Collaborating on Colonial History


I posted this as some were nervous about writing history.

We’re off to a good start in creating our own history of Colonial America for our year-long focus on American literature and American literary culture. The following authors present important points about coming to terms with understanding a history of America and North America. What influence or beginning story captures your interest the most? Again, realize that we did not have you purchase Volume A of our Norton Anthology, yet we will come back to that site for resources: But taking time to think on the larger design of this project and how it is evolving, realize that you will be writing one segment of our own version of a Volume A. Besides key players, immigration groups, imperial forces, feel free to explore other large themes that are essential to create a more expansive collective history.

Homework will be to consider our two authors, this film on Anne Hutchinson as well as the walking tour of the colonial Dutch influence on New York. Then compose a 3-5 sentence intellectual takeaway for one idea that strikes you as imperative for our large, sweeping history of Colonial America. Compose your ideas in a word document so that you can revise it several times before you paste it in the comment thread below.

We’ll look to be inspired by Tony Horwitz and his thesis, as a journalist and history major, of how little he and most Americans know about the time period between 1492 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. How can we channel his enthusiasm for the sixteenth century for our work? Or do you think one of these figures, topics, themes belongs in our work?  We will also enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick’s insightful examination of the Pilgrims that will help us go beyond our grammar school days of choosing to be a Pilgrim or Indian the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We’ll also note well his praise for “William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantaion as the greatest text written in seventeenth century America” (7).

Let’s have fun tracing Anne Hutchinson’s great conflicts and follow her history in order to learn more about John Winthrop, Roger Williams, and the more regliously tolerant Dutch colonly.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 2.38.32 PMDid you know about this dramatic trial in colonial history? Did you know that Anne Hutchinson left to go to the Colony and Plantation of Rhode Island because other thinkers (perhaps more tolerant than John Winthrop) there, such as Roger Williams (who would also spend time learning languages of Native tribe and composing a translation dictionary) would welcome her? Did you know that she had to leave Providence and settle in New Amsterdam (Now New York, where the Hutchinson Parkway begins) because the Dutch were the most tolerant east coast colony? Does anyone know the reason she was killed? That could be a fun topic to explain imperial forces and native cultures in the New York area at the time. Have fun looking into one of these aspects of Anne Hutchinson’s life as it may help you become a more informed American literary critic. How will this historical work help us understand Ann Bradstreet’s poetry? You don’t have time and space to cover all of her interesting life!

Viewing instructions: First, click here:  Feel free to check more out on this site. Then select the first video, “A New Adam” and click forward to around minute 12, which is titled a conflict in the Puritan faith. Keep viewing for twenty more minutes and learn about Anne Hutchinson’s conflict, which ends around minute 32. These twenty minutes of this video may help reenforce the different sects of religions during early America. Do you see how these Puritans are different from the Pilgrims, who were separtists? This video will also help us realize the urgency these early colonists felt arriving on the shores on North America (knowing that Jamestown was a struggle and their New England chances were slim) and asking new questions in this new land.  This video also captures the feminists struggles (she was the first female defendant in a Massachusetts court) that Anne Hutchinson makes within the colony of Boston. We also have to take time and creative power to image the severity of what banishment meant in 1638. What path did she take to Providence? Would you risk so much for your beliefs?


Writing is a process; enjoy writing history.

Speaking of which, who is up for a walking field trip?

Or more close to home?

Also look at another colonial region that we discussed, New York City. Everyone should have viewed part one already; those more interested in this topic can keep going deeper. Russell Shorto’s four part video highlights key passages of his great book, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. Enjoy part one to help you launch into this project more as you begin to understand that the influence of Dutch colonial culture is a “blind spot” that Americans have about their early history. I recommend all four parts if you are interested in this part of colonial history. In part four, you can also learn how Long Islanders may have developed their unique way of saying, “Long Island.” You can also appreciate Shorto’s thesis about how immigrants coming to New York and spreading an early form of multicultural American capitalism west is another realization that they were actually experiencing Dutch sensibilities of the New Amsterdam colony that did not change that much with its new name, New York.


