Roots of Democracy
Jewish and Christian traditions emphasized the value of the individual, the importance of social responsibility, and the idea of free will, or the freedom of humans to make choices for themselves
Ancient Greek democracy and Roman republicanism served as ancient models of limited self-government and influenced ideas about equality before the law and individual liberty
The Magna Carta (1215) and the English Bill of Rights (1689) guaranteed certain rights to citizens, including the right to trial by jury and individual liberty
Beginning with the Magna Carta, the two houses of Parliament played an increasing role in representing the English people and making English laws

The ideas of democracy and representative government have a long history. They are based on traditions that are far older than the English colonies that gave birth to the United States.

Each colony had its own representative assembly, elected by men who owned property, that advised the governor and made decisions on local issues.

The tradition of consulting representative assemblies grew out of the English experience. Beginning in the 1200s, Parliament had begun to play an important role in English affairs. Slowly, too, English citizens had gained certain legal and political rights. England's American colonists expected to enjoy the same rights. When colonists later protested British policies in North America, they viewed themselves as “freeborn Englishmen” who were defending their traditional rights.

A Power Struggle Begins

By the 1600s, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands all had colonies in North America. They began to fight—both in the colonies and around the world—to protect and expand their interests.

A Race for Colonies

By the late 1600s, French claims included present-day Canada as well as much of the present-day central United States. The Spanish had moved north, making claims to present-day Texas and Florida. Meanwhile, the English and Dutch maintained colonies along the East Coast. Native Americans throughout the colonies entered the conflict, hoping to play the Europeans against one another.

Competition was also fierce in the Caribbean, as European nations fought to acquire the profitable sugar-producing colonies. By the 1700s, the French and English Caribbean islands, worked by enslaved Africans, had surpassed the whole of North America in exports to Europe.

Britain and France in a Global Struggle

By the 1700s, Britain and France emerged as bitter rivals for power around the globe. Their clashes in Europe often ignited conflicts in the Caribbean, North America, India, and Africa.

In 1754, fighting broke out between the French and British in North America. In the British colonies, it marked the beginning of the French and Indian War. By 1756, that regional conflict was linked to the Seven Years' War in Europe. The war soon spread to India and other parts of the globe.

Although France held more territory in North America, the British colonies had more people. Trappers, traders, and farmers from the British colonies were pushing west into the Ohio Valley, a region claimed by France.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments