Colonial America_class notes-2.pdf - England and the New...

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England and the New World: Unifying the English Nation/England and Ireland In the sixteenth century, England was a second-rate power in Europe weakened by internal divisions, especially those between Catholics and Protestants once King Henry VIII launched the Protestant Reformation in England by severing the nation from the Catholic Church and establishing the Church of England, or Anglican Church, with himself at its head. Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled from 1558 to 1603, finally secured the power of the Anglican Church and successfully defended England from its Catholic enemies on the continent, notably the Spanish, whose attempt in 1588 to invade by a massive armada was repulsed. Well into the 1700s, the English also attempted to subdue Ireland and its Catholic population, in part through military conquest and colonization. The English expelled Irish Catholics from land to make room for Protestant settlements, called “plantations.” The cultural practices and ideas that defined England’s colonization of Ireland shaped its conquest of North America. England and North America/Spreading Protestantism Only under Queen Elizabeth’s reign did the English look to North America, although at first they were more interested in raiding Spanish cities and treasure fleets than colonization. Their first two colonies in Newfoundland and what became North Carolina were small efforts that quickly failed. Like the Spanish, however, national glory, profit, and religious mission defined English interest in the New World. The Reformation and Protestant England’s increasing rivalry with and enmity toward the Catholic Spanish empire helped the English see their presence in North America as a way to liberate the New World and its Indians from what many in England believed was a uniquely evil and tyrannical Spanish Catholic empire. The English saw their empire as a very different empire of freedom. England and the New World: Problems: The Social Crisis/Masterless Men Other advocates of colonization argued that North America would absorb England’s “surplus” population in a period of economic crisis and population growth. Colonization would drain away the urban poor and peasants who had been evicted from their own lands and the commons by the “enclosures” of large landlords, and who seemed to English elites to threaten social order and stability. Under Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, the unemployed could be whipped, branded, hanged, or even forced to labor. Voluntary or involuntary emigration to the New World seemed an alternative that would simultaneously benefit the poor and the English nation. In turn, images of America such as that which appeared in Thomas More’s Utopia promoted the New World as a place of wealth and opportunity where men could escape the hierarchies and inequalities of Europe, gain economic independence by owning land, and rule themselves. These images appealed to ordinary Englishmen and encouraged them to risk migration to America.

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