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Colonial America

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Colonial America

Despite being known to Europeans as the "land of opportunity," colonial America was more often a land of struggle, as starvation and violent clashes with the Indigenous peoples were all too common. Upon settling, Europeans had to rely on the assistance of the Indigenous populations to survive because they did not understand the land and the food it provided. Regardless of this assistance, colonists pushed out the natives and claimed the land under the British, remaining an expansion of the Old World until 1776.

Colonial America Definition

The American colonies, also known as the thirteen colonies or colonial America, consisted of thirteen British colonies that were established during the 17th and early 18th centuries. This area was located in what is now a part of the Eastern coast of the United States. By the time of the American Revolution (1775-1781), the territory owned by the colonists had spread beyond the Appalachian Mountains, stretching from Maine in the north all the way to the Altamaha River in Georgia in the south!

In Britain, continental Europe and the colonies were viewed as a land of promise and great opportunity, which heavily encouraged immigration. The colonies happily welcomed Protestants, however, many were sent to America against their will, such as convicts, political prisoners, and enslaved Africans.

Did you know?

Around the time of the Revolution, the importation, immigration, and creation of people amounted to a population of approximately 2.5 million and doubled every generation!

Colonial America | Map of Colonial North America | StudySmarter | Wikimedia Creative Commons LicenseMap of Colonial North America c. 1680, Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

As we can see from the map above, the thirteen colonies consisted of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Colonial America Time Period

Lasting from 1492 to 1763, colonial America faced multiple religious and power struggles on its way to becoming an independent, “melting pot” nation. As multiple European nations made their way to the Americas to expand their wealth and influence across the globe, the Spanish were among the first to land and settle in the New World.

To make the development of colonial America clear, let’s take a look at a timeline!

"Melting Pot" refers to a location that consists of different people, languages, cultures, styles, theories, etc. that are mixed.

Timeline

1492 - 15881606 - 16921712 - 1783

1492Christopher Columbus sets out on his first voyage

1494 – The “Treaty of Tordesillas” divided the New World between the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Portugal.

1585 – The Colony of Roanoke is founded as the first colony of America.

1588 – The English and their Dutch allies defeat the Spanish Armada.

1606 – The London and Plymouth Companies are granted charters.

1607 – The Jamestown settlement is founded (the first successful colony) but faces “The Starving Time” of 1609-1610.

1620 – The Pilgrims found the Plymouth colony.

1622 – “The Indian Massacre of 1622”, also known as the “Jamestown Massacre,” occurs in Virginia.

1637 – The Pequot War takes the lives of many Pequot people.

1644/46 – The Second Native American Massacre.

1660/73 – Three Navigation Acts are passed by the crown to regulate intercolonial trade and colonists' rebel by smuggling and avoiding ports.

1675 – King Phillips War.

1692 – The Salem Witch Trials.

1712 – The “New York Slave Revolt”.

1740 – Colonists are referred to as “Americans” for the first time.

1754 – Outbreak of The French and Indian War.

1763 – The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War.

1764 – The Parliament of Great Britain enacts the Sugar and Currency Acts, angering the colonists.

1765 – The Stamp and Quartering Acts are enacted, and protests break out in Boston.

1767 – The Townshend Acts.

1770 – The Boston Massacre and the repealing of the Townshend Acts.

1773 – The Boston Tea Party.

1775 – Parliament passes the Restraining Acts and is met with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April, beginning the American Revolution.

1776 – Adoption of the US Declaration of Independence.

1781 – The American Revolution ends, but some small battles remain over the next two years.

1783 – Britain signs the Treaty of Paris and recognizes American independence.

As we can see from the timeline above, colonial America faced disputes between the French, Spanish, Dutch, English, and Indigenous peoples regarding the control of territory. Religious diversity and the scares that came with them caused events such as the Salem Witch Trials. Further, the implementation of Triangular Trade, and the enslavement of African people caused many revolts and rebellions for freedom. Finally, the War of Independence (American Revolution) for the colonies led to freedom from unfair British control.

Importance of Colonial America

Colonial America was important to the British colonies due to its supply of cotton and tobacco. Upon bringing enslaved Africans into the south to work on plantations, America had a surplus of cotton and tobacco to sell back to the Old World for manufacturing. However, the majority of profitable products were coming from central and south America, not the north.

