Cycles in U.S. History

The Colonial Cycle (1589-1692)





The 13 Original
American Colonies

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The Puritan Generation were the idealist generation of the Colonial Cycle. They were, for the most part, children and grandchildren of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. They were raised in the aftermath of the defeat of the Spanish Armada by England and in a time of great promise for mankind. A list of international contemporaries of the founders of the British New World would include such people as William Shakespeare, Galileo, Elizabeth I, Johannes Kepler, Cervantes, William Harvey, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, John Calvin, Francis Bacon, Henry VIII, Martin Luther, Akbar, Hernan Cortes among others. They left England determined to build a perfect moral (or profitable) society in America and in their young adulthood accomplished much of what Americans remember of the colonial experience. This spiritual event S&H refer to as the Puritan Awakening. Two generations later a determined civic generation called the Glorious Generation reacted to unrest and uncertainty in the colonies by beating back all foes from the French to the Native Americans to other colonists. They even fought off the devil itself in the Salem witch trials of 1692. S&H referred to this secular event as the Glorious Revolution.

The beginning of this cycle roughly coincides with the English colonization of the Atlantic Coast of North America. Christopher Columbus had discovered the New World for his European sponsers a hundred years earlier (Lief Erickson probably five hundred years before that). Consequently there were many Europeans already in the Americas prior to this time. There were already Spanish settlements in Florida; the French had colonized in South Carolina and Champlain was contemplating his colony on the St. Lawrence river; De Soto had discovered the Mississippi River and Sir Francis Drake as well as the Spanish had explored the Pacific Coast; and, of course, the Spanish had a large presence in the Caribbean, South America and, thanks to Coronado's search for the fabled "Seven Cities of Gold," Southern North America. The products of the new world were already being sampled in Europe as tobacco was introduced by slave traders in England as early as 1565; sugar cane and its by-product, Demon Rum, were being produced in the Caribbean; and fish and furs were being harvested from the Northern continent. By the end of the cycle, a dozen hardy colonies were functioning as a valuable component of the British colonial empire.

A Map of the Colonies Prior to the Revolution
Map collection of the Colonial Period

13 Originals

Thomas Hariot's "A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia"


Elizabethan Renaissance Era - 1st Turning, High (1589-1620)

Cohorts: Puritan Generation - Prophet, Idealist Type (1584-1614)
Myles Standish (1584), John Winthrop (1587), Roger Williams (1603), William Bradford (1590), Anne Hutchinson (1591), Peter Stuyvesant (1612), Pocahontas (1595?), Virginia Dare (1587), Squanto (1580?) (the last three are native born) and an honorable mention for English Capt. John Smith (1580). John Smith and Squanto were born just prior to this generation but are included because of their unique contribution to the American colonization experience.

American Timeline Events: After a failed attempt at a Colony on Roanoke Island which later became known as the "Lost" Colony, Jamestown became the first successful British colony on the North American continent (1607), Pocahontas saves Capt. John Smith (1607), Samuel de Champlain founds Quebec (1608), Capt. John Smith publishes the first American book (1608), Henry Hudson, returning from a search for the Northwest Passage, explores Hudson River and Hudson Bay (1609-1611), the "Starving Time" in Jamestown (1609-10), Pocahontas weds John Rolfe (1614), Smallpox wipes out most New England natives (1616), first African slaves arrive in Jamestown (1619), Virginia's House of Burgesses meets in Jamestown (1619), Mayflower Compact signed (1620), Plymouth Colony founded (1620)

Author's Ancestors: None discovered so far.

Foreign Contemporaries: Rene Descartes, Oliver Cromwell, John Milton, Rembrandt, Thomas Hobbes.

Foreign Timeline events: Mary "Queen of Scots" beheaded (1587), defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588), Bubonic Plague ravages London (1593), Shakespeare completes "Romeo and Juliet" (1594), Boris Godunov made Czar of Russia (1598), Dutch East India company founded (1602), James VI of Scotland becomes James I, King of England, on the death of Queen Elizabeth (1603), Galileo demonstrates Law of Gravity (1604), Cervantes publishes Don Quixote (1605), Galileo's telescope (1609), Gustavus II becomes King of Sweden (1611), King James version of the Bible published (1611), Japan expels all foreign Missionaries (1614), Europeans vie for the Spice trade (1615), Tarters invade China (1616), Thirty Years War begins (1618).

Expanded Timeline ahead


Puritan Awakening Era - 2nd Turning, Awakening (1621-1640)

Cohorts: Cavalier Generation - Nomad, Reactive Type (1615-1647)
Nathaniel Bacon, Increase Mather, John Pinchon, Elisha Cooke, Metacomet ("King Philip"), William Kidd

American Timeline Events: First Thanksgiving celebrated (1621), Opechancanough attacks settlers around Jamestown (1622), Powhatan Confederacy of local tribes harass Jamestown settlers (1622-1646), Dutch West India company siezes Bahia, Brazil (1624), Dutch land in New York (1624), Peter Minuit purchases Manhattan Island (1626), Massachusetts Bay Colony and Boston founded (1630), Lord Baltimore granted Maryland Charter (1632), Roger Williams banished from Boston (1635), Roger Williams founds Rhode Island (1636), Harvard College founded (1636), Anne Hutchinson is banned from Massachusetts (1637), Massachusetts declares war on Pequot Indians (1637), Treaty of Hartford ends Pequot wars (1638), Iroquois tribes fight Beaver Wars for control of fur trade (1638-1684), New Netherlands battles Algonquin tribes (1639-1645), Bay Palm Book first book published in America (1640)

Author's Ancestors:

Foreign Contemporaries: Molière, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, John Locke, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Louis XIV, Sir Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz,

Foreign Timeline events:Charles I succeeds James I to the English crown (1625), Rembrandt paints the "Money Changer" (1627), work is begun on the Taj Mahal (1628), King Charles dissolves parliament (1629), Cardinal Richelieu struggles with Marie de' Medici for power in France (1630), Rene Descartes publishes "Discourse on Method" (1637), Portugal obtains independence from Spain (1640).

