Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events

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Pre-1650 1650 1700 1750 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840
  1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920
Literature, Music, and Movies
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s
1500-1649 Political and Social History Literature
1500-1549 1512: Spanish Laws of Burgos forbid enslavement of Indians and advocate Christian conversion 
1514: Bartolome de las Casas petitions Spanish crown on behalf of Native Americans 
1519-1521 Cortes's conquest of Aztecs in Mexico.
1528-1536 A member of the Narvaez expedition, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca is shipwrecked first near Tampa Bay and later on Galveston Island off the coast of what is now Texas. After six years spent among the Indians of the region, he and his companions travel westward across Texas and Mexico. 
1540-1542 Seeking gold first in the city of Cibola, reportedly larger and richer than Mexico City, and then in Quivera, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado leads an expeditionary force through the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, with much loss of life among the area's native peoples. He returns to Mexico City in 1542 and dies in 1544. 
1542 Urged on by Bartolome de las Casas and others, Carlos V enacts the "New Laws"  designed to end the encomienda system that enslaves native people. 
1519: Hernan Cortes, First Letter from Mexico to the Spanish Crown
1542: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, The Relation of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca(New URL)
1550-1599 1584: Sir Walter Raleigh sends a reconnaissance fleet under Captains Amadas and Barlow to the future Croatoan Sound, North Carolina.  Based on their glowing account, he sends out a colonizing expedition the next year of 100 men who settle on Roanoke Island, among them artist John White and surveyor Thomas Harriot. Sir Francis Drake later takes the colonists back to England at their request.
1587: Ralegh sends out a fresh colony of 117 men, women, and children in three ships, with John White as governor. 
1590: White returns to find that settlers have disappeared, leaving "Croatoan" carved on a tree
1598: Don Juan Oñate establishes the colony of New Mexico by taking over a pueblo, which he renames San Juan, near modern-day Santa Fe. In retaliation for an attack on the settlement, he destroys the Acoma pueblo, killing 800 and capturing 500. 
1550 Tales of  La Llorona (the Weeping Woman), an important cultural figure and legend, begin to be told in Mexico City. 
1552: Casas,The Very Brief Relation of the Devastation of the Indies, a protest against the treatment of 
1568: Bernal Diaz del Castillo writes The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1632) 
1588: Thomas Harriot, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (.pdf version) (summary)
1589: Arthur Barlow, The First Voyage Made to the Coasts of America
1600-1619 1607: Establishment of Jamestown 
1608 Colony of Quebec is established.
1610. Santa Fe is established as the new capital of New Mexico, with Pedro de Peralta as the governor of the new colony.
1616: John Smith, A Description of New England
  • 1621 First Thanksgiving, at Plymouth 
  • 1628 (May 1) Thomas Morton and colonists at Merrymount dance around a maypole and celebrate May Day, upsetting the Plymouth Pilgrims. In June, Capt. Miles Standish is sent to eradicate the settlement and Morton is sent back to England. 

  • 1630-43: English Puritans immigrate to Massachusetts Bay Colony 
    1630 John Cotton preaches the sermon God's Promise to His Plantation to the departing colonists aboard the Arb
  • John Winthrop delivers the lay sermon A Model of Christian Charity while aboard the ship Arbella.
  • 1630-1639 1630 Population: 3,000 colonists in Virginia; 300 at Plymouth.  During 1630-1640, another 16,000 colonists will arrive.
    1636 Founding of Providence, R. I. by Roger Williams, who establishes Rhode Island as a place of religious toleration.
    1636-1637. Pequot War.
  • July 1636. The murder in 1634 of Capt. John Stone, a disreputable English seaman and merchant, and of trader John Oldham on 20 July 1636, reportedly by Pequots, leads to reprisals against Pequot settlements. This marks the beginning of the Pequot War, although the conflict is not officially so designated until 1637.
  • 24 August 1636. After Massachusetts Governor Henry Vane commissions John Endicott to assemble a force of 90 men to seek out Block Island tribe of Pequots and demand their surrender,  Endicott destroys the Block Island settlement. In retaliation, the Pequots attack Fort Saybrook and its commander Lieutenant Lion Gardiner. 

  • 1637 Pequot War. Roger Williams helps to convince the Narragansetts, traditional enemies of the Pequots, to join the New Englanders' side of the conflict. 
  • 20 January.  Boston clergyman John Wheelwright preaches a sermon supporting the ideas of Anne Hutchinson and her followers and is thereby sentenced to banishment on 12 November. Anne Hutchinson is sentenced to banishment at the same time. 
  • 26 May.The burning of the Pequot fort by Capt. John Mason and his forces at Fort Mystic, Connecticut, kills 300-700 men, women, and children 
  • 28 July. Most of the remaining Pequots are killed near New Haven, Connecticut, by combined forces from Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • To prevent the re-election of Governor Vane, who is sympathetic to Anne Hutchinson and her ideas, John Winthrop moves the voting to Newtown and thus is himself elected Governor of the colony.
  • December. Under the leadership of Peter Minuit, a group of Swedish colonists establishes a settlement called  New Sweden on the Delaware River. 

  • 1638 7 March. Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her religious beliefs, Anne Hutchinson leaves Boston and helps to establish Pocasset, or Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  (See this article for information about Hutchinson's beliefs.)
  • 21 September 1638. Signing of the Treaty of Hartford formally ends the Pequot War. Remaining members of the Pequot tribe are divided up among the Puritansí Indian allies; Pequot territories are turned over to the Puritans as spoils of war.  This treaty marked the end of the Pequots as a distinct people. 
  • 1637 Thomas Morton, New English Canaan
    1640-1649 1630-50 William Bradford begins writing Of Plymouth Plantation (pub. 1856)
    1643 Anne Hutchinson and family murdered by Native Americans near Eastchester, Long Island (N. Y.)
    1646 Robert Child and others protest the intolerance of Massachusetts Puritans toward those of other faiths; in response, Governor John Winthrop and others justify their policies and banish Child. 
  • At the Synod of 1646 in Boston, John Cotton and others draft a document published in 1648 as the Cambridge Platform, which codifies and defines New England Congregationalism. (Go to an essay on the history of the Cambridge Platform from a theological perspective.

  • 1647 First woman barrister in the colonies, Margaret Brent of Maryland, seeks and is denied the right to vote in the assembly.
    1642 John Cotton, The True Constitution of a Particular Visible Church
    1643 Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America
    1645 John Cotton preaches and publishes The Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, a sermon that justifies the New England Way
    1650 Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse 
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