1000 A.D. -
Leif Ericson, a Viking seaman, explores the east coast of North America
and sights Newfoundland, establishing a short-lived settlement there.
1215 - The Magna
Carta document is adopted in England, guaranteeing liberties to the
English people, and proclaiming basic rights and procedures which later
become the foundation stone of modern democracy.
1492 - Christopher
Columbus makes the first of four voyages to the New World, funded by the
Spanish Crown, seeking a western sea route to Asia. On October 12, sailing
the Santa Maria, he lands in the Bahamas, thinking it is an outlying Japanese
1497 - John Cabot of England explores
the Atlantic coast of Canada, claiming the area for the English King, Henry
VII. Cabot is the first of many European explorers to seek a Northwest
Passage (northern water route) to Asia.
1499 - Italian navigator, Amerigo
Vespucci, sights the coast of South America during a voyage of discovery
1507 - The name "America"
is first used in a geography book referring to the New World with Amerigo
Vespucci getting credit for the discovery of the continent.
1513 - Ponce de León of Spain
lands in Florida.
1517 - Martin
Luther launches the Protestant Reformation in Europe, bringing an end to
the sole authority of the Catholic Church, resulting in the growth of numerous
Protestant religious sects.
1519 - Hernando Cortés conquers
the Aztec empire.
1519-1522 - Ferdinand Magellan is
the first person to sail around the world.
1524 - Giovanni da Verrazano, sponsored
by France, lands in the area around the Carolinas, then sails north and
discovers the Hudson River, and continues northward into Narragansett Bay
and Nova Scotia.
1541 - Hernando de Soto of Spain
discovers the Mississippi River.
1565 - The first permanent European
colony in North America is founded at St. Augustine (Florida) by the Spanish.
1587 - The first English child,
Virginia Dare, is born in Roanoke, August 18.
1588 - In Europe, the defeat of
the Spanish Armada by the English results in Great Britain replacing Spain
as the dominant world power and leads to a gradual decline of Spanish influence
in the New World and the widening of English imperial interests.
1606 - The London Company sponsors
a colonizing expedition to Virginia.
1607 - Jamestown is founded in Virginia
by the colonists of the London Company. By the end of the year, starvation
and disease reduce the original 105 settlers to just 32 survivors. Capt.
John Smith is captured by Native American Chief Powhatan and saved from
death by the chief's daughter, Pocahontas.
In January, 110 additional colonists arrive at Jamestown. In December,
the first items of export trade are sent from Jamestown back to England
and include lumber and iron ore.
1609 - The Dutch East India Company
sponsors a seven month voyage of exploration to North America by Henry
Hudson. In September he sails up the Hudson River to Albany.
1609 - Native tobacco is first planted
and harvested in Virginia by colonists.
A Dutch trading post is set up on lower Manhattan island.
1616 - Tobacco
becomes an export staple for Virginia.
1616 - A
smallpox epidemic decimates the Native American population in New England.
1619 - The first session of the
first legislative assembly in America occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses
convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses representing 11 plantations.
1619 - Twenty Africans are brought
by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the
beginning of slavery in Colonial America.
1620 - November
9, the Mayflower ship lands
at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with 101 colonists. On November 11, the Mayflower
Compact is signed by the 41 men, establishing a form of local
government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to
cooperate for the general good of the colony. The Compact sets the precedent
for other colonies as they set up governments.
1620 - The first public library
in the colonies is organized in Virginia with books donated by English
One of the first treaties between colonists and Native Americans is signed
as the Plymouth Pilgrims enact a peace pact with the Wampanoag Tribe, with
the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American.
1624 - Thirty families of Dutch
colonists, sponsored by the Dutch West India Company arrive in New York.
1624 - The Virginia Company charter
is revoked in London and Virginia is declared a Royal colony.
1626 - Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonist,
buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24)
and names the island New Amsterdam.
1629 - In England, King Charles
I dissolves parliament and attempts to rule as absolute monarch, spurring
many to leave for the American colonies.
1630 - In March, John Winthrop leads
a Puritan migration of 900 colonists to Massachusetts Bay, where he will
serve as the first governor. In September, Boston is officially established
and serves as the site of Winthrop's government.
1633 - The first town government
in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
1634 - First settlement in Maryland
as 200 settlers, many of them Catholic, arrive in the lands granted to
Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore by King Charles I.
1635 - Boston Latin School is established
as the first public school in America.
1636 - In June, Roger Williams founds
Providence and Rhode Island. Williams had been banished from Massachusetts
for "new and dangerous opinions" calling for religious and political
freedoms, including separation of church and state, not granted under the
Puritan rules. Providence then becomes a haven for many other colonists
fleeing religious intolerance.
1636 - Harvard College founded.
1638 - Anne Hutchinson is banished
from Massachusetts for nonconformist religious views that advocate personal
revelation over the role of the clergy. She then travels with her family
to Rhode Island.
1638 - The first colonial printing
press is set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1640-1659 - English
Civil War erupts between the Royalists of King Charles I and the
Parliamentary army, eventually resulting in defeat for the Royalists and
the downfall of the monarchy. On January 30, 1649, Kings Charles I is beheaded.
