 1570s. Drake combined
plunder with exploration. In 1577, he rounded Cape
Horn and proceeded north to claim Nova Albion, now
California, raided Callao and Lima, and then sailed
west across the Pacific, stopping at the Philippines and
the Moluccas spice islands. After crossing the Indian
Ocean and rounding the Cape of Good Hope, he finally
completed his circumnavigation of the globe with his
arrival in Plymouth in 1580. The 4600 percent profits
enjoyed by shareholders in the joint stock-sponsored
enterprise added to people’s interest in New World profiteering. After 1585, during the war with Spain, Drake
resumed his western actions, attacking Cartagena de
Indias, Santo Domingo and St Augustine, and numerous Spanish ships, until he was lost at sea in 1595.
Meanwhile, in 1570, Martin Frobisher set out on the
first of a series of voyages to find a north-west passage, despite Elizabeth’s continued reluctance to invest
state revenue in exploration or colonization. Forming
the Company of Cathay with Michael Lok and other
London merchants, Frobisher undertook three more
voyages in 1576–78. The gold mine he founded on
Baffin Island, however, produced nothing but iron
pyrite, and the company folded. John Davis, backed by
investors who included Adrian Gilbert, brother of the
more famous Humphrey, made three other unsuccessful searches for a north-west passage north of Labrador
in 1585–87.
More than simply muscling in on Spanish markets,
attacking Spanish ships and settlements, and searching for a north-west passage, the English began to
think seriously about establishing their own New
World territories, though it took them some time to
attempt it and even longer to do it successfully. In
November 1565, Elizabeth’s Privy Council considered arguments for colonization as well as for further
attempts to find a north-west passage by Sir Humphrey
Gilbert, the Devonshire landowner and half-brother
of Sir Walter Raleigh. The next year Gilbert wrote A
Discourse of a Discoverie for a New Passage to Cataia (published in 1576), although unsuccessful involvement in
Ireland kept him out of Atlantic affairs for a decade. In
1577, however, he proposed capturing Santo Domingo
and Cuba as bases for conquering Mexico. The crown
demurred but instead gave him permission, though
no financial assistance, to establish colonies some
way north of Spanish Florida, preferably ‘Norumbega’
(named after a mythical inland sea that would lead
to Asia). Gilbert’s 1578 settlement mission, however,
quickly reverted to the relatively limited aims of
attacking Spanish ships. By 1582, though, he was more
convinced that North America was a place to colonize,
and by the end of the next year had sub-patented some
8,000,000 acres of land to potential colonizers, including large grants to a group of Catholic gentry headed
by Sir George Peckham and Sir Thomas Gerrard, anticipating, like the French Huguenots, the New World as a
haven for religious dissenters. In 1583, he landed at St
John’s harbour and declared Newfoundland English,
but that September he was lost at sea and nothing came
of his colony.11
The lost colonies of Roanoke
Gilbert’s death, unlike Cabot’s almost a century before,
did not dampen the growing English appetite for exploration and colonization. In 1584, Elizabeth I granted
Sir Walter Raleigh the same grant Gilbert was given,
again with no financial backing and this time without
Newfoundland fishing rights. Nevertheless, in April
1584 Raleigh despatched captains Arthur Barlow and
Philip Amadas to explore and claim the region and
islands from Chesapeake Bay to the Carolinas. The
expedition reached Roanoke Island off modern North
Carolina in July, returning to England with two local
Indians, Manteo and Wanchese. The captains’ recommendation of the region for colonization encouraged
Raleigh to name it ‘Virginia’, in honour of one of the
virtues of his queen, and, as Lord and Governor of
USAD Super Quiz ™ Resource Guide ◊ 2011–2012
When the surveyor and artist John White
returned to Roanoke in August 1590,
he discovered that the colonists had
disappeared, leaving behind them the
word “CROATOAN” carved in a doorpost
and “CRO” carved in a tree.
Virginia, to send Richard Grenville there to establish
a settlement.
