Colonial Web Sites
A Sailor’s Life for Me ★★★★★
What was it like to be a sailor in the 18th-century? Sponsored by the USS Constitution Museum, this game is a very in-depth simulation, allowing students to assume the role of a sailor aboard the USS Constitution. Along the way, students engage in the Constitution’s historical battles and learn firsthand about all of the things that go on beneath the hull to run a proper sailing ship in over a dozen minigames. Shop for a uniform, swab the deck, fire a cannon, and play historical dice games as you work your way up through the ranks! The site also features other interactives; in Meet your Shipmates, you can read voice-acted diary excerpts of real sailors, including the ship’s cook, surgeon, captain, marines, and more; Explore Old Ironsides gives a detailed tour of the historic frigate.
1759: From the Warpath to the Plains of Abraham ★★★★★
An excellent online presentation of the Seven Years’ War in the Americas, known as the French and Indian War in the United States. Sponsored by the Canadian National Battlefield Comission, the site explores the Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham through the perspectives of the British, French, Canadian, and Indigenous soldiers.
Freedom Trail Distance Learning Resources ★★★★★
The various sites of the Freedom Trail each have their own websites, with online activites, games, virtual tours, and educator resources. This is a list that compiles all of these valuable online resources.
Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704 ★★★★★
The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association/Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts has launched a rich and impressive website that focuses on the 1704 raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, with the goal of commemorating and reinterpreting the event from the perspectives of all the cultural groups who were present – Mohawk, Abenaki, Huron, French, and English. The website brings together many resources – historical scenes, stories of people’s lives, historical artifacts and documents, essays, voices and songs, historical maps, and a timeline – to illuminate broad and competing perspectives on this dramatic event.
Do History: Martha Ballard ★★★★☆
DoHistory invites you to explore the process of piecing together the lives of ordinary people in the past. It is an experimental, interactive case study based on the research that went into the book and PBS film A Midwife’s Tale, which were both based upon the remarkable 200 year old diary of midwife/healer Martha Ballard. There are thousands of downloadable pages from original documents: diaries, letters, maps, court records, town records, and more as well as a searchable copy of the twenty-seven year diary of Martha Ballard. DoHistory engages users interactively with historical documents and artifacts from the past and introduces visitors to the pivotal questions and issues raised when “doing” history. DoHistory was developed and maintained by the Film Study Center at Harvard University and is hosted and maintained by the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.
Plymouth Colony Archive Project ★★★★☆
This site focuses on Plymouth from 1620 to 1691 and has been selected as one of the best humanities sites on the web by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Includes fully searchable texts of early laws, court records, wills, and probates; analyses of the colony legal structure, domestic relations, early settlement, criminal records, and interactions of the Wampanoag people and the colonists; biographical and social network profiles of members of the colony; a study of social and legal relationships between indentured servants and masters; and archaeological analyses of house plans and material culture.
The Jamestown Online Adventure ★★★★☆
In this short interactive, students must create a stable settlement in the New World by answering a series of tough choices. Using direct passages from the London Company’s charter as their guide, students will choose where to settle, what to grow, how to interact with the natives, and more. At the end of the game, they can read about how their choices compare to the real-life actions of the Jamestown colonists.
Archiving Early America ★★★★☆
A worthwhile commercial site for links to historical documents, biographies, and even on-line books, on 18th century America. These archival materials are displayed in their original formats so they can be read and examined close-up and in detail. Of special interest is the Maryland Gazette containing George Washington’s Journal of his historic trip to the Ohio Valley. It is the only original copy privately held. Materials are free for personal use.
Divining America: Religion and the National Culture – 17th and 18th Centuries ★★★★☆
TeacherServe®, is an interactive curriculum enrichment service offering teachers practical help in planning courses and presenting rigorous subject matter to students. Divining America: Religion and the National Culture is designed to help teachers of American history bring their students to a greater understanding of the role religion has played in the development of the United States. In The First Great Awakening section, Historian Christine Leigh Heryman of the University of Delaware offers a concise explanation of the scope and impact of the First Great Awakening. In Puritanism and Predestination she offers a clear explanation of Puritan beliefs. Other topics include Witchcraft in Salem Village; Religion, Women, and the Family in Early America; The Church of England in Early America; Religious Pluralism in the Middle Colonies; Native American Religion in Early America; and Religion and the American Revolution.
