British America

British America comprised the colonial territories of the English Empire, which became the British Empire after the 1707 union of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, in the Americas from 1607 to 1783. Prior to the union, this was termed English America, excepting Scotland's failed attempts to establish its own colonies. Following the union, these colonies were formally known as British America and the British West Indies before the Thirteen Colonies declared their independence in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and formed the United States of America.[2]

British America and
the British West Indies[1]
British colonies in continental North America (red) and the island colonies of the British West Indies of the Caribbean Sea (pink)
StatusColonies of England (1585–1707)
Colonies of Scotland
Colonies of Great Britain (1707–1783)
CapitalAdministered from London, England
Common languagesEnglish (de facto official)
Spoken languages:
Irish Gaelic
Scottish Gaelic
Indigenous languages
West African languages (spoken among the imported African slaves in the beginning)
Anglicanism, Protestantism, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Native American religions, Traditional African religions, Sunni Islam (practiced by some West African slaves in the beginning)
Demonym(s)British American
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
James VI and I (first)
George III (last)
 Newfoundland Colony and Province of Avalon
 Plymouth Council for New England (Massachusetts Bay Colony)
CurrencyPound sterling, Spanish dollar, bills of credit, commodity money, and many local currencies
Preceded by
Succeeded by
New France
New Netherland
New Sweden
Spanish Florida
British North America
United States
Spanish Florida
British West Indies

After the American Revolution, the term British North America was used to refer to the remainder of Great Britain's possessions in North America. The term British North America was used in 1783, but it was more commonly used after the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), generally known as the Durham Report.


British map of North America, 1710, by John Senex, Charles Price and John Maxwell

A number of English colonies were established in America between 1607 and 1670 by individuals and companies whose investors expected to reap rewards from their speculation. They were granted commercial charters by Kings James I, Charles I, and Charles II, as well as Parliament. The London Company founded the first permanent settlement in 1607 on the James River at Jamestown, Virginia upstream from Chesapeake Bay. This was followed in 1620, when the Pilgrims established the Plymouth settlement in New England. English Catholics settled the Province of Maryland in 1634, under Cecilus Calvert, second Lord Baltimore.

A state department in London known as the Southern Department governed all the colonies beginning in 1660, as well as a committee of the Privy Council called the Board of Trade and Plantations. In 1768, Parliament created a specific state department for America, but it was disbanded in 1782 when the Home Office took responsibility for the remaining possessions of British North America in Eastern Canada, the Floridas, and the West Indies.[3]

British America gained large amounts of territory with the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which ended the French and Indian War in America and the Seven Years' War in Europe. At the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, the British Empire included 23 colonies and territories on the North American continent. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended the Revolutionary War, and Britain lost much of this territory to the newly formed United States. In addition, Britain ceded East and West Florida to the Kingdom of Spain, which in turn ceded them to the United States in 1821. Most of the remaining colonies to the north formed Canada in 1867, with the Dominion of Newfoundland joining in 1949.

In the Caribbean, the British West Indies and other European sugar colonies were at the center for the Atlantic slave trade.[4][5]

North American colonies in 1775

The Thirteen Colonies that became the original states of the United States:

New England Colonies
A view of Fort George and the city of New York
c. 1731
Middle Colonies
Southern Colonies

Colonies and territories that became part of Canada:

Colonies and territories that were ceded to Spain or the United States in 1783:

Colonies in the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic, and South America in 1783

Divisions of the British Leeward Islands
Island of Jamaica and its dependencies
Other possessions in the British Windward Islands

See also


  1. Formerly called English America before the Act of Union in 1707.
  2. "Rights: Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America".
  3. