The British North American Colonies Essay

The British North American Colonies

British colonization of North America began in the late 16th century when Queen Elizabeth 1st granted Walter Raleigh the right to establish colonies on the North American continent. In 1606 colonists were sent out by the new king James to Virginia where he expected them to find gold. By 1619 that colony was given the right to self government according to the web page ‘The British Colonies’ which cites 13 colonies:- Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina Virginia and Georgia

There were of course other colonies, for instance Nova Scotia and other places north of what is now the Canadian border and France and Spain also had colonies

The Pilgrims escaping from religious persecution were the first to settle in Massachusetts in 1620, though of the 102 passengers on the ‘Mayflower’ only 41 were religious separatists according to ’13 Originals’.

In 1632 a colony was established in New Hampshire, where a fishing village grew up. In 1719 a group of Scots Irish from Londonderry, now in Ulster, arrived in New Hampshire and tried to form a Scottish colony.

New York was of course once a Dutch colony, as was Connecticutt, with origins in 1614, but by 1664 was under the British crown. The colonists there intended to make their money from land holding and real estate sales. In Delaware there had been an attempt to settle by the Dutch in 1631, but the settlers were wiped out by natives. In 1638 Swedish settlers arrived, but in 1655 the Dutch took over from them and then in 1682 it was awarded to William Penn, another person seeking religious freedom.

Maryland, established in the reign of Charles I, was to be a colony of freemen. Rhode Island, built on land purchased from the indigenous people, was a place for those seeking religious freedom.

In 1663, despite the Spanish, Charles II granted land in both Carolinas and Georgia to colonists. Some of these were moving north from colonies in the Caribbean and so brought with them the idea of black slavery.

Pennsylvania was founded when Swedish, Dutch and English arrived in 1647. Later they would be joined by many Germans.

Georgia was founded in 1732, under George II. It was the most southerly colony and was intended to provide a buffer between Spanish and English possessions.

In most of these colonies social structure would have been exactly what it had been in the home countries at first, based upon birth status, and social position, but gradually as men realized that what they could do was more important than who their ancestors were this would be both resented and disputed.

So we see that the colonists arrived and stayed for a variety of reasons – to make money, to avoid persecution, to live as they wanted to. All in some way or other were seeking freedom from the life they left behind. The majority were non-Catholic, government varied, but in the main was from some kingdom far away, with the kings representatives in charge, and their loyalty and taxes were demanded.

One of the most important facts about these 13 historically is that they eventually rebelled and formed the beginnings of the present United States of America.


Electronic Sources

13 Originals, Founding the American Colonies, The Time Page, retrieved 15th October 2008 from

The British Colonies, Social Studies, Kidport Reference Library, retrieved 15th October 2008 from Beginnings