What Factors Brought Settlers to Maryland?

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Author: Dan Yetter, Mount View Middle School, Howard County Public School System

Grade Level: Middle

Duration: 3 days


The Maryland Colony was established between the years 1634 and 1775. Founded as a haven for English Catholics to worship and conduct business without fear of persecution, many came for religious freedom and economic opportunity. But another factor, that of involuntary servitude or "forced" migration, was essential to the development of Maryland. In addition to indentured and enslaved workers, English convicts also populated the growing colony. This History Lab will examine the push/pull factors that brought English settlers to Maryland. By investigating primary documents, cartoons, paintings, and statistics, students will be able to explain the important factors in the settlement of Maryland.

Related National History Standards

National History Standards
Content Standard: Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)

Standard 1: Why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America.

Standard 3: How the values and institutions of European economic life took root in the colonies, and how slavery reshaped European and African life in the Americas.

Historical Thinking Standards:

Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation:
  • Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative.
  • Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage.
  • Identify the central question(s) the historical narrative addresses.
  • Consider multiple perspectives.
  • Appreciate historical perspectives.
  • Utilize visual, mathematical, and quantitative data.

Standard 4: Historical Research Capabilities:
  • Formulate historical questions.
  • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources.
  • Interrogate historical data.
  • Employ quantitative analysis.
  • Support interpretations with historical evidence.

Maryland State Curriculum Standards for United States History

Standard 2: People of the nation and World
Students will understand the diversity and commonality, human interdependence, and global cooperation of the people of Maryland, the United States, and the World through a multicultural and a historic perspective.

Standard 5: History
Students will examine significant ideas, beliefs, and themes; organize patterns and events; and analyze how individuals and societies have changed over time in Maryland and the United States.

Social Studies Skills and Processes
Students shall use reading, writing, and thinking processes and skills to gain knowledge and understanding of political, historical, and current events using chronological and spatial thinking, economic reasoning, and historical interpretation, by framing and evaluating questions from primary and secondary sources.


Through this History Lab, students will utilize historical thinking skills to analyze the complex factors that influenced the settlement of the Maryland Colony by Europeans.

  • Students will begin by reading a background essay to get a general sense of the context.
  • Next, they will read a series of primary and secondary source documents and answer guided questions.
  • Students will use graphic organizers to assist in interpretation of the primary and secondary sources.
  • The final step in this research-based investigation is to write a well-constructed BCR or ECR, utilizing the information the students have interpreted and synthesized.Students will then complete a graphic organizer to organize their thoughts and supporting evidence before composing either a Brief Constructed Response (BCR) or an Extended Constructed Response (ECR)

History Lab Objectives

Students will demonstrate the ability to interpret, organize, and evaluate primary and secondary documents relating to push/pull immigration factors that brought settlers to Maryland. Students will synthesize information into a Brief Constructed Response (BCR) or an Extended Constructed Response (ECR).

Topic Background

The forces of social and economic change transpiring in England and the New World during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries effected the development of colonial Maryland. Maryland's success as a colony was dependent upon voluntary and involuntary immigration. Immigrants came to Maryland for three main reasons: religious freedom, economic opportunity and involuntary servitude as a result of forced migration.

The religious factor is an important element to understanding the founding and expansion of colonial Maryland. It was George Calvert's vision of a place for marginalized English Catholics to practice their religion without social and economic repercussions. The first colonists arrived in Maryland in 1634 on two ships named the Arc and the Dove. Soon after, Maryland's reputation for religious tolerance motivated many Catholics of means throughout the British Isles to emigrate. Maryland was a place for both profit and worship. It was also an opportunity for Catholics to introduce their religion to the Native population of the region. Proselytizing Native Americans was encouraged but was not a major goal of colonization in Maryland.

The economic factor is essential in understanding the expansion of the British Empire. England, an island nation with limited resources, wished to compete for power in Europe. There was little choice but for her to venture far afield to gather the necessary natural resources. As England's industrial economy began to increase it was essential to acquire colonies. The colonies provided British industry with the raw materials it needed to expand and thrive. The raw materials were turned into manufactured goods and sold within Britain and Europe and exported to the colonies. This economic cycle was called mercantilism and was the driving force behind European colonial expansion during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It was Maryland's economic potential and success that would ensure its future as a haven for Catholics.

The third reason, forced migration, is perhaps the least proffered as a contributing factor to populating colonial Maryland. The vast majority of those forced to the New World were African. The second largest group forced to migrate between the years 1607and 1775 were indentured servants. British convicts forcibly transported to the thirteen colonies were the third largest group to arrive between those years. The bountiful tobacco plantations of Maryland required many laborers. Africans, indentures, and convicts were brought by the thousands to toil on the "tobacco coast" of Virginia and Maryland.

It is worth noting that between 1700 and 1775, an estimated 585,800 people immigrated to the 13 colonies. 52,200 of the immigrants were convicts, which was about nine percent of the population. Slaves constituted 278,400 or about 47 percent of the population and indentured servants numbered some 103,600 about 18 percent. Free immigrants numbered 151,600 or about 26 percent of the population. Therefore, 74 percent of people immigrating to the 13 colonies in those years came involuntarily. The population of colonial Maryland would have been subject to the same demographics.


