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The Columbian Exchange

The Columbian Exchange

John Winthrop in The Columbian Exchange

John Winthrop (c. 1587-1649) was a devoutly religious Puritan elder who led a large migration of Puritans from England to America in 1629 and became the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony one year later. He was probably the most powerful figure in New England in the first half of the seventeenth century.

Like all Puritan colonists, Winthrop observed (but did not fully understand) the incredible susceptibility of nearby Indians to European diseases like smallpox. While smallpox repeatedly struck both settlers and Indians in colonial Massachusetts, the Indians died at much higher rates. Winthrop interpreted the disease-driven Indian holocaust—which weakened Indian resistance to colonial rule and opened up new lands for colonial expansion—as proof of God's special blessing of the Puritan settlement.

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