England then becomes a Commonwealth and Protectorate ruled by Oliver Cromwell.
1646 - In Massachusetts, the general
court approves a law that makes religious heresy punishable by death.
1652 - Rhode Island enacts the first
law in the colonies declaring slavery illegal.
1660 - The English monarchy is restored
under King Charles II.
1660 - The English Crown approves
a Navigation Act requiring the exclusive use
of English ships for trade in the English Colonies and limits exports of
tobacco and sugar and other commodities to England or its colonies.
1663 - King Charles II establishes
the colony of Carolina and grants the territory to eight loyal supporters.
1663 - Navigation
Act of 1663 requires that most imports to the colonies must be transported
via England on English ships.
1664 - The Dutch New Netherland
colony becomes English New York after Gov. Peter Stuyvesant surrenders
to the British following a naval blockade.
1664 - Maryland passes a law making
lifelong servitude for black slaves mandatory to prevent them from taking
advantage of legal precedents established in England which grant freedom
under certain conditions, such as conversion to Christianity. Similar laws
are later passed in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia.
1672 - The Royal Africa Company
is given a monopoly in the English slave trade.
1673 - Dutch military forces retake
New York from the British.
1673 - The British Navigation
Act of 1673 sets up the office of customs commissioner in the colonies
to collect duties on goods that pass between plantations.
1674 - The Treaty of Westminster
ends hostilities between the English and Dutch and returns Dutch colonies
in America to the English.
1675-1676 - King
Philip's War erupts in New England between
colonists and Native Americans as a result of tensions over colonist's
expansionist activities. The bloody war rages up and down the Connecticut
River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies,
eventually resulting in 600 English colonials being killed and 3,000 Native
Americans, including women and children on both sides. King Philip (the
colonist's nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoags) is hunted down
and killed on August 12, 1676, in a swamp in Rhode Island, ending the war
in southern New England and ending the independent power of Native Americans
there. In New Hampshire and Maine, the Saco Indians continue to raid settlements
for another year and a half.
1681 - Pennsylvania is founded as
William Penn, a Quaker, receives a Royal charter with a large land grant
from King Charles II.
1682 - French explorer La Salle
explores the lower Mississippi Valley region and claims it for France,
naming the area Louisiana for King Louis XIV.
1682 - A large wave of immigrants,
including many Quakers, arrives in Pennsylvania from Germany and the British
1685 - The Duke of York ascends
the British throne as King James II.
1685 - Protestants in France lose
their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict
of Nantes, spurring many to leave for America.
1686 - King James II begins consolidating
the colonies of New England into a single Dominion depriving colonists
of their local political rights and independence. Legislatures are dissolved
and the King's representatives assume all of the judicial and legislative
1687 - In March, New England Royal
Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, orders Boston's Old South Meeting House to
be converted into an Anglican Church. In August, the Massachusetts towns
of Ipswich and Topsfield resist assessments imposed by Gov. Andros in protest
of taxation without representation.
1688 - In March, Gov. Andros imposes
a limit of one annual town meeting for New England towns. The Governor
then orders all militias to be placed under his control.
1688 - Quakers in Pennsylvania issue
a formal protest against slavery in America.
1688 - In December, King James II
of England flees to France after being deposed by influential English leaders.
1689 - In February, William and
Mary of Orange become King and Queen of England. In April, New England
Governor Andros is jailed by rebellious colonists in Boston. In July, the
English government orders Andros to be returned to England to stand trial.
1690 - The beginning of King
William's War as hostilities in Europe between the French and English
spill over to the colonies. In February, Schenectady, New York is burned
by the French with the aid of their Native American allies.
1691 - In New York, the newly appointed
Governor of New England, Henry Sloughter, arrives from England and institutes
royally sanctioned representative government. In October, Massachusetts
gets a new royal charter which includes government by a royal governor
and a governor's council.
1692 - In May, hysteria grips the
village of Salem, Massachusetts, as witchcraft suspects are arrested and
imprisoned. A special court is then set up by the governor of Massachusetts.
Between June and September, 150 persons are accused, with 20 persons, including
14 women, being executed. By October, the hysteria subsides, remaining
prisoners are released and the special court is dissolved.
1693 - The College of William and
Mary is founded in Williamsburg, Virginia.
1696 - The Royal African Trade Company
loses its slave trade monopoly, spurring colonists in New England to engage
in slave trading for profit. In April, the Navigation
Act of 1696 is passed by the English Parliament requiring colonial
trade to be done exclusively via English built ships. The Act also expands
the powers of colonial custom commissioners, including rights of forcible
entry, and requires the posting of bonds on certain goods.
1697 - The Massachusetts general
court expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges
during the witch hysteria of 1692. Jurors sign a statement of regret and
compensation is offered to families of those wrongly accused. In September,
King William's War ends as the French and English sign the Treaty of Ryswick.
1699 - The English Parliament passes
the Wool Act, protecting its own wool industry
by limiting wool production in Ireland and forbidding the export of wool
from the American colonies.
1700 - The Anglo population in the
English colonies in America reaches 250,000.