[Portolan chart of eastern North and Central America and northern South America]

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Welcome to Worlds of Change

Worlds of Change: Colonial North America at Harvard Library provides access to remarkable and wide-ranging materials digitized as part of a multi-year project to make available to the world more than 700,000 digitized pages of all known archival and manuscript materials in the Harvard Library that relate to 17th- and 18th-century North America. Each item is connected to countless stories—of lives lived quietly and extravagantly, of encounters peaceful and volatile, and of places near and far – providing an opportunity to travel back in time, to rethink familiar stories, and to discover new ones.

European exploration and colonialism in North America took place over several centuries and affected the lives of millions of people across multiple continents. The breadth and scope of these materials reflect this long history and its many dimensions. Over 200 years of colonial era history are represented in this digitized collection, and the diversity in focus, format, and content reflects the complexities of the era in which the materials were created. The items extend well beyond New England to Canada, other areas of North America, and South America; to Atlantic islands and across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain, continental Europe, and parts of Africa. Curated features on the website provide a deeper look at several topical areas and suggest ways of approaching the use of different kinds of materials to gain new insights.

Compass Rose

The circles on the map below are live links. Click on them to discover examples of the types and locations of material in this collection available from around the world. The hand-colored background map is Novissima totius terrarum orbis tabula (ca.1690). The double hemispherical map of the world shows Australia as Hollandia Nova with an unmapped east coast. The globes are surrounded by colored illustrations of figures and animals of the Zodiac.

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Nova Scotia

Ledger containing accounts of smallpox inoculation by Dr. John Jeffries, 1776-1779


An account of Steward’s expenses, 1688


Inquest of the genealogy and “limpieza de sangre,” 1624


An Act of Assembly of Barbadoes to regulate sales at outcry, 1763

Great Britain/Virginia

Letter from Anne, Queen of Great Britain, 1708


Lettres Patentes du Roy, 1717


Notebook of consul Joel Barlow, 1796

Explore Further!

These selections illustrate just some of the numerous geographic regions represented throughout the collection…

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A Closer Look