Grenville departed Plymouth in April 1585 with 5 ships
and 800 men, arriving off the outer banks in early
July. On the way he diverted to raid the Spanish West
Indies and in the process depleted many of the supplies
intended to assist colonization. That was just the first
thing that went wrong. On arrival, only the smallest
of the vessels could negotiate the sandbanks. Then,
when a silver cup went missing, Grenville burned an
Indian village in revenge. Grenville departed in late
August, leaving Captain Ralph Lane and 108 men
to establish a fort, search for treasure and trade with
the Amerindians in craft products for which the local
Roanoke had no use. Lane’s reluctance to engage in
agriculture proved disastrous. As supplies ran low, he
requested food from the Indians. He took their offer of
cleared fields and seed corn as an insult and launched
another attack, murdering chief Wingina, whose experiences with the English had already prompted him to
change his name to Pemisapan, meaning ‘watchful’ or
‘wary’. The Indians then withdrew, leaving Lane and
his men without supplies, and when Francis Drake
unexpectedly arrived with new supplies in June 1586,
all insisted on returning to England. When Grenville
reappeared a few weeks later, therefore, he found his
colony abandoned. He nevertheless left 15 men behind
and returned to England for new settlers, but when the
English returned the next year these men had vanished,
probably victims of revenge for Lane’s aggression. They
would not be the last Roanoke colonists to disappear.
Despite these setbacks, interest in Roanoke remained
high. Grenville’s mission had included Thomas Hariot,
a mathematician and botanist who learned Carolinian
Algonquin from Manteo and Wanchese, and John
White, a surveyor and artist charged with identifying and drawing local f lora, fauna, and other natural
features of the New World. This trip thus produced
Hariot’s A Briefe and True Report of the New found Land
of Virginia, published in 1588 and republished in 1590
with Theodore de Bry’s engravings of White’s paintings. It was White who, in April 1587, obtained Raleigh’s
permission to lead another attempt at colonization,
this time an agricultural settlement of freeholding
family farmers who could form a permanent colony.
White hoped to get 150 colonists, but in the event
probably fewer than 100 men, women, and children
embarked for the putative City of Raleigh, on the mainland in the Chesapeake Bay region. White landed at
Roanoke, however, forced there by a ship’s crew keen on
Caribbean plunder. Finding Grenville’s 15 men missing
and no buildings or crops, White returned to England
for more supplies and new recruits. Among those he left
behind were his daughter, son-in-law, and their baby,
Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North
America. Then came another disaster, as the Spanish
Armada trapped White in England. When he finally
returned to Roanoke in August 1590, the colonists
had disappeared, leaving behind them only the word
‘CROATOAN’ carved in a doorpost and ‘CRO’ carved in
a nearby tree, suggesting attempts to reach the island
birthplace of Manteo, about 50 miles south of Roanoke.
No one knows for sure what happened to the Roanoke
islanders. It seems likely they were lost at sea, though
some historians have found impressive evidence that
they joined with local Indians.12
After the Roanoke disasters, Grenville turned to his
Irish estates and Raleigh to privateering against
Spanish shipping and settlements. Raleigh did not lose
interest in colonization permanently though, and in
1595 made his first visit to Guiana, on the north-east
coast of South America, where he hoped to emulate the
Spanish conquistadors by subjugating Amerindians,
and then to outdo the Spanish plunderers in the treasure hunt for the lost golden city of El Dorado. He built
forts to establish domination over local Indians from
whom he would demand tributes while his soldiers
would ‘fight for gold’. In The Discoverie of the large and
bewtiful Empire of Guiana (1596), he anticipated that his
commanders would ‘find here more rich and beautiful cities, more temples adorned with golden images,
more sepulchres filled with treasure, than either Cortez
found in Mexico, or Pizarro in Peru’. That did not
happen, however, and Raleigh’s final voyage of 1617,
after several years’ imprisonment, cost him his son, his
fortune, and the remnants of his reputation. He was
executed on his return to England in 1618, a victim of
King James’s desire to restore good relations with Spain.