The colonies were also important to the European settlers as they felt this was a land where they could become religiously and politically free, breaking away from Old World systems and expectations.

Today, colonial America is important for understanding the development and foundations of the United States. For example, some of the most vital documents (such as the Declaration of Independence) were written during the colonial period. Upon breaking away from Britain, colonial Americans went on to set the stage for what we see today: an independent, “melting pot” nation. This period also established the locations of many small groups that still exist today, such as the Pennsylvania Germans (Amish and Mennonites), the Vermont Quakers, and more.

Colonial America | Painting of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence | StudySmarter | United States CapitalDrafting of the Declaration of Independence, Source: StudySmarter

Colonial America Facts

  • Despite the British being the last to settle in America, they swiftly gained control over French and Spanish settlements in North America.
  • The colonies were divided into three sections: the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern colonies.
  • Many of the first settlers were indentured servants, as the passColonial America | Map of Colonial Sections | StudySmarter | Wikimedia CommonsMap of Colonial Sections, Source: Wikimedia Commonsage to the New World was expensive and unattainable to many. By accepting a contract of indentured servitude, a settler could arrive in America with food, clothing, and housing but have to work for a certain number of years without pay.
  • Food was incredibly scarce in the colonies, not only due to the harsh winters and lack of understanding of the environment but also because of religious beliefs. Many settlers viewed food as a necessity and not an indulgence, hence eating very little, bland foods.
  • The first colonial settlement, Roanoke, was a complete disaster, as the entire population disappeared due to an attack, starvation, or all of the above. The only clue left about what had happened was the word “Croatoan” carved into a fencepost. On the other hand, the first successful colonial settlement was that of Jamestown, Virginia.

Colonial America - Key Takeaways

  • Colonial America lasted from 1492 to 1763 and faced many power (between the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish) and religious (Puritans, Protestantism, Judaism, Christianity, and Native spirituality) struggles along its journey to independence.
  • 13 British colonies made up the territory of colonial America and were separated into three sections: the New England Colonies, the Middle Colonies, and the Southern Colonies.
  • Food was scarce in the colonies and starvation was a consistent enemy; the settlers had to rely on education from the native peoples to understand how to tend to the new lands.
  • Colonial America officially gained independence from Britain in 1783 after the end of the American Revolution (the War of Independence).

Frequently Asked Questions about Colonial America

European nations were coming to America in search of wealth and increasing their influence over world affairs. America was settled by the Spanish, English, Dutch, and French, with the English gaining the most control and settling the 13 colonies. As native people were being pushed out of their homes to make room for the Europeans, many wars started between them and made it difficult for the colonies to expand. 

Due to its geographic location and size, Philadelphia was important in colonial America due to being a thriving port city. It also became a hub for major transportation in the 18th century and had many Europeans from all over Europe, as well as the other colonies, migrating to settle there. 

Colonial America is important because it shows us how America came to be as an independent country. Originally an expansion of Europe, the colonies eventually broke away in 1776.

The first colony was a complete failure; founded in 1587, the Roanoke Colony was located on Roanoke Island on the outer banks of what is now North Carolina (but was originally part of Virginia). The islands 115 colonists were poorly prepared to survive in the new land and faced disputes with the natives. Upon returning from Europe, the colony was found abandoned with clear signs of struggle and attack. One of the only clues to the colony’s disappearance was the word “Croatoan” carved into a fence post. 

Due to religious and power struggles within colonial America, Triangular Trade, the Pequot War, the Pueblo revolt, the Salem Witch Trials, the Great Awakening, and the American-Indian Wars all caused major difficulties in the colonies.

Final Colonial America Quiz

Question

Which of the following countries did not have an influential role in the creation of the transatlantic slave trade?

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Answer

France

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Question

Which of the following was the most influential event in the late 1600s in expanding the slave trade into colonial America? 

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Answer

Bacon's Rebellion 

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Question

Which of the following was the most influential in England’s increased use of enslaved Africans between 1600 and 1700? 


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Answer

European demand for agricultural products grown in the colonies

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Question

Approximately how many Africans were transported out of Africa between 1550 and 1870?


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Answer

11 Million

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Question

Which of the following statements is the most influential effect of the transatlantic slave trade? 


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Answer

The African Diaspora created the cultural, societal, and political foundations of African American culture that would shape the creation of the United States.

