America in 1700 - dummies

By Steve Wiegand

The English colonies in America had filled in the gaps between the first two settlements in Virginia and Massachusetts by 1700 and, in fact, had gone beyond them. They now stretched from Maine to South Carolina. But they were a pretty skinny bunch, as colonies go.

Few settlers lived more than 75 miles from the Atlantic coast, and vast stretches of land lay unsettled by any nation, although claimed by more than one.

The population had reached 275,000 to 300,000, including 25,000 African slaves. Most people — as many as 90 percent — lived in small communities or farms. The population of New York City was about 5,000; Charles Towne (now Charleston) about 2,000.

Many of the newcomers weren’t English but people from other Western European regions, such as Ireland, France, Scotland, and Germany, as well as the Scandinavian countries.

The colonies were maturing as they grew. Boston and Philadelphia were major publishing centers. Small manufacturing firms were turning out goods such as furniture and iron products that lessened the colonies’ dependence on goods from England. And increasing secularism was loosening the hold of religious authority on everyday life. In fact, things were going along okay, except for all that fighting in Europe.