About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
This entry was posted in 21st Century Learning, American Literary Studies, Becoming an American Literary Critic, English III, Trees. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Collaborating on Colonial History

  1. Collin Parrow says:

    The one thing I think is most important of the four sources we looked at is puritan society. One thing that sets the puritans apart from people today is the zeal that they had to get what they wanted. They had such a burning desire to save Christianity that they risked their lives to get what they want. The puritans thought that the struggles of colony life were worth it if it helped them accomplish their mission. People today are nowhere near willing to take such risks to get something that they want. In the first winter, two hundred puritans died. Everyone that set out to start a new life and to worship the way they please risked their lives in order to do so. It is safe to say that when the puritans committed themselves to something, they committed themselves one hundred percent, and that is why it is important to include the puritan’s mission and devotion to it in our book.

  2. Sasha Derby says:

    The main thing that struck me was the colony and plantation of Rhode Island. This is because their traditions and life style was very different. For example, Anne Hutchinson was forced to leave Providence and settle in New Amsterdam. However, Anne took this opportunity to create a Dutch colony on the east coast. This passage was most interesting because of the culture in the colonies.

  3. Max Bass says:

    In my opinion, King Philip’s War is an essential part of America’s history. Kings Philip’s war was known as the First Indian War. Tensions were starting to sore throughout North America between the colonists and the Indians. The war took place up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Rhode Island colonies. From the war, 600 English men died and almost 3000 Native Americans died including women and children on both sides. On August 12, 1676, King Philip was killed by an assassination in a swamp in Rhode Island. After the assassination, the war ended in southern New Hampshire and Maine. However, the Saco Indians continued to raid towns for another year and a half. This part in history sparked my intrest because it is an underratted topic on how Colonists over-threw the Native American’s land. However, Indians are targeted for burning towns and causing destruction.

    • bsullivan35 says:

      Good focus on this war that sometimes does not get enough coverage in a US History course that has so many other wars to cover. Go into N. Philbrick’s book more and find out how he makes a point about the ratio of deaths experienced in the colonies when one compares the population to the percentage of those who fought and died for the population. It’s our most bloody war in that statistical light. Good topic here.

  4. Max Wiener says:

    Although many aspects of early colonial jump off of the pages in which they’re written, the one that clearly stands out is the concept that religion is the most important aspect of society. Through their voyages to America, the Puritans wanted to “purify” the New World of all Christian beliefs and customs. John Winthrop, who was put in charge of an entire colony, wanted to establish Protestant-like ground rules so that God could see his colony as the best of them all. The settlers believed that round-the-clock worship meant that they would live better lives, and that God would see them as accomplished individuals. One example of this is when many of the Puritans were dying of natural causes, and they thought that it was because they weren’t praying enough. Their lives revolved around religion, and their colony depended on it.

  5. Justin Levsky says:

    The puritans, in my opinion, have to be the most essential piece of history. They risked everything to come across the Atlantic in 1620 and start a new life. Plymouth plantation is what comes to mind when thinking of 1600s history. They wanted to continue the Christian belief in the new world. Religion and God was the main focus of their lives. As well as the puritans, New Amsterdam caught my attention on home much the dutch influenced America. That not just New York was a dutch colony but, New Jersey, ,Pennsylvania, Delaware and even parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

  6. Isabel Munoz-Sune
    English III, Sullivan
    September 19th, 2016

    What personally struck me as imperative to the nation we live and have become today is the original settlement of the Puritan community in 1629. The foundation on which this community was based on sparked and supported individuality and fervor for faith. The Puritans who perilously journeyed to America, hoped to establish a unique place where a sense of true freedom, hope, and believe could be present. By rebelling against the believed corruption in the Christian Church in England and creating a stir, these men and women had no choice but to seek out a “New World.” These courageous and determined folk struggled but kept on through the harshness of the foreign climate in addition to many other obstacles. The idea behind the entirety of the Puritan religion was give authority back to the individual. These experiences and way of thinking gave our country a foundation of bravery, hope, individuality, and the refusal to give up. It is necessary to view this community and revere the pure aspiration to be united as people without excluding the individual voice and the profound strength they exhibited.

