Home » Articles & Collections » U.S. History before 1800 Articles

Early United States History – Colonial Era U.S. – First Explorers of North America

Early United States History, Colonial Era US, First Explorers of North America, U.S. History to 1800. U.S. under British rule, Exploration and settlement of North America. Selected online articles from newspapers and popular magazines about topics in American history, from earliest history until about 1800. Podcasts too.

‘Rogue Island’: The last state to ratify the Constitution

In 1781, Rhode Island began acquiring nicknames. American newspapers called it ‘the perverse sister.’ ‘An evil genius.’ The ‘Quintessence of Villainy.’  The name ‘Rogue Island’ stuck all the way to 1787, when the Constitutional Convention began and the small state refused to send delegates.

jessiekratz, Pieces of History, National Archives blog 2015

8 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most celebrated and significant documents in history. But how much do you know about it? Here, we bring you eight facts…

History Extra 2014

A Brief Guide to the British Government

King George relied on elected politicians, appointed advisors and military officers to help rule the kingdom. These served in a few key positions: the Privy Council, the Cabinet, the Admiralty Board, and the Board of Trade, in addition to the House of Commons and House of Lords. Each of these groups gave a legal foundation to what the king and his government wanted to do.

Will Monk, Journal of the American Revolution 2015

George Washington’s Journey

After becoming President, George Washington undertook an extraordinary journey through all thirteen colonies to unite – and learn from – a diverse population of citizens. His quest to unite our nation and discover the “temper and disposition” of its people are an inspiration to us today.

T. H. Breen, American Heritage 2017

A Brief History of Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.

Today’s Washington, D.C. owes much of its unique design to Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who rose from obscurity to become a trusted city planner for George Washington. L’Enfant designed the city from scratch, envisioning a grand capital of wide avenues, public squares and inspiring buildings in what was then a district of hills, forests, marshes and plantations.

Kenneth R. Fletcher, Smithsonian.com 2008

A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft – the Devil’s magic – and 20 were executed.

By Jess Blumberg, Smithsonian.com 2007

A Little House that Survived a Major Battle, 1777

This past weekend, I braved the cold to traipse across the Brandywine Battlefield, located in Chadds Ford, PA. The house of farmer Gideon Gilpin (shown here) still stands, and it is open to visitors as part of the Brandywine Battlefield historic site.

Susan Holloway, Two Nerdy History Girls 2017

Adams Appoints Marshall

Critical decisions by the Chief Justice saved the Supreme Court’s independence – and made possible its wide-ranging role today.

Gordon S. Wood, American Heritage 2010

American Politics at Ten Paces

Strict codes of conduct marked the relationships of early American Politicians, often leading to duels, brawls, and other – sometimes fatal – violence.

Thomas Fleming, American Heritage 2011

American Revolution Bibliography

Two lists of top books on the American Revolution, compiled by Benjamin L. Carp and Michael McDonnell.

Benjamin L. Carp and Michael McDonnell, Age of Revolutions

American Revolution Reading List

Five recommended books each from Benjamin L. Carp and Michael McDonnell, with notes on each.

Benjamin L. Carp and Michael McDonnell Age of Revolutions

American Revolutions: A Continental History

It’s often portrayed as an orderly conflict between Patriots, Tories, and British, but the American Revolution caused much suffering, dislocation, and economic decline, and had major effects on Native Americans and Spanish, French, Dutch, and other colonists worldwide.

Alan Taylor, American Heritage 2017

Anarchy and the American Revolution

If the opening stages of the American Revolution were about the overthrow of tyranny, then its denouement was defined by the struggle against anarchy – at least, that is, from the perspective of the new nation’s elite.

Tom Cutterham, Age of Revolutions 2017

Atlantic Adventurers of the Middle Ages: Do the Vikings Belong in Early American History?

Vikings’ Scandinavian adventurers who expanded, as far east as the Ukraine and as far west as Greenland and coastal Newfoundland, between the eighth and eleventh centuries C.E.- deserve a more prominent place in early American history than they have yet garnered.

Darcy R. Fryer, Common-Place 2016

Blackbeard’s Terror

Artifacts pulled from the wreck of Blackbeard’s flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge offer a glimpse into the bloody decades of the early 18th century, when pirates ruled the Carolina coast.

