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Index by Period

Colonial Literature
(1600 - 1800)


The Colonial period extends from the first English settlement at Jamestown to the Stamp Act and other measures of "taxation without representation" which tended to unite the colonies and arouse the sleeping spirit of nationality. During this century and a half the Elizabethan dramatists produced their best work; Milton, Bunyan, Dryden and a score of lesser writers were adding to the wealth of English literature; but not a single noteworthy volume crossed the Atlantic to reflect in Europe the lyric of the wilderness, the drama of the commonwealth, the epic of democracy. Such books as were written here dealt largely with matters of religion, government and exploration; and we shall hardly read these books with sympathy, and therefore with understanding, unless we remember two facts: that the Colonists, grown weary of ancient tyranny, were determined to write a new page in the world's history; and that they reverently believed God had called them to make that new page record the triumph of freedom and manhood. Hence the historical impulse and the moral or religious bent of nearly all our early writers.

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