How Jamestown Abandoned a Utopian Vision and Embraced Slavery

In 1619, Wealthy Investors Overthrew the Charter That Guaranteed Land for Everyone

In the summer of 1619, some of England’s first American colonists were carving up land seized from the Powhatan empire along the James River in Virginia. While the first settlers had arrived back in 1607, they had only recently discovered that they could turn a profit growing tobacco. Tobacco production had increased 20-fold over the past two years, and agricultural land was suddenly at a premium.

Yet the surveyors, instead of laying out private estates for upwardly mobile colonists, were mostly tracing the bounds of thousands of acres of common land. …

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The Real Heroes of the Overland Trail Were the Oxen | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

The Oxen Were the Unheralded Heroes of America’s Overland Trails

Over Long Journeys, Westward Migrants Came to Love the 'Noble' Animals They Depended on

Between 1840 and 1869, approximately 300,000 people crossed the United States on their way to settle in Oregon, find gold in California, or practice religion as they desired in …

America’s Most Productive Agricultural Region Is Also One of Its Most Diverse | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

America’s Most Productive Agricultural Region Is Also One of Its Most Diverse

Since the 19th Century, California’s San Joaquin Valley Has Drawn Farmers From Around the World

California’s San Joaquin Valley is often dismissed as small and rural. To the contrary, it’s a massive area of farms, ranches, small towns, and growing cities, emblematic of the American …

When Americans Feared an Invasion From Their Northern Border | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

When Americans Feared an Invasion From Their Northern Border

In the Late 19th Century, the French Canadians Who Came to Work in Cotton Mills Were Treated as ‘Pawns in a Catholic Plot’

In 1893, Clare de Graffenried, special agent of the United States Department of Labor, published an article in The Forum describing an invasion of America’s northeastern border. For 30 …

How the US Military Taught Americans to Smoke | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

How the US Military Taught Americans to Smoke

A 1918 Policy Devised to Calm Soldiers’ Nerves Sparked a Bad Habit That Was Difficult to Stop

Mention of the American military-industrial complex conjures up images of massive weapons procurement programs and advanced technologies: supersonic bombers, strategic missiles, armor-plated tanks, nuclear submarines, and complex space systems. However, …

| Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Eliza Hamilton’s Excellent Five-Month Steamboat Ride From New York to Wisconsin

In 1837, the 80-Year-Old Widow of the Late Treasury Secretary Was Delighted by the Beauty of the Nation

The musical Hamilton introduced theatergoers to Eliza Schuyler, the wife of Alexander Hamilton, and her sisters Angelica and Peggy. But there is much more to Eliza’s American life than …