Although John Cabot (ca. 1450-1499) established an English claim to the North American continent as early as 1497-1498, more than half a century elapsed before Englishmen turned their attention to the new lands. The most well-known early colony was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh (ca. 1554-1618) on Roanoke Island, off the coast of present-day North Carolina. Raleigh sent groups of settlers for three years, beginning in 1584. Left for three years, the 117 men, women, and children had disappeared mysteriously by the time a relief party arrived in 1590.
Raleigh's initiative was successfully imitated by a group of London investors who founded Virginia in 1607. Subsequently, a variety of English settlements took root in North America, conspicuous among which were the religious "plantations" of the Puritans in New England, the Quakers in the Middle Colonies, and the Catholics in Maryland. By the end of the seventeenth century, approximately 250,000 European men and women lived in the area that later became the United States. All but a handful were English.
On the eve of the American Revolution as many as 2,500,000 people lived in the rebellious colonies. Although substantial numbers were Germans, or Africans brought as slaves, the overwhelming majority were English and Scotch-Irish -- Scots who had settled in northern Ireland. The Scotch-Irish began emigrating in large numbers early in the eighteenth century.
Immigration from Great Britain often came in waves: huge numbers fled famine in Ireland -- part of Britain until the early twentieth century -- after 1845, and others came during events such as the California Gold Rush in 1849. The last large group immigrated immediately after World War II, when an estimated 70,000 British "war brides" arrived in the United States. Recently the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that approximately five million immigrants from Great Britain, excluding Ireland, had entered the United States since 1820.
Drake Circumnavigates the Globe
Published by the noted Dutch cartographer, Jodocus Hondius (1563-1611), this double hemisphere world map records Sir Francis Drake's (ca. 1540-1596) hugely profitable circumnavigation of the globe, between 1577 and 1580. It also traces the route of his countryman, Thomas Cavendish (1560-1592), who duplicated the feat a few years later. Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, is shown at the bottom of the map; the illustration at the upper left is Drake's landing at New Albion in present-day California.
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Drake Pillages a Spanish Settlement
Shown here is Sir Francis Drake's (ca. 1540-1596), 1586 attack on St. Augustine, Florida. The six-sided fort and the town are depicted as under simultaneous assault. Victorious, Drake looted and burned the settlement and sailed northward, stopping at Raleigh's Roanoke Island settlement on the way to England.
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"Needefull Things" for a Virginia Immigrant
Many of the earliest immigrants to Virginia died within a year of arrival. This trend hurt the colony's reputation and prompted the promoters to issue, in 1622, a list of "provisions" necessary to survive in the New World. Despite the differences in climate, this list was copied in abbreviated form in 1630 by promoters of settlement in New England.
Edward Waterhouse. A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affaires in Virginia. . . . London: 1622. The British Library (10)
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Exploits of Captain John Smith
Captain John Smith (c.1580-1631) was governor of the Virginia colony from 1608 to1609. He saved the floundering venture with his energy and decisiveness. In 1624 Smith published a Historie of his exploits in Virginia, illustrated by this series of engravings. They show him encountering and overcoming various perils, including being rescued at the last minute from King Powhatan's executioners by the monarch's daughter, Pocahontas.
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Why the Puritans Left England
Recently discovered in the Library's Peter Force Collection, this pamphlet is a previously unknown, contemporary copy of John Winthrop's "General Observations for the Plantation of New England," written in the summer of 1629 to justify the Puritan migration to New England. Winthrop (1588-1649) offered a series of reasons for the proposed emigration and refuted various objctions to the enterprise.
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Many Puritans were solidly middle class and wore good-quality clothing, provided it was not ostentatious. A Puritan woman in Old England, and quite likely New England as well, might have resembled the figure seen in this publication of 1640 .
Wenceslaus Hollar. Ornatus muliebris Anglicanus or the Severall Habits of English Women. London: Overton, 1640, plates 17, 18. Early Printed Collections, The British Library (17)
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"Much Love to a Countrey Left"
This sermon was preached by Rev. William Hook (1600-1678) at Taunton, Massachusetts, on July 23, 1640, on a day of fasting and humiliation for "our Native countrey in time of feared dangers" produced by the impending civil war in England. In a preface the sermon is described as"preached to some in New England for Old England's sake: wherein is expressed much love to a Countrey left."
