75 votes
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Why did a young George Washington sign a document admitting to assassinating a French military officer?

Short answer George Washington relied on the translation of a mercenary he knew well and who had previously acted as his translator, Jacob Van Braam, and did not think he was signing a document in ...
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58 votes
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Why didn't Portugal found universities in its colonies like Spain?

SHORT ANSWER Spanish policy was rooted in the tradition of setting up universities in conquered territories, accompanied by the aim of converting the local people to Catholicism in order to bind them ...
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44 votes
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Would colonial Maryland have been tolerant to all religions?

No. You can read some on the Maryland Toleration Act in the wiki article, but it basically was for Christians, whether Protestant or Catholic, Anglican, Puritan or Quaker. The Maryland Toleration ...
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  • 33.8k
35 votes
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Is the scarlet letter 'A' a real historical thing?

tl; dr There were certainly laws requiring that adulterers had to wear the letter 'A' stitched upon their garments in the late seventeenth century. The letter was not required to be scarlet - just a ...
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  • 76.2k
35 votes
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How did slavery become permissible in the French West Indies when it was forbidden in France?

Louis X's decree in 1315 did not abolish slavery. That's a historical myth. First, the ordonnance did not say anything about slaves, and explicitly mentioned that it was applicable to persons "...
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  • 95.8k
33 votes
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What's the rationale for shipping coins back to Spain from its colonies?

According to Manuel Moreyra Paz Soldán, El Virreinato de Perú, 1980, p. 79, the coinage embarked on ships corresponded to: Taxes obtained from the provinces and citizens in America: "recaudación para ...
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28 votes
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Was the Somerset Decision in 1772 in England the real underlying cause of the American Revolutionary war?

He's not 100% wrong that the desire of slaveholders in the States to protect their "property" and the institution itself has been drastically underplayed by Americans in talking about their own ...
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  • 109k
26 votes

What's the rationale for shipping coins back to Spain from its colonies?

I'm hoping that this answer will resonate with your "theory of colonial economy", although it is not based on historical sources. Coins shouldn't be viewed as end products manufactured from a raw ...
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22 votes
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How densely populated were the Americas prior to European colonization?

Disease plays a significant role. Estimates vary wildly, but there were probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million people living in the Americas before Columbus. The vast majority of those ...
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  • 109k
20 votes
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Is there evidence Muslim soldiers fought in the Continental Army?

Salem Poor and Peter Salem were both freed slaves born in Massachusetts (don't be so surprised, New England prohibitions against slavery weren't always followed), which explains the Salem in their ...
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19 votes
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Why is the charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations signed "HOWARD"?

Most likely because it was signed by Sir Robert Howard of Ashtead, Surrey[1], son of Thomas Howard the 1st Earl of Berkshire. As a royalist, he was made Clerk of Patents in Chancery[2] in June 1660, ...
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  • 95.8k
18 votes

Were beaches red with lobsters upon arrival of Columbus?

Adding to what @Alex said "typical" lobsters (i.e., the lobsters that humans eat and the ones that turn red when you cook them) don't even extend as far south as Hispaniola. They are a cold-...
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18 votes

Were there any well-established land trade routes in the US colonies around 1700? What did they look like?

In 1700, the population of the British North American colonies was concentrated mainly along the coast. Roads were terrible and dangerous, and most people would have used the natural highways, the ...
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  • 3,667
17 votes
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What happened to the British convicts transported to America after the American Revolution?

Transported convicts weren't imprisoned in the North American colonies. Much like the convicts transported to Australia after the loss of Britain's American colonies they were set to work. American ...
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  • 76.2k
17 votes
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What was an "alower of Society debts" in colonial America?

Presumably you are referring to an extract from the Essex Historical Records on Richard French, born 1675: Richard French, born in Topsfield, Aug. 18, 1676, called husbandman and yeoman in deeds, ...
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16 votes
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Why was slavery profitable in the Southern colonies and not New England?

One important factor was the warmer weather in most parts of the south. That led to two important effects: 1) the cultivability of cash crops such as cotton and sugar, and 2) relatively short winters. ...
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  • 103k
16 votes

What's the rationale for shipping coins back to Spain from its colonies?

Many of the coins shipped to Europe were quickly and crudely minted. These were called cobs. According to a page at Notre Dame University, The intention in minting these crude but accurately ...
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16 votes
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Did any Moors accompany Hernando de Soto in his exploration of Mississippi?

I understand that there are four surviving accounts of de Soto's expedition. Three of those accounts were written by survivors: Rodrigo Rangel or Ranjel, who was de Soto’s personal secretary; Luys ...
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  • 76.2k
15 votes

How did Britain govern the thirteen colonies?

Britain governed the 13 colonies through trading companies that were much like the East India Company. The one for Virginia was called the Virginia Company. The one for Massachusetts was the ...
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  • 103k
15 votes
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Did Continental Army officers wear wigs or keep their hair white like their British Army counterparts?

It's important to note here a key distinction between British (army) officers and Continental officers. The former, overwhelmingly, had purchased their commissions into a specific regiment; and were ...
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14 votes
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What percentage of the population in the Thirteen Colonies in 1776 were first/second generation immigrants?

UPDATE: Aaron Fogleman estimates that 585,000 people "immigrated" (many involuntarily) to the 13 colonies between 1700-1775. If they all survived until the time of the Revolution, then 24% of the ...
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  • 17.8k
14 votes

Why did the colonies fight Cresap's War?

The colonies had governors/owners but all of their governing rights came from the king. Officially, colonies were not permitted to go to war but the governors/owners still occasionally participated in ...
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13 votes
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What was the price of going from England to New England as a passenger in the 1600s?

It seems that the Massachusetts Bay company had a rule setting out some costs and the limits on the number of passengers that ships could carry. A ship of two hundred tons should not carry more than ...
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  • 76.2k
13 votes

What's the rationale for shipping coins back to Spain from its colonies?

Gold and Silver are worth so much that their "bulk" is very rarely a problem. Coins make it easier to count them. Their bulk is increased slightly; say by a factor of 2. This makes gold 10 g/cm^3 ...
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  • 360
12 votes

Why did the Portuguese colonies stay united whereas the Spanish ones split up?

Historically, there weren't multiple Portuguese colonies in South America. There was just one. The Portuguese governed Brazil as a single unit since 1549, when the failed Captaincies were merged. ...
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  • 8,292
12 votes

How did Pocahontas die?

I don't think much more is known. Medical diagnoses were probably much vaguer in those times and detailed records were not so commonplace and would not all have survived. It seems strange that she ...
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12 votes

Who were the chief executives of the United States in the thirteen years before George Washington?

George Washington was _not the “first president of the United States”; he was the first president under the Constitution. Before Washington took office in 1789, the United States had sixteen “...
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12 votes

Was the Somerset Decision in 1772 in England the real underlying cause of the American Revolutionary war?

I think that there were probably a great many factors that led to the American Revolution. Concerns about the growing anti-slavery movement in the UK were undoubtedly among them. Although it is true ...
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  • 76.2k
12 votes
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How did the education system in Colonial North America work?

(There are quite a number of sources on the internet concerning colonial education, some of which are provided at the end for those who want more than the 'highlights' below.) The education available ...
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