America

Pre-colonial America: America at the Eve of Colonisation

Written by Sonniee Alli

The United States of America is located in the middle of the North American continent with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The USA extends to the Atlantic Ocean and the nation’s east coast to the Pacific Ocean in the west.

The USA includes the state of Hawaii a series of islands located in the pacific and a state of Alaska in the North-Western part of the continent.

The first known inhabitants of the modern state of the USA are believed to have arrived over a period of several thousand years beginning from around 50,000 years ago by crossing Beringea into Alaska. It is quite known that it was Christopher Columbus and his men who first discovered the USA in 1493.

Be that as it may, in the beginning, the USA consisted of 13 colonies. These colonies are the province of New Hampshire, province of Massachusetts, colony of Rhode Island, colony of Connecticut, province of New Jersey, province of New York, province of Pennsylvania, colony of Delaware, province of Maryland, colony of Virginia, province of North Carolina, province of South Carolina and Georgia.

These 13 colonies were established in agricultural settlements due to the fact that there were so very little gold and silver available for exploration and expansion of the colonies’ wealth base.

The Columbian Exchange

The Exchange of Diseases

It is important to know that the advent of the Europeans lead to what is known as the Columbian exchange. The first of these exchanges had to do with the exchange of “diseases”.

The Europeans infected the Indians or the Ameri-Indians with smallpox, influenza and measles. When the Europeans eventually succeeded in their conquering mission, the greatest destruction brought by them was the introduction of these diseases which fatally killed millions of Native Americans.

Smallpox was the deadliest of these diseases killing more than what the Europeans had killed. Given the bad feelings caused by the forceful occupation of the land hitherto owned by the Native Americans by the invaders, the Ameri-Indians also infected the colonizing Europeans with syphilis: a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact that starts as a painless sore.

To some observers, this was viewed as un-mutual exchanges between the colonized and the colonizers given the rate of fatalities recorded on the part of the Native Americans as a result of the multiple diseases brought to them by the Europeans.

Exchange of Plants and Animals

In addition to this, there was also the exchange of plants and animals, the Europeans obtained a variety of vegetables namely: corn, beans, squash, and potato from America while the Americans also obtain wheat and rice from the Europeans.

In addition, there was an exchange of a plant called ‘Indian weed’ that is tobacco from America with horses from Europeans; as a result of the introduction of horses, the lifestyle of the Americans changed. This marked the emergence of the cowboys and other horse-related sports and leisure.

The Limited Liability Company

One of the institutions established in America by the Europeans was the Limited Liability Company. It is also known as a Joint Stock Company. This company was set up as a profit-making venture and the company relied on selling or leasing land, selling fur, making tars and setting up agricultural plantations such as tobacco plantations, indigo plantations, sugar cane plantations, and tea plantations.

There were also some types of colonial settlements. First, a “proprietary colony” was set up by a proprietor who was the overall head and the ruler or owner of the settlement.

A proprietary colony was a type of English colony mostly in North America and in the Caribbean in the 17th century. In the British Empire, all land belonged to the monarch, and it was his/her prerogative to divide.

Types of Colonial Settlements

For example, Ellien Bellien was set up by William Penn, Maine (founded 1623), New Hampshire (1623), New York (1624), New Jersey (1624), Maryland (1634), Pennsylvania (1638), Delaware (1664), North and South Carolina (1665), and Georgia (1733) were all founded as proprietary colonies. Secondly, the “religious colony” was set up by religious groups.

There were seven of those: Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire We can, therefore, conclude by saying that the exchange was not mono-directional. It was across the colonized and the colonizer.

American English

One major cultural exchange that is meant to be of note is American English which is neither indigenous nor British such that today we have what is being called American English. There is, therefore, a sense in which the culture of the two groups conquered one another.

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About the author

Sonniee Alli

Dr. Sunday Abraham OGUNODE (aka Sonniee Alli) is a lecturer in the Department of History and International Studies and currently the Sub-Dean, Faculty of Arts, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko. He preferred to be called a Teacher not a Lecturer in order to allow students' easy access and enhance their inclusive experiences while imparting knowledge in and out of classes. It is, therefore, not surprising that Sonniee Alli takes time out of his very busy schedules to write and make available detailed notes in all his courses to the students. Despite this, he attends all his classes and passionately explains issues using real-time illustration. His notes are available on the History Archives managed by his mentee Obaloluwa Tadese FAFORIJI, a 300level young but promising student of the Department. Enjoy as you explore the academic world of Sonniee Alli.

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