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Slaves for England's Colonies
In 1660 Charles II (1630-1685) granted the Royal African Company a charter securing a monopoly of trade in West Africa, from which the Company began supplying slaves to England's American colonies. This broadside describes the company's thirteen forts and five factories in West Africa. The broadside was apparently produced as part of the Company's unsuccessful effort to prevent legislation, passed in 1698, dissolving its monopoly.
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Duke's Map of New York
This map of New York City was presented to James, Duke of York (1633-1701), the future James II, shortly after the English captured New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664. Probably copied from a map made for Dutch authorities in 1661 by Jacques Cortelyou, the map shows the town walls from which the name"Wall Street" is derived as well as the Battery.
"Description of the Towne of Mannados or New Amsterdam as it was in September 1661," 1664. Map Collections, The British Library (21)
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William Penn Leaves England
William Penn wrote and dated this pamphlet, August 30, 1682, the day he sailed from Deal, on the south coast of England, for America aboard the Welcome. In this "solemn Farewel to them all in the Land of my Nativity," Penn saluted Quakers who had kept the faith in spite of the tribulations they had experienced, rebuked the "Unsanctified and Unregenerated," and encouraged "enquirers after the truth."
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Locke's Constitution for Carolina
A leading spirit among the Carolina proprietors was Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftsbury (1621-1683). In 1669 Shaftsbury enlisted his secretary, John Locke (1632-1704), the political philosopher, to draft a constitution for the new colony. Designed to avoid "erecting a numerous democracy," the document created a complicated hierarchical society with a landed aristocracy firmly in control. The constitution was never enacted into law.
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In 1722 Mark Catesby (1683-1749) was sent to Carolina by members of Britain's scientific and political establishment to study and describe the local fauna and flora. Catesby spent approximately three years in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, returning to England in 1726. In 1731 he published his classic Natural History. Shown here is Catesby's drawing of the passenger pigeon, later hunted to extinction by Americans.
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British Mormon Emigration
The Church of Jesus of Latter-Day Saints began proselytizing in the British Isles in 1837. Between 1847 and 1869 more than 32,000 British Mormons emigrated to the United States. This is a Welsh language version of the writings of Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the church's religious leader. The picture represents Abraham being offered up for sacrifice by an Egyptian priest, as described in the Book of Abraham, which Smith claimed to have translated from a papyrus written by Abraham himself.
Joseph Smith. Y perl o fawr bris. . . .[The Pearl of Great Price]. Merthyr-Tydfil: John Davis, 1852. Modern Collections, The British Library (28)
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Famine forced more than a million Irish to emigrate to the United States in the decade after 1845. Seen here is a poor Irishman, leaving home to try his luck in the United States. The benevolent author of this guide for prospective emigrants claims to have gained first-hand knowledge of what faced the "penny emigrant" by having himself crossed the Atlantic twice as a steerage passenger.
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Scots, or Caledonians, as they sometimes called themselves, did not begin arriving in America in large numbers until early in the eighteenth century, when the Scotch-Irish, natives of Scotland who had settled in Northern Ireland, began pouring into British North America. Some estimate the number of Scotch-Irish immigrants as high as 250,000 on the eve of the American Revolution. Scottish and Scotch-Irish immigration continued into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
J.L. Giles. "The Great International Caledonian Games: New York, July 1, 1867." New York: Kelly & Whitehill, ca. 1868. Lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (30)
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California Here We Come
In this satire a clerk named Mivins gets gold fever, leaves a steady job in London, and sets out to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush of 1849. Swindled, robbed, and at last destitute, Mivins is rescued from a suicide attempt and, sadder but wiser, works his way back to Britain as a common sailor. Approximately 20,000 Britons participated in the California Gold Rush.
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British War Brides
The Argentina was the first of the "nursery ships" fitted out by the American government in the winter of 1946 to bring as many as 70,000 British "GI Brides" and their children to the United States. The American media worked to disabuse the country of the notion that the war brides were an unsavory collection of "Piccadilly commandos." According to the New York Times, the women were daughters of ordinary British families, "than whom there is nobody more respectable."
The Library does not have permission to display this image online. "War Brides Begin Arriving in U.S." Life, February 18, 1946, pp. 28-29. General Collections, Library of Congress(32)
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