Colonial America

Archive of Early American Images, John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
This archive of pictures of the colonial Americas is drawn largely from books printed or created in Europe between about 1492 and 1825. The database, still being compiled, currently contains 2,268 images and will eventually contain some 6,000 images. Image viewing software is available from the site. The visitor can browse the entire archive or search it by time period, geographical area, keyword, or subjects including indigenous peoples, flora and fauna, artifacts, industry, human activities, geography, city views and plans, maps, and portraits.
Plymouth Colony Archive Project, Patricia Scott Deetz, Christopher Fennell, and J. Eric Deetz, University of Virginia
A wealth of documents and analytical essays pertaining to the social history of Plymouth Colony from 1620 to 1691 are accessible on this website. Documents include 135 probates, 24 wills, and 12 texts containing laws and court cases on such subjects as land division, master-servant relations, sexual misconduct, and disputes involving Native Americans. In addition, the site provides approximately 80 biographical studies, research papers and topical articles that analyze “life ways” of 395 individuals who lived in the colony and offer theoretical views on the colony’s legal structure, women’s roles, vernacular house forms, and domestic violence, among other topics. The site includes 19 maps or plans of the colony, approximately 50 photographs, seven lesson plans, and an extensive glossary of archaeological terms.
Virtual Jamestown, Crandall Shifflett, Virginia Center for Digital History
A work in progress, Virtual Jamestown is a good place to begin exploring the history of Virginia’s first colonial settlement. This site includes 63 letters and first-hand accounts, available in original-spelling or modern-spelling versions; 100 public records, from census data to laws; 30 maps and images; and a sample of documents on labor contracts. The reference section includes a timeline extending from 1502 to the present, narratives by prominent historians, links to 15 related sites, and a bibliography of 20 primary and secondary sources.
Do History—Martha Ballard’s Diary Online, Harvard University
This interactive website explores the remarkable 18th-century diary of Maine midwife Martha Ballard. It offers two versions of the 1400-page diary, facsimile and transcribed full-text; the latter is searchable by keyword and date. A searchable archive offers 300 documents, images, and maps on such topics as Ballard’s life, midwifery, birth, medical information, religion, and Maine history. A timeline traces Maine’s history from the first attempt to settle the coastline in 1607, through Ballard’s lifetime (1735–1812), to the present. Interactive exercises offer students the opportunity to transcribe and “decode” portions of the diary, and a “Magic Lens” makes it appear as if Ballard’s handwriting is instantly transcribed. The site is especially useful for research on genealogy, midwifery and herbal medicine, as well as for using primary sources about daily life in colonial America.
Probing the Past, Center for History and New Media (GMU) and Gunston Hall Plantation
Presenting 325 probate inventories, this website provides a unique window into daily life in Virginia and Maryland between 1740 and 1810. In this time period, county courts appointed appraisers, local men, to visit an estate after its owner died, list what was there, and estimate its value. These inventories are a sample from the region at this time, and are all digitized, transcribed, and searchable. For more detailed information on the role of material culture in colonial life, the site’s Interpreting section presents interviews with two scholars who use probate records to discuss topics such as slavery and slave life, credit and debt, and women and property ownership. Three detailed lesson plans are also available, providing suggestions for incorporating these rich sources into classroom learning.
Salem Witch Trials: Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, Benjamin Ray, University of Virginia
Of the many websites dealing with the Salem Witch trials of 1692, this one is among the most useful and thorough. It provides full-text versions of the three-volume, verbatim Salem Witch trial transcripts, an extensive contemporary narrative of the trials, and full-text pamphlets and excerpts of sermons by Cotton Mather, Robert Calef, and Thomas Maule. The site also offers four full-text rare books, written in the late-17th and early-18th centuries about the witchcraft scare, and five contemporary maps of Salem and nearby villages. Additionally, the site also provides access to more than 500 documents from the collections archives in Massachusetts. This site is a rich resource for those who wish to conduct research on the Salem witch hysteria.
Colonial Connecticut Records, 1636–1776, University of Connecticut Libraries
A scanned and partially searchable version of the 15-volume Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, from April 1636 to October 1776, originally published from 1850 to 1890. Users can search documents by date, volume, and page number. Each of the 15 volumes, which cover successive time periods, includes alphabetical hyperlinked subject terms that users may browse, and also provides access by type of material: charters, documents, inventories, laws, letters, and court proceedings. The site offers historians and students a wealth of accessible material on politics, legal matters, Indian affairs, military actions, social concerns, agriculture, religion, and other aspects of early Connecticut history.
Leslie Brock Center for the Study of Colonial Currency, Leslie Brock, University of Virginia
During the colonial period, each colony issued its own paper money, which caused considerable conflict with Britain in the 18th century. This site contains five full-text 18th-century pamphlets on colonial economic and currency issues from 1720 to 1749; ten other contemporary writings about the economic situation in the colonies, including sermons, currency acts, and letters to Britain’s Board of Trade, the governing body for colonial economic issues. The site also offers one article and excerpts from a book by scholars of colonial economy. There are links to ten tables from Brock’s book, Colonial Currency, Prices, and Exchange Rates, as well as a very thorough bibliography of over 70 scholarly works on colonial economies. This is an ideal source for teaching and researching the colonial economies and money in 18th-century America.