If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

England in the Age of Exploration

AP.USH:
KC‑2.1.I.C (KC)
,
MIG (Theme)
,
Unit 2: Learning Objective B
England didn't start its first successful colony in North America until 1607, more than 100 years after Columbus arrived in the New World. In this video, Kim discusses the problems that prevented England from following in Spain's footsteps, including struggles for the throne, war in Ireland, and economic depression.

Want to join the conversation?

  • mr pants purple style avatar for user Zoe C Hiemstra
    What did Francis Drake do to make him a popular/famous privateer?
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • starky sapling style avatar for user Alex Wood
      "Francis Drake was an explorer as well as a privateer. During his voyage around the globe from 1577 to 1580-the first commander of such an expedition to survive-he confirmed the contours of the Americas for the English. He then continued across the Pacific and around Africa before returning to London. In 1585 he attacked and burned St. Augustine, Florida. In 1588, he helped defeat the Spanish Armada. His exploits brought considerable wealth to Queen Elizabeth's England while weakening Spanish control of the seas By the time Drake died in 1596, while again harassing the Spanish in Central America, English sailors were confident that they could travel anywhere without trouble, even if Spain still controlled the most valuable land in the Americas."

      Source:
      Elizabthan Explorers and Pirates. (2019). In J. W. Fraser, D. Coniglio, & M. Gawlik (Eds.), By the People (2nd ed., p. 54). New York, New York, United States of America: Pearson Education. Retrieved October 27, 2019
      (3 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user Isaac Snyder
    At why didn't they realize these bad reasons and choose somewhere else?
    (7 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin tree style avatar for user Molly Joanis
    At about ,You said it was a hundred year difference , did you mean a thousand or am I mistaken?
    (0 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • stelly orange style avatar for user x_o
    How were protestants formed as protestants back then?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leafers sapling style avatar for user Scout Finch
      The Protestant religion was formed when the English King, Henry 8, broke from Catholicism because the religion would not allow him to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The Protestant religion did allow divorce, and was basically just formed so that King Henry could get himself a legitimate male heir. Hopefully that helps. It is carried on today for different reasons.
      (6 votes)
  • blobby purple style avatar for user Ravyn
    What kind of brutal tactics did England use against Ireland to "force" them into being a colony of England?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      At , the use of "brutal tactics against the Irish" is mentioned.

      One example would be the Desmond Rebellions, where English military forces looted townspeople, set cities on fire, sacked towns (completely leveling walls and buildings), killed civilian bystanders (including "blind and feeble men, women, boys, and girls, sick persons, idiots, and old people"), and executed of Irish soldiers - eventually killing tens of thousands of people. Even more people died from the resulting famine and plague.

      When John Desmond was ambushed and killed in 1582, his body was "quartered" and his severed head was sent to the commander of the English forces in Ireland.

      The tactic of destroying garrisons, towns, farms, etc. and leaving little shelter, supplies, or food for the survivors to use is called scorched earth warfare.
      (8 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user martha jones
    im confused i thought there was some one before columbus
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • piceratops sapling style avatar for user andreano.tumminello21
    Why did King Henry VIII break away from the churh of rome?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • starky tree style avatar for user ∞∞ø∆®™
    How did Elizabeth take control of the throne?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • starky sapling style avatar for user BeanTheGiant
    What was the Spaniards reaction to the English stealing their resources? how badly was their navy outclassed? Where they able to "get back" at the English in any way?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • mr pants green style avatar for user David Brinkley
    At why did England have such a late start to the imperial game.
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Oliver Hsieh
      One reason for that was the late development of the necessary navigation skills. Colonization was started not necessarily for expansion but rather for trade. Finding new products was a motivation. Another one was the search for freedom of religious minorities which could not be achieved in Britain
      (1 vote)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] I think there's a strong argument to be made that England was the most powerful and successful imperial nation of all time, but when you look back to the Age of Exploration, it becomes clear that England was actually pretty late to the imperial game. As we know, Christopher Columbus, backed by Spain, had arrived in Hispaniola in the New World in 1492. He was the first European to start a colony in the New World. England, by contrast, didn't actually have a successful colonial venture in the New World until 1607 with Jamestown. Now from this distance it doesn't look that far behind, but this is more than 100 years later than Spain's first colonial ventures. So what was England up to? Why were they so late in the colonial game? That's what I'd like to take a closer look at in this video, and I'll also talk a little bit more about what conditions in England led that nation to start New World colonies. Now I think the biggest reason why England waited another 100 years to have a New World colony is that England had its own problems, and it had a number of problems in this time period, and we're talking about the 1500s here. And the first of these was ongoing conflict between Catholics and Protestants in England. Now this is a very long story. I don't have time to do justice to it here, but suffice it to say that the trouble started with Henry VIII, who we know from his many wives and many beheadings, and Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in Rome to start his own church, the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church. Now this is a Protestant religion. I'm gonna put P here for Protestant. Now Henry had two daughters, Elizabeth who like him was a Protestant, and Mary, who was a Catholic, and Mary occupied the throne for a number of years, but Elizabeth managed to wrest it away from her and once Elizabeth was on the throne as Elizabeth I, England became a Protestant nation. So it's hard to be involved in world affairs when you've got kind of a crisis of succession going on, so one factor here is religious conflict. Another reason why England is not headed over to the New World is that they have colonial problems closer to home in Ireland. England is trying to, and will succeed at, subduing Ireland as one of its colonies, and they're undertaking a very bloody and costly war, and they think of this Catholic Irish population almost as barbarian savages who don't know what's good for them and in the opinion of the English, what's good for them is English rule and Protestantism, when of course what the Irish really want is self rule and to be left alone, but they use very brutal tactics against the Irish, and we'll kind of see that again when they're met with another hostile colonial population in North America. Another issue England is dealing with is economic depression. The Crown doesn't have a lot of money and there's a great deal of crime and poverty throughout the nation, so while the Crown can't actually afford to sponsor colonial exploits the way that Spain sponsored Columbus, they still managed to get some riches out of the New World by giving ship captains license to plunder Spanish ships coming back with New World riches, and these were called privateers, the most famous of them here is this man, Sir Francis Drake, and really, privateers are just pirates with a fancy name, but the logic here was, why bother trying to set up a colony here in Mexico or South America, the West Indies, and do all the work of setting up housing and trying to tame laborers and mining, when instead you could just let the Spanish do all of that and then put that gold on a ship and then use your awesome navy, 'cause England is growing a very awesome navy, to steal those riches. So England doesn't have a strong incentive to do all the labor when they can just steal it from the ships along the way. Alright, those are some of the reasons why it took England so long to start colonization in North America. In the next video I'll talk about the factors that led England to finally join the race for New World colonies.