Lindley S. Butler, American Heritage 2011

British Spy Map of Lexington and Concord: A Detective Story

In school, we all learned about Paul Revere and his famous April 18, 1775 ride through the Massachusetts countryside. But, of course, there is much more to the story, including the British commander of all troops in North America, British spies, patriotic tavern keepers, an unsigned manuscript map, and a Boston publisher.

Carlyn Osborn, World’s Revealed, a Library of Congress Blog 2016

Conditions of Life in Plymouth 1621

1621 account by the Plymouth colony’s governor, Edward Winslow, of the many hardships of the Pilgrims’ first year in Massachusetts.

Edward Winslow, American History Told by Contemporaries

Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World

Guided by ancient Norse sagas and modern satellite images, searchers discover what may be North America’s second Viking site.

Mark Strauss, National Geographic 2016

Discovery of America – Columbus’s Journal Entry

Journal entries for Oct 10-14, 1492 by Christopher Columbus, describing the first days of discovery.

Christopher Columbus, American History as told by Contemporaries

Extracts from the Sagas describing the Voyages to Vinland

These collected extracts were, according to the 1892 editors, the only written primary sources about Viking exploration in North America.

American History Leaflets 1892

For Independence Day, a Look at Thomas Jefferson’s Egregious Hypocrisy – Scientific American Blog Network

I once admired Jefferson, seeing him as an essentially good, no, great man with one tragic flaw: The writer of the inspiring words ‘all men are created equal’ owned slaves. Now, I see Jefferson as an egregious hypocrite, who willfully betrayed the ideals he espoused.

John Horgan, Scientific American 2016

Illinois as a French Colony

If there is a single word that best describes Illinois during the French Colonial period, it is strategic. The colony of New France, hereinafter called Canada, was centered upon the eastern end of the Great Lakes waterways, one of two major east-west axes of North America.

Duane Esarey, Illinois Periodicals Online

Pontiac’s siege of Detroit (book)

The story of the 1763 effort by Michigan Indians to conquer Fort Detroit, British Canada’s primary Great Lakes military outpost.

Howard Peckham 1951

Poseidon’s Curse: British Naval Impressment and Atlantic Origins of the American Revolution

Review of Poseidon’s Curse: British Naval Impressment and Atlantic Origins of the American Revolution by Christopher Magra. Christopher Magra believes that impressment played a vital role in the origins of the American Revolution.

Professor Paul Gilje, Reviews in History 2018

Renovating the American Revolution: The Most Important Stories Aren’t on Broadway

Discusses the contributions and points of view of a number of relatively recent books on American at the time of the Revolution.

Eric Herschthal, Journal of the History of Ideas Blog

Revisited Myth #113: A deerskin was worth a dollar, hence the origin of the word ‘buck’.

An account of the author’s research in tracking down the origin of the term “buck” for a dollar.

History Myths Debunked

The Founding of Virginia in 1607

1st person account by Captain John Smith of the earliest days of the Jamestown Colony.

Captain John Smith, American History told by Contemporaries

The Last Will and Testament of General George Washington

Transcript of Washington’s will, published in 1800.

George Washington

The Letter of Columbus to Luis De Sant Angel Announcing His Discovery

A long letter by Columbus describing the discoveries of his first visit to the Americas, written in February 1493 during the return trip.

Christopher Columbus 1493

The Mississippi Voyage of Joliet and Marquette 1673

Journal account by Father Jacques Marquette of the expedition on which he accompanied explorer Louis Joliet into Illinois country and ‘discovered’ the Mississippi River. Also an introduction by editor Louise Phelps Kellogg, providing background context of the trip.

Father Jacques Marquette 1673, Early narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699

The Surprising Raucous Home Life of the Madisons

When it comes to the Madisons’ temperament, history conceals far more than it reveals. With family and close friends, they were as fun-loving a couple – even rowdy – as ever occupied the White House.

David O. Stewart, Smithsonian.com 2015

The Wretchedness of White Servants (arriving in America) 1770

Eddis was the surveyor of Customs at Annapolis, MD. Here he explains the various types of servitude awaiting many poor immigrants, and how their status would impact their lives in America.

William Eddis, American History told by Contemporaries

View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America

The new Canadian site, with telltale signs of iron-working, was discovered last summer after infrared images from 400 miles in space showed possible man-made shapes. The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.