  7. jackpumphret says:

    In my mind, what was the most interesting to me out of all of the sources was the movie’s rigid focus on how Anne Hutchinson, despite being a woman, had such integrity and confidence in her actions. In school, we are taught that before about the 1800s, women had barely any privileges and did very little besides cooking, caretaking, and housekeeping. I was glad to see that some common women from the past had the confidence in their beliefs to spread what they believe to others and fight for women’s rights, even in the face of a highly biased, all male court. Showing that feminism was a “problem” for Puritan and various other colonies is refreshing because it shows that women were more outspoken and independent than what had been taught to Americans.

  8. Jake Selbst says:

    The Dutch influence on New York was something so profound that I am astonished we do not learn about it in our schools. They quite literally and figuratively shaped the New York City we know today. From the street names, to the culture, to the way the streets are formed, the Dutch who first settled there started everything we know today. Even the spirit of the people, passed down from the visionary Adriaan Van der Donck has allowed the city to overcome a multitude of obstacles. The truth is the forgotten history of New Netherland is something that had such an incredible impact on our nation that it is impossible to be overlooked.

  9. Braden Kane says:

    The one thing that stood out to me the most out of the four sources we looked out had to be the Puritans. I respect how they persevered so long in their ways of saving Christianity. The strength of their belief really surprised me, as during the first year of their colony over 200 of them died. They believed that God was testing them, and they weren’t praying hard enough. Their relationship was so dependent that even one offended God, the whole Puritan community could perish. So overall, one can take away that religion and perseverance made the Puritans prominent for who they were in today’s world.

  10. tonyxueblog says:

    The most common thing happens to every country is that only the winners have the right to write and tell their history. After the war between England and Holland, English people put their own history into the American history, while ignore the importance of history about early colonies set up by Dutch and Spanish people. Before watching this video, I did not even know Dutch has such an impact in New York and the whole America. Actually from every detail in New York, we can see the Dutch’s influence to the whole city, but most people are not sensitive to these details. There are always some history like the New Netherland that fading away as time fleets by. All we need is to have a pair of sensitive eyes and the curiosity to find out some hidden history that impacts our life now.

  11. Junyang Chen says:

    Religion in society is a very important thing.People have different beliefs and most people think they are the only truth. So whenever they see other people have different belief they will always try to clear those beliefs.They are always full devotion to their beliefs, even they will die.

  12. Junyang Chen says:

    Religion is one important things in society.A lot of people have different religions. people always want to clear the different religions.This also caused a lot of bad things.People sometimes are blind.No matter what they do they always think they are doing the right things. Even if they’re going to die because of these things.

  13. Erin Hayes says:

    I thought it was ironic that John Winthrop created this small group of Puritans that would make the catholic religion “pure” like it should be and not controlled. Ann Hutchinson is of the same religion but is put on trial for sedition for telling people/ believing god is speaking to us and not through the bible which we then read. She is put on trial for “disrupting the peace and common wealth of the churches” in Providence. I thought this was interesting that they would banish her and her family when she believed in god. She just had different views from what John Winthrop viewed as a “puritan”. I think that in this case John Winthrop served as almost a dictator in the sense that he was taking over how the religion is run when he left where he was before to have a pure catholic religion that was not influenced/corrupted by European church.

  14. Cecile Meier-Scherling says:

    My intellectual takeaway is about the history of the Pilgrims and the Puritans. I found it controversial that both ethnic groups fled from persecution, but continued their intolerance in their new world. The Pilgrims/ Separatists flew from persecution because they believed in less strictness in the English Church. The Puritans had to flee because they believed in purifying the English Church with stricter rules. Anne Hutchinson was banned from the Puritans because she was thinking in a more open-minded and tolerant way. In conclusion, both of these ethnic groups continued intolerance against others, although they came from an intolerant home.

  15. junyangc1617 says:

    Religion is one important things in society.A lot of people have different religions. people always want to clear the different religions.This also caused a lot of bad things.People sometimes are blind.No matter what they do they always think they are doing the right things. Even if they’re going to die because of these things.

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