In Raleigh’s life, in his explorations, depredations and
colonizations in Ireland and the Americas, we can
see represented the entrepreneurship and aggression
USAD Super Quiz ™ Resource Guide ◊ 2011–2012
On his last big journey, the Emin Pasha Relief
Expedition of 1886–88, Stanley brought along 510
Remington rif les with 100,000 rounds of ammunition,
50 Winchester repeaters with 50,000 cartridges, and
a Maxim gun, a gift of the inventor. He also brought
along 37,262 yards of cloth and 3,600 pounds of beads
as trade goods, and, for nourishment, forty porterloads of the choicest provisions from Messrs. Fortnum
and Mason of Picadilly. At no time in history has the
distinction between tourists and conquerors been so
On the heels of the explorers were the military. In the
seventies and eighties European statesmen, asserting
their arrogant faith in the ability of their armies to
overcome all African resistance, drew lines on maps of
the continent to indicate where their future conquests
would lie. In 1873–74, General Wolseley defeated the
Ashanti, one of West Africa’s most powerful kingdoms, with a force of 6,500 men armed with rif les,
Gating guns, and 7-pounder field artillery.7 Similarly,
the army of the Senegalese ruler Mahmadou Lamine,
with its spears, Dane guns, and poisoned arrows, was
defeated by a French force of 1,400 men armed with
In the 1890s the addition of Maxim guns and quickfiring light artillery to the arsenal of the colonialist
troops made European-African confrontations even
more lopsided, turning battles into massacres or routs.
In 1891, near Porto Novo, a French detachment of 300
men, firing 25,000 rounds of ammunition in a 2 1⁄2
hour battle, defeated the entire Fon army.9 In 1897 a
Royal Niger Co. force composed of 32 Europeans and
507 African soldiers armed with cannons, Maxim
guns, and Snider rif les defeated the 31,000-man army
of the Nupe Emirate of Sokoto; though some of the
Nupe had breechloaders, their insufficient training
caused them to fire over the heads of their enemies.
In Chad a French force of 320, most of whom were
Senegalese tirailleurs, in 1899 defeated Rabah, reputedly the fiercest of the Sudanese slave-raiders, with his
12,000 men and 2,500 guns.10 The Caliphate of Sokoto
finally fell in 1903 after an attack by a British force of
27 officers, 730 troops, and 400 porters.11 And in 1908
the 10,000-man army of Wadai was routed by 389
French soldiers.12
Perhaps the most famous of all colonial campaigns—
at least in the English-speaking world—was General
Kitchener’s conquest of the Sudan in 1898. The British
believed the Sudanese Dervishes were skilled but
fanatical warriors and blamed them for having defeated General Gordon in 1885. Kitchener’s expedition
was therefore well supplied with the latest weapons:
breechloading and repeating rif les, Maxim guns, field
artillery, and six river gunboats firing high-explosive
At one point the British Camel Corps was almost
overwhelmed by a Dervish attack. Winston Churchill,
who took part in the campaign, described the British
But at the critical moment the gunboat arrived
on the scene and began suddenly to blaze and
flame from Maxim guns, quick-firing guns and
rifles. The range was short; the effect tremendous.
The terrible machine, floating gracefully on the
waters—a beautiful white devil—wreathed itself
in smoke. The river slopes of the Kerreri Hills,
crowded with the advancing thousands, sprang
up into clouds of dust and splinters of rock. The
charging Dervishes sank down in tangled heaps.
The masses in the rear paused, irresolute. It was
too hot even for them.
At Omdurman, Kitchener confronted the main Dervish
army of 40,000. According to Churchill:
The infantry fired steadily and stolidly, without
hurry or excitement, for the enemy were far away
and the officers careful. Besides, the soldiers were
interested in the work and took great pains. But
presently the mere physical act became tedious….
The Dervish side looked very different:
And all the time out on the plain on the other side
bullets were shearing through flesh, smashing
and splintering bone; blood spouted from terrible
wounds; valiant men were struggling on through
a hell of whishing metal, exploding shells, and
spurting dust—suffering, despairing, dying.
After five hours of fighting, 20 Britons, 20 of their
Egyptian allies and 11,000 Dervishes lay dead.
Thus ended the battle of Omdurman—the most
signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science
over barbarians. Within the space of five hours
the strongest and best-armed savage army yet
arrayed against a modern European Power had
been destroyed and dispersed, with hardly any difficulty, comparatively small risk, and insignificant
loss to the victors.18
The general rule in late nineteenth-century Africa,
that Europeans easily overcame African resistance
through superior firepower, is not without exception. In
a few instances—primarily in the Western Sudan and
Ethiopia—Africans held back the Europeans for many
years. These cases also illustrate the importance of the
new weapons.