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Question

What was the journey from West Africa to the New World called?

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Answer

The Middle Passage

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Question

Approximately how many enslaved Africans did not survive the passage to the New World once on a slave ship?


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Answer

15%

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Which of the following was the reason most enslave Africans on slave ships died during the passage to the New World?


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Answer

Malnutrition and Disease

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Question

Which of the following crops was NOT influential in expanding the need for slave labor in North America? 


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Answer

Indigo

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Question

What legal change occurred in Virginia in the 1680s that had a major impact on the slave trade?


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Answer

Slavery and who could be a slave were legally defined by race and religion

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Question

What practice, used by planters in Virginia and Maryland, to increase their number of slaves was not a practice readily used by plantation owners in the Carolinas?


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Answer

Virginia planters did not make as much profit off of tobacco as Carolina sugar plantations, forcing them to turn to female slaves as a means of reproducing the enslaved population as they could not afford new slaves

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Question

The Navigation Acts did all of the following except

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Answer

All colonial merchant vessels were subject to unwarranted search and seizure for smuggled goods.

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Question

True or false: Salutary Neglect was an official policy put in place by Sir Robert Walpole

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Answer

False

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Question

Which of the following groups of colonists are most likely to hold elected office?


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Answer

Wealthy and economically connected White Men

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Question

Which of the following was NOT an effect of the Era of Salutary Neglect


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Answer

With the British shifting focus away from the American Colonies, French settlements in Canada begin to encroach on English claims

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Question

Which of the following is true about the Era of Salutary Neglect?


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Answer

All of the following are True

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Question

Which of the following ended the Era of Salutary Neglect?


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Answer

The end of the Seven Years War

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Question

During the early to mid-1700s, the policy of salutary neglect toward the American colonies contributed to:


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Answer

The development of independent colonial trade practices

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Question

Which statement about the British colonial policy of mercantilism is most accurate?


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Raw materials from the colonies were shipped to England

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The Navigation Acts influenced British mercantilism by

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Requiring that colonial trade take place with the English empire

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True or False: The Era of Salutary Neglect played an important factor in why the American colonies sought independence in the 1770s

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Answer

True 

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Question

What was the primary influence of Bacon’s Rebellion on the labor system in the colony of Virginia? 

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Answer

The rebellion caused a new demand for enslaved African labor

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Question

Which of the following is not a true statement about the growing cultivation of tobacco in Virginia in the 1600s

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Answer

The high demand for tobacco and limited American supply created a stable high-value commodity to be sold in European Market

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Question

Which of the following was not a form of political corruption used by Governor Berkeley to consolidate his power?


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Answer

He used his wealth to monetarily bribe wage laborers to vote for policies he preferred

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Question

Which group instigated the first violent outburst that lead to rebellion?


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Answer

A group of vigilante settlers created a militia and attacked a Susquenhannock village

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Question

Which Act passed by the British Parliament exacerbated the economic issues affecting the tobacco industry in Virginia?


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Answer

The Navigation Acts

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Question

Which of the following was an unintended consequence of the Navigation Acts on the tobacco industry in Virginia?


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Answer

The lack of trade to other nations increased their own production of tobacco, driving down the price of American tobacco

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Question

Which of the following is not true of Nathaniel Bacon?


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He was appointed as a justice of the peace by the Governor, which gave him control of the local militia

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Which of the following was an unintended consequence of Bacon’s Rebellion?


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The wealthy planter-merchants began using fewer indentured servants, increasing the demand for enslaved African labor

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Question

What year was Bacon’s Rebellion quelled?


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Answer

1676

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Question

Which of the following was the most influential effect of Bacon’s Rebellion?


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The movement away from indentured servants and using Englishmen as a source of labor created a new high demand for enslaved Africans, quickly changing the racial and cultural divide of Virginia.

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True or False: the Stono Rebellion was the first uprising of enslaved Africans in the British American Colonies

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Answer

False

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What year did the Stono Rebellion take place?

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Answer

1739

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Question

Which of the following was the most influential factor in Jeremy and other enslaved Africans rebelling against their South Carolinian captors?


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Their violent treatment and disciplinary actions towards slaves

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Question

Which of the following was a practice of slave owners in the northern colonies that was later adopted more fully by southern plantation owners?


