Conclusion: Patterns of British Settlement in the Colonies

Conclusion: Patterns of British Settlement in the Colonies

Through the 17th century, Great Britain established 13 colonies in North America and greatly expanded its colonial reach.

Learning Objectives

Summerize the similarities and differences between the early British colonies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The 18th century witnessed the birth of Great Britain into a commercial and military powerhouse and the expansion of the British Empire into North America.
  • After the English Civil War, England began to fashion a stronger and larger empire in North America.
  • New England colonies included Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island; the Middle Colonies later became the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; and the Southern Colonies later became the states of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
  • Slavery formed a cornerstone of the British Empire in the 18th century; more than a labor system, it influenced every aspect of colonial thought and culture.

Key Terms

  • English Civil War: A series of armed conflicts between Parliamentarians and Royalists in England over, principally, the manner of its government. The first (1642–46) and second (1648–49) conflicts pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–51) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament.

British Expansion

The 18th century witnessed the birth of Great Britain (after the union of England and Scotland in 1707) and the expansion of the British Empire. By the mid-1700s, Great Britain had developed into a commercial and military powerhouse. Its economic sway ranged from India, where the British East India Company had gained control over both trade and territory, to the West African coast, where British slave traders predominated, and to the British West Indies, whose lucrative sugar plantations, especially in Barbados and Jamaica, provided windfall profits for British planters.

Meanwhile, the population rose dramatically in Britain’s North American colonies. In the early 1700s, the population in the colonies had reached 250,000. By 1750, however, over a million British migrants and African slaves had established a near-continuous zone of settlement on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Georgia. During this period, the ties between Great Britain and the American colonies only grew stronger. Anglo-American colonists considered themselves part of the British Empire in all ways—politically, militarily, religiously (as Protestants), intellectually, and racially.

image

The Royall family, 1741: Isaac Royall and his family, seen here in a 1741 portrait by Robert Feke, moved to Medford, Massachusetts, from the West Indian island of Antigua, bringing their slaves with them. This portrait of the family exemplifies the colonial American gentry of the 18th century. Successful and well-to-do, they display fashions, hairstyles, and furnishings that all speak to their identity as proud and loyal British subjects.

New England, Middle, and Southern Colonies

After the English Civil War, England began to fashion a stronger and larger empire in North America. New England colonies included Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island; the Middle Colonies later became the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware; and the Southern Colonies later became the states of Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. In addition to wresting control of New York and New Jersey from the Dutch, Charles II established the Carolinas and Pennsylvania as proprietary colonies.

Each of these colonies added immensely to the empire, supplying goods not produced in England, such as rice and indigo. The early colonies also contributed to the rise in population in English America as many thousands of Europeans made their way to the colonies. The colonies differed substantially in their economics; while northern colonies relied heavily on the emergence of industry and the production of goods to sell or trade, southern colonies arose out of agriculture and the production of staple crops. Southern colonies especially relied on slavery, but all colonies benefited from the institution.

Slavery in the Colonies

Slavery formed a cornerstone of the British Empire in the 18th century. Every colony had slaves, from the southern rice plantations in Charles Town, South Carolina, to the northern wharves of Boston. Slavery was more than a labor system; it also influenced every aspect of colonial thought and culture. The uneven relationship it engendered gave white colonists an exaggerated sense of their own status. English liberty gained greater meaning and coherence for whites when they contrasted their status to that of the unfree class of black slaves in British America. African slavery provided whites in the colonies with a shared racial bond and identity.