America’s Story: Colonial America (1492-1763) ★★★★☆
America’s Story is a site for children from the Library of Congress and is designed to be both entertaining and fun to use. The Colonial America (1492-1763) section contains “stories” (concise essays with images) including “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”, “Jamestown Was Established”, “Salem Witch Trials”, “Christopher Columbus Saw Land!”, and “George Washington Was Born”.
Early America’s Digital Archives ★★★★☆
The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities has produced a searchable collection of electronic texts written in or about the Americas from 1492 to approximately 1820. The Archive also features a collection of links to early American texts on the Internet. Open to the public for research and teaching purposes.
Religion and the Founding of American Republic (Library of Congress) ★★★★☆
Part of a special exhibit by the Library of Congress, this site provides an interesting mix of images, primary text, and background information on the role of religion in the European settlement of America. America as a Religious Refuge: The 17th Century looks at religious persecution in Europe that drove so many to British North America where settlers often established colonies centered on passionate religious convictions. Religion in 18th-Century America concentrates on the nation’s first major religious revival, the Great Awakening, which took place from 1740-1745.
The American Colonist’s Library ★★★★☆
A massive collection of historical works which contributed to the formation of American politics, culture, and ideals. Arranged in chronological sequence (500 B.C.-1800 A.D.). A very helpful scholarly resource.
American Centuries: View from New England ★★★★☆
Explore American history with this digital collection of approximately 2000 objects and transcribed document pages. An image of each of these items appears on an Item Page accompanied by interpretive text available on age-appropriate levels. Museum staff authored the text content with review by teachers, school librarians, and nationally recognized scholars. This site is essentially a large library of primary resources, curricula, and interactive student activities mostly presented in age-appropriate, user-friendly formats.
Virtual Jamestown ★★★★☆
The Virtual Jamestown Archive is an on-going digital research, teaching, and learning project that explores the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and “the Virginia experiment.” There are first-hand accounts and letters, interpretive essays, and more.
Jamestown Rediscovery ★★★★☆
Preservation Virginia’s Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project provides a history of Jamestown and resources.There is a timeline of events and references leading up to and through the establishment of Jamestown and lists of early settlers with occupations. There are also a couple of online exhibits that provide a “behind the scenes” look at the way archaeologists find out about objects excavated on Jamestown Island.
Secrets of the Dead: Death at Jamestown ★★★★☆
This PBS site puts forth the theory that residents died of arsenic poisoning and the plague. Among the multimedia features are an interactive tour of Jamestown, as well as videos of a rebuilt church in Jamestown, an archeological dig, and views of the city.
Africans in America; The Terrible Transformation, 1450-1750 ★★★★☆
Part of PBS’s African-American Journey site, here you’ll find part one of a rich collection of resources — images, documents, stories, biographies, commentaries — on the experience of slavery in America. There is also a useful teacher’s guide and activities for students. There are three other parts to explore: Revolution: 1750-1805, Brotherly Love:1791-1831, and Judgment Day: 1831-1865.
Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 (Library of Congress) ★★★★☆
Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 is part of the American Memory Historical Collections of the Library of Congress and features pamphlets and books documenting the experiences of African and African-American slaves in the American colonies and the United States. There are cases; reports; examinations of cases; and works concerning slaves, fugitive slaves, slave revolts, the African slave trade, and more. A great site for research.
A worthwhile site for researching the history of the Mayflower. Contains important primary source documents related to the ship’s voyage, a history of the Mayflower, representations of the ship, and more.
Plimoth Plantation ★★★★☆
This Plimoth Plantation site tells of Wampanoags and Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony from 1620 to 1692. In the Historical Background section you can browse articles site historians have written on a broad range of topics. There is also a comprehensive interactive activity that builds students’ understanding about the harvest celebration of 1621, which is often erroneously referred to as “The First Thanksgiving.” It is supported by an online teacher’s guide, “Becoming a Historian,” which has lessons that correspond to each activity on the site along with additional resources and information. There are also details about how Plimoth Plantation fulfills the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, 1620 ★★★★☆
This is a detailed study guide for use by teachers, students, and enthusiasts. You can use the “Search this Site” field that will look for any topic within the 75 options. Also, clicking on the “Site Map” will produce an interactive map that allows for selection of any of the individual web pages. Duane Cline, the creator of the site, has written two books: Navigation in the Age of Discovery: an Introduction, and Centennial History: General Society of Mayflower Descendants and has twice been invited to serve as a Guest Curator at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
U.S. History.org ★★★★☆
The Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia has produced this fun and engaging site where you can enjoy a virtual tour of Philadelphia and visit Betsy Ross’ House. You can also learn why Pennsylvania is misspelled on the Liberty Bell and the story of its crack. The Electric Franklin provides resources for you to explore the diversity of Benjamin Franklin’s pursuits, and there are several section that deal with the revolutionary war.