Ralph Blumenthal, NY Times 2016

18th-Century Fashion & Material Culture – Podcast

We know that John Hancock was a wealthy merchant and prominent politician, but did you know that his suit reveals even more about his life and personality than the documents and portraits he left behind? Museum professional and textiles expert Kimberly Alexander joins us to explore the world of 18th-century fashion and material culture and what objects like John Hancock’s suit communicate about the past.

Kimberly Alexander, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 24

A History of Mail Order Brides in Early America – Podcast

Marcia Zug, a Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina Law School and author of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail Order Matches, joins us to explore one of the solutions that England and France used to build their North American colonies.

Marcia Zug, Ben Franklin’s World, Episode 120

18th-Century Fashion & Material Culture – Podcast

We know that John Hancock was a wealthy merchant and prominent politician, but did you know that his suit reveals even more about his life and personality than the documents and portraits he left behind? Museum professional and textiles expert Kimberly Alexander joins us to explore the world of 18th-century fashion and material culture and what objects like John Hancock’s suit communicate about the past.

Kimberly Alexander, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 24

American Loyalists in Canada – Podcast

Not only did the war pit Briton against Briton, it also pit American against American. But what happened to the Americans who lost? Bonnie Huskins, coordinator of Loyalist Studies at the University of New Brunswick, joins us to explore the experiences of the American Loyalists.

Bonnie Huskins, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 85

Citizen Sailors: Becoming American in the Age of Revolution – Podcast

What did it mean to be a citizen during the late-18th and early-19th centuries? Why and how did early American sailors seem intent on proving their citizenship to the United States?

Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 76

Competing Visions of Empire – Podcast

An exploration of how colonists and British imperial officers viewed the colonies and their place within the British Empire during the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Abigail Swingen, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 36

Constitutional audio podcast from The Washington Post

As a follow-up to the popular Washington Post podcast ‘Presidential’ reporter Lillian Cunningham returns with this series exploring the Constitution and the people who framed and reframed it – revolutionaries, abolitionists, suffragists, teetotalers, protesters, justices, presidents.

Lillian Cunningham, Washington Post

Curious King George – Podcast

Historian Sean Munger shines a light on the personal and family stories of King George and the British royals during the 1810s, including eyewitness accounts of the King’s condition and his often curious behavior.

Sean Munger, Second Decade Episode 19

How the English Became American – Podcast

Why did England want to establish colonies in North America and how did Englishmen go about establishing them? Malcolm Gaskill, Professor and author of Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans.

Malcolm Gaskill, Ben Franklin Episode 49

Law, Order and Sexual Misconduct in Colonial New England – Podcast

Law and order stood as a sign of civilization for many 17th-century Europeans, which is why some of the first European settlers in North America created systems of law and order in their new homeland.

Abby Chandler, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 69

Saratoga and Hubbardton, 1777 – Podcast

We explore the Saratoga Campaign of 1777 in depth with Bruce M. Venter, author of The Battle of Hubbardton: The Rear Guard Action that Saved America.

Bruce M. Venter, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 71

Slavery & Freedom in Early Maryland – Podcast

We explore the life of Charity Folks, an enslaved woman from Maryland who gained her freedom in the late-18th century. Our guide is the author of Finding Charity’s Folk: Enslaved and Free Black Women in Maryland.

Jessica Millward, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 89

Smuggling in Colonial America & Living History – Podcast

Eugene Tesdahl discusses the business of smuggling in colonial North America and his involvement with living history as a French and Indian War-era re-enactor.

Eugene Tesdahl, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 21

The Bill of Rights – Podcast

They discuss the Bill of Rights, including its antecedents in British history and the colonial context, the politics that brought it about, and its legacy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, and Roy Rogers, The Junto Episode 21

Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Network – Podcast

We explore espionage during the American Revolution and the origins and operations of the Culper Spy Ring with Alexander Rose, author and a historian, writer, and producer for AMC’s television drama TURN.

Alexander Rose, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 65

What Happened To British Loyalists After The Revolutionary War? – Podcast

It’s estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of the population still remained loyal to the British Crown at the end of the Revolution. So what became of these loyalists who suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of history?

Maya Jasanoff, NPR 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.