Trying To Simplify The Thirteen Colonies

Colonies 4 RegionsGiven my penchant for delusions of grandeur, I opted not to commit to much this summer other than attending a single AP English institute and gradually working through a long list of "to do" stuff around the house. My hope was to make noticeable progress on a book I kinda laid the groundwork for years ago when I began adding “Have To” History articles to this site.  

The idea was to offer students, teachers, or other interested parties engaging summaries of key figures, events, or issues in history which they maybe didn’t actually want to know about but for some reason had to – for a class, for a paper, or to better fake their way through an argument on social media.  

The idea is solid, even if implementation to date has been spotty. It’s also one of the most utilized sections of the website – so who saw that coming? 

After publishing “Have To” History: Landmark Supreme Court Cases, which fits the theme nicely, and “Have To” History: A Wall Of Education, which kinda doesn't but I liked the topic and wanted to keep the name, I’m returning to the initial premise in its purist form. “Have To” History: Stuff You Really Don’t Want To Know About The 25 Most Boring Issues & Events In American History will target those subjects that seem to show up on every course outline, curriculum guide, and standardized test year after year despite the fact that we can never quite remember what the hell they were or why they mattered.  

I surveyed thousands of teachers and students (well, OK – I asked, like... seven or eight of them) which topics were hardest to teach, care about, or remember, and selected two dozen of the most common responses. The Whigs. The Bessemer Process. The Interstate Highway System. All real knee-slappers in their own way, but so few Crash Course videos or feature films to substitute for an actual lesson plan.

Many of the responses were variations of “trying to remember stuff about the original thirteen colonies.” Most of us do pretty well with Jamestown, at least in its earliest incarnation, and we can fake our way through the Puritans or Roger Williams. Somehow, though, we’re expected to juggle things like joint-stock company charters vs. proprietary charters or remember which sections relied most heavily on the export of natural resources and how that shaped their feelings about potential rebellion.

If I’m being completely honest, it’s been the most challenging chapter I’ve tackled so far. The subject simply does not lend itself to the predictable formatting and pithy summarization I find most appealing about the whole project. To complicate matters, it’s also likely to be the first chapter of the finished book – meaning I don’t particularly want to alienate or confuse readers right out of the gate.

After what feels like several millenia of wrestling with it, I have a rough draft of what might be the chapter about the thirteen colonies. At the moment, it’s subtitled “Three (or Four) Regions – Three (Evolving) Formats – Three Approaches To Religion.”

I know. Even the subtitle needs work.

Nevertheless, I’ve posted the initial draft on “Have To” History right here on Blue Cereal Education. To keep it at least somewhat manageable, it’s currently broken into two parts. I’d love for you to give it a readthrough and let me know what you think.

Like, seriously – I'm looking for thoughts and feedback, good, bad, or indifferent, from any direction on this one. Your comments are welcome below or you can email me at

In the meantime, I’m moving on to other chapters and will return to this one when I can do so with fresh eyes and new energy. I look forward to your responses.

"Have To" History: The Thirteen Colonies (Part One)

"Have To" History: The Thirteen Colonies (Part Two)


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