Pilgrim Hall Museum ★★★★☆
Through its exhibition of Pilgrim possessions and Native American artifacts, Pilgrim Hall tells the stories of America’s founding and traditions. The museum features an online tour of artifacts owned by Pilgrims. “The Pilgrim Story” combines artifacts with historical information to illuminate the Pilgrim and Native American story to 1692, when Plymouth Colony as an independent entity came to an end. “Beyond the Pilgrim Story” gives additional information about particular aspects of the Pilgrim story that have been of interest to visitors.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation ★★★★☆
A tourist-oriented site, but one with useful links to resources for students and teachers. Sections include Teacher Resources, Electronic Field Trips, History Explorer, Clothing, Gardens, Archaeology, and more. There are lesson plans, pictures, and information about daily life. Check out the “almanack”.
Salem Witch Trials ★★★★☆
This site is a documentary archive of the Salem Witch Trials and features court records, personal letters, maps of the area, and more. The Archive contains educational information, such as biographical profiles, a collection of images containing portraits of notable people involved in the trials, pictures of important historic sites, historical paintings, and published illustrations taken from 19th and early 20th century literary and historical works. The Documentary Archive is created under the supervision of Professor Benjamin C. Ray, University of Virginia.
Famous American Trials: Salem Witch Trials ★★★★☆
This site include transcripts of trial records and examinations of six accused witches and other relevant primary source documents. There is a chronology, selected images, a map of Salem, Petitions of Accused Witches, an interactive game, and much more. The materials included in the Famous Trials website are original works of authorship, government records, works for which copyright protection has expired, works reprinted with permission, or works the webmaster believes are within the fair use protection of the copyright laws.
Scientific American Frontiers: Unearthing Secret America ★★★★☆
In this episode, archaeologists shed new light on life in colonial America and the lives of slaves. Archeologists Marley Brown and Fraser Neiman uncover evidence that reveals much about the lives of slaves in America during the colonial period up through the 19th Century. Nice mix of concise texts and historic images.
Internet Modern History Sourcebook ★★★★☆
The Internet History Sourcebooks are wonderful collections of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts for educational use by Paul Halsall at Fordham University. The site and its documents are well organized and the breadth of materials is impressive. Under the heading of The Early Modern World is Colonial North America, which includes documents on Early Conquest and Exploitation, Political Forms, Virginia, New England, Middle Atlantic, American Society.
Smithsonian: Within These Walls ★★★★☆
The National Museum of American History presents the history of a 250-year-old house built in the mid-1760s, in Ipswich, Massachussetts and five of the families that occupied it. The site helps one understand the great events of the nation’s past through these families.
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (OIEAHC) ★★★★☆
The College of William and Mary and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation founded the Institute of Early American History and Culture in 1943 and still jointly sponsor its work. The Institute’s full-time professional and support staff is responsible for a variety of valuable research and publication programs for scholars. Most services are fee-based but Uncommon Sense is a free online journal on early American history to which you can subscribe. Important site for serious scholars.
Thanksgiving Interactive: You Are the Historian ★★★★☆
What really happened at the First Thanksgiving? Become a history detective and find out! In this fun, award-winning activity, students assume the role of a “history detective” to investigate what really happened at the famous 1621 celebration. (Hint: It was a lot more than just a feast!) Along the way, they will read a letter written by an eyewitness to the event, learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks, and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home.
Ben Franklin Resources ★★★★☆
The Franklin Institute has put together a good site to teach the basic facts of Ben Franklin’s life and to dispel popular myths.
Salem (National Geographic) ★★★★☆
A flashy and interactive introduction to the Salem Witch trials where the visitor “experiences” the trials. Engaging site for students.
Colonial Currency, Prices, and Exchange Rates ★★★★☆
This article is a very thorough investigation of colonial currency written by Leslie Brock, one of the foremost experts on the topic of money and currency in colonial America.
Slavery Images ★★★★☆
The images at Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. Their growing collection currently has over 1,200 images, and the website is envisioned as a tool and resource for use by teachers, researchers, students, and anyone else interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World. The site is also working on creating 3D models of plantations and other slavery-related historical sites, which can be viewed online.
