I know we've all had this in history classes, but here's a quick timeline to help you put people in perspective for this first section of AmLit. All dates are A.D.
1001 Leif Ericsson settles somewhere in America. Since the Vikings were kicking mortal hell out of everybody in Europe, no one cares much about how far away they get. Plus, the Vikings did not know Rule One.
1492 The rest of Europe catches on that there's Something Out There. Columbus mistakes the Bahamas for India.
1497-1506 Amerigo Vespucci explores Central and South America. Bad news for the natives.
1524 Giovanni Da Verrazzano explores the east coast of North America.
1565 Permanent Spanish settlement at St. Augustine in what is now Florida.
1607 John Smith and his crew of entrepreneurs establish Jamestown, England's first permanent settlement, in what is now Virginia.
1619 Slaves arrive in Jamestown from Africa. If you want to know how far slavery goes back in America, the answer is "all the way."
1620 The Puritans land at Plymouth and set up another English colonial outpost in what is now Massachusetts.
1630 The Massachusetts Bay Colony is founded by Puritans, for Puritans. John Winthrop, not William Bradford, is the first governor. Bradford was the governor of the Plymouth Colony, to the south.
1636 Puritans create Harvard College. Yes, it really is this old.
1637 Thomas Morton writes New English Caanan, complaining about the Puritans' treatment of everyone. He has also sold rifles to the natives, resulting in much colonial bloodshed.
1642 Civil war in England, as Oliver Cromwell attempts to reform everything. Ask how the Levellers fared in this bid for freedom and democracy.
1650 Anne Bradstreet writes poetry in America. You may find yourself wishing she hadn't.
1656 The Quakers show up in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans are not amused, but then, they're never amused. Puritans are not big on other people's religious freedom.
1675 Mary Rowlandson is kidnapped by the natives. Her experiences will become the hugely popular Narrative of Captivity and Restoration. This year also sees the brief, bloody war between Indians and Colonists, known as King Philip's War.
1692 Strict Puritanism falters in New England, and Satan must be the culprit. The Salem witch trials begin.
1693 Cotton Mather writes his spiritual history of the Puritans in America, The Wonders of the Invisible World. This book adds fuel to the witch trials and establishes Mather as more literary than his father, Increase.
1697 Samuel Sewall confesses that his condemnation of innocent people as witches was a sin. Over a dozen jurors and judges will similarly apologize for the deaths they caused.