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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the development of European colonial societies in the extra-European world c. 1500–1800, chiefly in the Americas. It examines the factors affecting the growth and stabilization of those societies, including: the impact of disease; the establishment of coercive labour regimes; European interactions with indigenous peoples; the genesis of complex economies based on precious metals and agricultural commodities for export to Europe; and the formation of a creolized cultural life and identity. The chapter’s overarching theme is the transformation of European overseas settlements from mere dependent appendages of Europe into distinctive colonial societies with strong identities of their own, increasingly in conflict with the European states that governed them. Special attention is paid to the hybridity of colonial societies, which emerged from the sustained interactions between those of European, Amerindian, and African descent, as well as to the legal and cultural regimes discouraging such cross-cultural and inter-racial encounters.

Keywords: Colonial societies, slavery and indentured labour, European–Amerindian relations, colonial cultural life, creole identity, age of revolutions, Atlantic history

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