Colony - A country or area that is ruled by a distant country

Persecute - To subject a race or group of people to cruel or unfair treatment

Haven - A place to go to for rest, shelter, or protection

Immigration - The act of people entering a new country to settle permanently

Thrive - To be successful and profitable

Adapt - To change in order to suit different conditions

Cultivate - To work land and prepare soil for growing crops

Convert - To adopt or accept new beliefs or opinions, especially religious beliefs

Charter - Formal written statement that gives permission to form a colony and explains the rights and responsibilities of those that settle in the colony

Proprietary Colony - A colony granted/given to an individual or group by the British Crown (King or Queen) with full ownership

Voluntary - Choosing to do something on your own

Involuntary - Being forced to do something by someone else

Servitude - To be ruled over or dominated by something or someone else

Industrial - Created by manufacturing, made in a factory

Mercantilism - A 16th and 17th century European economic theory that believed that a countries power was dependent upon its wealth. In order to become wealthy and powerful a country had to have colonies

Indentured - An immigrant to North America during the 17th to 19th centuries who contracted to work for an employer for a number of years in exchange for a payment of passage and accommodation

Middle Passage - The journey that kidnapped African were forced to take across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World

Convict - Someone found guilty of a crime in a court of law

Redemption - To improve or save someone that has been found guilty of a crime or declined to a poor condition

Teaching Procedures

Day 1


There are a variety of ways to prepare and implement the following motivational scenario. On separate magnetized index cards or other materials write:

  • "You have been kidnapped and forced to go to the new planet."
  • "You are a convict and have been sentenced to work on the new planet."
  • "You want to work on the new planet to pay off your debt."
  • "You are going to the new planet to manage a mining company."
  • "You want to be rich and famous from exploring the new planet."
  • "You are a member of an unpopular religious group."
  • "You want to teach humanlike life forms on the new planet about your religion."
  • "You can't get a job on earth because of your religious beliefs."

Motivation Procedure:

The suggested Drill requires the use of student imaginations and some suspension of the realities of space travel. Use an LCD projector or document camera to project the following scenario:

    "You receive news of a distant planet that can easily support human life. There are human-like beings that inhabit the planet and so far they have had friendly relations with explorers from earth. The planet is very rich in natural resources. The governments of Earth want the planet to be colonized in order to take advantage of the resources. The planet offers many economic and social opportunities for the people of Earth. All of you are going to immigrate to the new planet. You are going to receive a card with a role printed on it. The role describes a reason why you are immigrating to the new planet. Read your role and place it on the front board with other cards that have a similar role as your own."

Give students two to five minutes to organize the role cards into three categories. After all students have placed their card on the board and returned to their seats have students look at the roles that were placed in each category. Ask the students to summarize each category into one word. This word should summarize the main factor for immigrating in each category. The three categories that students should place them into are: Religious, Economic, and Forced Migration.

Days 1-3

(dependent on the number of documents used):


  • Place students into pairs either randomly or by mixed ability levels.
  • Ask students to quietly read the Student Background Essay (Resource Sheet #01). Resource Sheets #11 and #12 should also be distributed at this time, as they contain vocabulary terms that will help the students with understanding the documents.
  • Next, have students analyze each document (Resource Sheets #03-#07) by answering the guiding questions with their partner. For help with this process, distribute "Evaluating/Interpreting Primary and Secondary Sources" (Resource Sheet #08).
  • When analysis and interpretation is complete, have students discuss and synthesize their understanding of the documents and guiding questions in either a Five-Paragraph Essay (Resource Sheet #09) or Single Topic Paragraph (Resource Sheet #10). The essay may be completed as homework or on subsequent days.


Primary Source Annotaions

Resource Sheet #02 - Maryland's Charter, 1632, MD State Archives at: http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/founding/pdf/charter.pdf

Resource Sheet #03 - Lord Baltimore's Entitlements for Settlers in Maryland, 1635, Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684. Clayton Colman Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1910. Pg. 91.

Resource Sheet #04 - Contract for an Indentured Servant. Narratives of Early Maryland, 1633-1684. Clayton Colman Hall, Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1910. Pg. 5.

Resource Sheet #05 - Broadside from Charlestown Maryland, 1769. Used with the permission of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. http://www.greatblacksinwax.org/Exhibits/middle_passage/Slave_Auction_Ad.jpg

Resource Sheet #06 - Image of the Founding of the Colony of Maryland, 1634 (painting by Tompkins Harrison Matteson 1853, The Annapolis Complex Collection Maryland State Archives) MD State Archives here.

Resource Sheet #07 - Chart of Estimated Immigration 1607-1775. Information derived from primary source: "Estimated Immigration into Thirteen Colonies and the United States...1607-1819" statistical table. Appeared in: Fogelman, A. S. (June 1998). From Slaves, Convicts, and Servants to Free Passengers: The Transformation of Immigration in the Era of the American Revolution. The Journal of American History, 85.1'44. Chart created by Dan Yetter.