Samori Touré, whose homeland was the high country
between the upper Niger and the upper Senegal, was
an upstart who assumed the traditional Islamic role
of military-religious leader. He was not hampered by
obsolete military customs and, better than any other
African ruler of his time, he grasped the importance of
modern weapons. He was the first leader in the region
USAD Super Quiz ™ Resource Guide ◊ 2011–2012
to Stalin, the Western powers in NATO saw only monolithic red extending from Leningrad to Beijing.
Photograph of a railway station
during the partition of India. In 1947
an independent Pakistan was created for
Muslims and an independent India for
Hindus, despite the considerable intermingling
of religions across South Asia.
religious jurisdiction and the relationship of small
states to the central Indian government contributed to
the increasing f low of emigration.
The withdrawal of Britain from direct rule encouraged
the superpowers to engage in a contest for inf luence
in India, Pakistan, and smaller states in the region
that also became independent as Britain relinquished
control. Britain’s dominion over half a billion Asians
thousands of miles away came to an end. The British
political grip on Asia (except in Hong Kong) was
replaced by crucial economic connections that sustained an increasingly wealthy cohort of international
financiers and businessmen who worked to reestablish
the globally based prosperity of the prewar period.
In 1949, Communists under the leadership of Mao
Zedong (1893–1976) defeated a corrupt Nationalist government under Jiang Jieshi, whose unpopular regime
the United States had bankrolled. Gaining support for
its attention to the plight of peasants, Communist rule
brought to an abrupt end the interference of Europe
and the United States in the government and economy
of China. With an undeveloped industrial proletariat,
Mao emphasized his differences with Stalin’s and
Lenin’s versions of Marxism, yet he too collectivized
agriculture, instituted a crash program for industrialization, and brutally repressed the privileged classes.
Until the 1970s China’s ties with the West were limited,
and hundreds of millions of Chinese people experienced decades of social and political turmoil as Mao
and his government subjected them to one brutal
scheme after another. Perceiving Mao to be identical
The Chinese Revolution spurred both superpowers to
increase their involvement in Asian politics, and for
decades to come the cold war complicated the course of
decolonization both for the Europeans and for their former colonies. The USSR and the United States faced off
indirectly in Korea, which had been split in two at the
thirty-eighth parallel as the country was liberated from
the Japanese. In 1950 the North Koreans, supported by
the Soviet Union, invaded U.S.-backed South Korea.
The United States maneuvered the United Nations
Security Council into approval of a “police action”
against North Korea—a maneuver that would set a
precedent for intervention in Europe itself in the 1990s.
Eventually, the United States deployed 400,000 troops
to help the South Korean army repel the invaders. The
combined military forces quickly pushed far into North
Korean territory—almost to China’s border—where they
were met by the Chinese army rather than the Soviet
army. After two and a half years of stalemate, the
opposing sides agreed to a settlement in 1953: Korea
would remain divided at its prewar border, the thirtyeighth parallel.
The Korean War affected the push for independence
in Southeast Asia, raising the cold war stakes and thus
the number of deaths. The French surrendered control of Indochina (modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia,
and Laos) after a devastating defeat at the hands of
peasant armies under the Communist leadership of
Ho Chi Minh. As in China and other parts of Asia,
peasant agriculture had produced bountiful crops, but
Indochina had suffered both from the steep fall in
agricultural prices in the 1920s and 1930s and from the
turmoil of war that followed hard on the heels of the
global economic depression. Ho had his own brand of
nationalist socialism, and his main goal was liberation
from the colonial French. He advocated the redistribution of land held by big landowners, especially in the
rich agricultural area in southern Indochina where
some six thousand local and French owners possessed
more than 60 percent of the land. The French army
fought Ho’s efforts for independence with the help of the
big landlords in the south, but Ho’s Viet Minh soldiers
surprised the French with their tenacious resistance.
Because of the Viet Minh’s Communist connections,
the United States started funneling money and supplies to the French side despite its official anti-imperial
position. Even so, the Viet Minh forces, using guerrilla
tactics, forced the technologically advanced French
army to withdraw after the bloody battle of Dien Bien
Phu in 1954.
The Geneva Accords of 1954 carved out an independent
Laos and Cambodia and divided Vietnam into North
and South, each free from French control. French
inf luence in the region, however, remained strong,
because of the presence of French architecture, schools,
USAD Super Quiz ™ Resource Guide ◊ 2011–2012