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Answer

The practice of using enslaved women to produce newly enslaved people born in the American colonies

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Which of the following best describes the influence of the changing disciplinary measures southern plantation owners used on their enslaved labor after the Stono Rebellion?


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Southern plantation owners increased the violence in which they disciplined infractions, usually choosing to do much harm to a few individuals as a means of warning the others

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Question

In what year did a revolt in New York City results in the burning down of a building and the deaths of approximately nine white colonists at the hands of rebelling enslaved Africans?


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1741

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Question

Which of the following could be considered an immediate reaction to the Stono Rebellion and the rising fears of a slave uprising?


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Answer

The New York scare of 1741

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Question

Where did the Stono Rebellion originate?


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Answer

The American Colony of South Carolina

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Question

Which of the following was most influential in the initial violent success of the Stono Rebellion?


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Answer

The fugitive slaves were of Congolese origin, a nation in Africa that had been militarized by conflict, so they had some military experience

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Question

Use the Following Primary Source to Answer the following Multiple Choice Questions: 


“….On the 9th day of September last being Sunday which is the day the Planters allow them to work for themselves, Some Angola Negroes assembled, to the number of Twenty; and one who was called Jemmy was their Captain, they surprised a Warehouse belong to Mr. Hutchenson at a place called Stonehow [Stono]; they there killed Mr. Robert Bathurst, and Mr. Gibbs, plundered the House and took a pretty many small Arms and Powder, which were here for Sale. Next they plundered and burnt Mr. Godfrey’s house, and killed him, his Daughter and Son. They then turned back and marched Southward along Pons Pons, which is the road through Georgia to Augustine, they passed Mr. Wallace’s Tavern towards day break, and said they would not hurt him, for he was a good Man and king to his slaves, but they broke open and plundered Mr. Lemy’s House and killed him, his wife, and child. They marched on towards Mr. Rose’s resolving to kill him, but he was saved by a Negroe, who having hid him went out and pacified the others…”


-The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia on the Stono Rebellion (1739)


The events described in the primary source above were primarily caused by:

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Answer

The dehumanizing nature of slavery

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Question

Use the Following Primary Source to Answer the following Multiple Choice Questions: 


“….On the 9th day of September last being Sunday which is the day the Planters allow them to work for themselves, Some Angola Negroes assembled, to the number of Twenty; and one who was called Jemmy was their Captain, they surprised a Warehouse belong to Mr. Hutchenson at a place called Stonehow [Stono]; they there killed Mr. Robert Bathurst, and Mr. Gibbs, plundered the House and took a pretty many small Arms and Powder, which were here for Sale. Next they plundered and burnt Mr. Godfrey’s house, and killed him, his Daughter and Son. They then turned back and marched Southward along Pons Pons, which is the road through Georgia to Augustine, they passed Mr. Wallace’s Tavern towards day break, and said they would not hurt him, for he was a good Man and king to his slaves, but they broke open and plundered Mr. Lemy’s House and killed him, his wife, and child. They marched on towards Mr. Rose’s resolving to kill him, but he was saved by a Negroe, who having hid him went out and pacified the others…”


-The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia on the Stono Rebellion (1739)


Which of the following examples is a continuation of the efforts described in the excerpt?


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Answer

Colonial legislatures began passing laws restricting the liberties of slaves

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Question

Which of the following was not a reason for the Pueblo revolt of 1680?

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Answer

The Pueblo were weakened by a lack of food due to a drought in the area since 1660.

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Question

How long did the Pueblo retain control over their lands after the initial success of their Revolt?

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Answer

12 Years

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Question

According to the quote from Pedro Naranjo from his recollection of the revolt, which of the following was the reason the Pueblo burned down Catholic Churches and shrines?


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Answer

To appease the native spirits and gods to have good favor when attacking the Spanish

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Question

What was the name of the land and labor system used by the Spanish as a means of utilizing native people and conquering their land? 


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Answer

The Encomienda System

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Question

Who was the leader of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680?


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Answer

Pope

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Question

Which of the following was the most significant effect of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680?


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Answer

The Pueblo began to adopt and assimilate Spanish culture into their own native practices and beliefs

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Question

True or False: The Pueblo Revolt, though for a short time, was successful in repelling the Spanish from their territory. 

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Answer

True 

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Question

How many Spanish settlers and missionaries were removed and/or killed during the Pueblo revolt?


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Answer

2000 removed and 400 killed

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60%

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