Puritan Library ★★★★☆
A database of thousands of Puritan sermons, books, and other writings. Organized by author.
13 Originals: Founding the American Colonies ★★★☆☆
Timepage.com offers concise essays on various aspects of the original thirteen colonies. Also provides access to several different maps of the colonies, and Colonial charters, grants, and related documents.
The Hall of Church History: The Puritans ★★★☆☆
Billed as “Theology from a Bunch of Dead Guys,” this section of the Hall of Church History is basically a gateway to links about Puritans.
H-Atlantic is an international online discussion list for Atlantic World History from 1500 to 1800. This an interdisciplinary list for scholars who study colonial North America and the United States, Europe, West Africa, the Caribbean, and South America in a transatlantic context.
The Real Pocahontas ★★★☆☆
Compares and contrasts the real Pocahontas with her portrayal in the Disney movie.
Chronicling Black Lives in Colonial New England ★★★☆☆
Concise Christian Science Monitor feature from the October 29, 1997 edition.
Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, Activities and more
State of Affairs Between the Native Americans and the European Settlers
Students will be able to analyze multiple resources to explain the contacts between the American Indians and the European settlers in early colonial Virginia during the Age of Discovery.
A Colonial Family and Community
Be a history detective. Go back in time and investigate the daily lives of the Daggetts, a colonial family from northeastern Connecticut. Collect clues to uncover answers to 7 questions about colonial life in the 1700s. Then prove your skills as a history detective by discovering What’s wrong with this picture?
George Washington – Lesson Plan
Using letters from the Library of Congress collection “George Washington Papers, 1741-1799,” three units are designed to allow students to examine Washington’s leadership during pivotal events in early American history: the French and Indian War, the Federal Convention, and Washington’s presidency. A main goal is to understand both Washington’s role in early America and the reasons for his rise to prominence. Featuring pre-selected letters from LOC collections and focus questions to evaluate each document, the lesson promotes careful explication of the meaning and implications of primary sources. Designed for grades 8 to 12.
Tinker, Tailor, Farmer, Sailor – Lesson Plan
To understand how geographic factors affected where European settlers established colonies, students compare primary sources from the Library of Congress’ American Memory collections for three distinct regions: New England, the mid-Atlantic and the South. By comparing and contrasting the experiences of settlers, students understand the importance of regional differences and how settlers adapted to new environments. A wide range of sources including drawings, business proposals and government documents are used to address the role of region in settlement. The lesson plan includes specific activities and guides on how to use class time and also identifies specific American Memory items to be used. Designed for grades 4 to 8.
Death at Jamestown
In 1607 one hundred and four men landed in Virginia to form Jamestown, a settlement that was the birthplace of the United States. But by the end of the first year, all but thirty-eight of the over one hundred settlers had died. Why did this happen? Acting as historians and scientists, students read primary and secondary source materials, evaluate climatology data, and analyze artifacts to learn about the mystery surrounding the Jamestown deaths. Students will also take a critical look at information and evaluate the motives, interests and biases expressed in primary and secondary sources. The lesson concludes by having students consider a new theory about a possible conspiracy responsible for the Jamestown deaths, form an opinion about it, and defend their position.
HistoryTeacher.net: AP United States History Quizzes
A New York teacher has produced a great general site for history teachers that offers AP-level United States history quizzes on many different periods and topics.
The Colonial Challenge
Answer a range of easy to difficult questions and test your knowledge of early US history
Thanksgiving Primary Source Set (Library of Congress)
This primary source set includes a teacher’s guide to help plan a class discussion around the provided documents and foster conversations about the history of Thanksgiving.
Will the Real Ben Franklin Please Stand Up?
In this middle school or high school lesson plan, students will research and debate Benjamin Franklin’s most significant role and contribution to the history of the United States. Which was most important to American History – Benjamin Franklin’s work as a printer, a writer, a statesman, or an inventor? After completing their research, students will have to prepare 10-minute oral and visual presentations to support their position. After presenting their work, they will also be expected to answer questions and ask them of the other groups.
Library Guide for American Colonial History
From the Emory University: General Libraries, multiple guides and primary sources for Colonial America.
Rare Map Collection – Colonial America
Hosted at the University of Georgia, the Hargrett Rare Library Map Collection provides detailed maps of Colonial America.