Expanded Timeline ahead


Era of Religious Intolerance - 3rd Turning, Unraveling (1641-1674)

Cohorts: Glorious Generation - Hero, Civic Type (1648-1673)
Cotton Mather, William Fitzhugh, Robert Beverly, Jonathon Swift, Samuel Sewall, Joseph Talcott

American Timeline Events: First American patent issued in Massachusetts (1641), English Civil War fought as Maryland's Religious War (1644-1654), Female property holder demands vote in Maryland (1648), Dutch pit Iraquois against Hurons that support French (1648-1650), Anne Bradstreet becomes first American poet published in London (1650), Original "Navigation Act" passed by British (1651), Boston mints its own "Pine Tree" shilling (1652), First Jewish settler arrives in Manhattan (1654), Two banned Quakers hung in Massachusetts (1659), John Eliot est. first Indian church in Natick, Mass. (1660), Colonial "Navigation Act" reenacted by British (1660), King Charles II orders Mass. to quit persecuting Quakers (1661), Mass, creates "Half Way Covenant" to baptize children of non-believers (1662), New Amsterdam surrenders to the English (1664), Maryland officially sanctions Slavery (1664), New York horseracing becomes first organized sport (1664), Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet explore the Mississippi for France (1673)

Author's Ancestors: Author's ancestor Robert Murray (born in Scotland)

Foreign Contemporaries: Queen Anne, The Kangxi Emperor, Peter the Great, King William III

Foreign Timeline events: Income and property taxes introduced in England (1642), Presbyterian Church established in England (1643), the Chinese Ming Dynasty falls to the Manchus (1644), Cromwell defeats Charles I at Naseby (1645), Pascal invents the hypodermic syringe (1646), first newspaper advertisement in England (1647), Charles I is executed and the Commonwealth is established (1649), war between English and Dutch (1652), Charles II restored (1660), the English Crown expands its Navigation Act (1660), Sir Isaac Newton discovers the Law of Gravity (1665), the Great Plague of London (1665), English-Dutch hostilities resume (1673),

Expanded Timeline ahead


Glorious Revolution Era - 4th Turning, Crisis (1675-1692)

Cohorts: Enlightenment Generation - Artist, Adaptive Type (1674-1700)
William Shirley, Samuel Johnson, Daniel Dulany, Ebenezer Gay, Elisha Cooke, Jr.

American Timeline Events: King Phillips War in New England (1675-76), Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia (1676), William Penn formalizes separation of Church and State in West New Jersey (1677), Pueblo Indians take Santa Fe from Spanish (1680), King Charles II grants Pennsylvania to William Penn (1681), La Salle claimes Louisiana Territory for France (1682), William Penn's Frame of Government signed (1682), Connecticut charter hidden from King James II in "Charter Oak" (1687), Leisler's Rebellion in New York (1689-91), Nine Years War in Europe spawns King William's War in colonies (1689-97), Massachusetts prints first paper money in colonies (1690), Boston's "Publick Occurences" is first colonial newspaper (1690), six Witches executed in Salem (1692)

Author's Ancestors: Author's great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather William Murray (born in Scotland, 1690)

Foreign Contemporaries: Voltaire, Robert Walpole, Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, James Edward Oglethorpe, Charles-Louis Montesquieu

Foreign Timeline events: The Duke of York becomes King James II of England (1685), deposition of James II and reversal of his harsh policies as he is replaced by William and Mary of Orange (1689)

Expanded Timeline ahead


For each historical era within the cycle a list of notable Americans born to that generation and a list of important U. S. events is presented. It is important to keep in mind that these are the events that shaped the early life of this generation. A few important foreign cohorts and global events are also listed to provide a contextual backdrop for the era. Follow the pointer to an expanded timeline view of the era.

ahead On to the Revolutionary War Cycle

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" The Americans, the Colonial Experience"

Daniel J. Boorstin


" The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649" (The John Harvard Library)

John Winthrop, Richard S. Dunn (Editor), Laetitia Yeandle


" The Times Of Their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in Plymouth Colony"

James Deetz, Patricia Scott Deetz


" Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647"

William Bradford, Samuel Eliot Morison (Editor)


" Big Chief Elizabeth"Big Chief Elizabeth : The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America

Giles Milton


" The Virginia Adventure : Roanoke to James Towne : An Archaeological and Historical Odyssey"

Ivor Noel Hume


" The New History in an Old Museum : Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg"

Richard Handler, Eric Gable


" The Peopling of British North America : An Introduction"

Bernard Bailyn


" Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth"

William Bradford, Dwight B. Heath (Editor)


" Never Before in History: America's Inspired Birth"

Gary Amos, Richard Gardiner


" Albion's Seed : Four British Folkways in America"

David Hackett Fischer


" First Generations : Women in Colonial America"

Carol Berkin


" Everyday Life in Early America"

David Freeman Hawke


" A New World : An Epic of Colonial America from the Founding of Jamestown to the Fall of Quebec"

Authur Quinn


" A Delusion of Satan : The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials"

Frances Hill, Karen Armstrong (Introduction)


" Salem Possessed : The Social Origins of Witchcraft"

Paul S. Boyer, Stephen Nissenbaum (Contributor)


" The Crucible : A Play in Four Acts"

Arthur Miller


" The Name of War : King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity"

Jill Lepore


" Wilderness at Dawn : The Settling of the North American Continent"

Ted Morgan


" Changes in the Land Indians Colonists and the Ecology of New England"

William Cronon

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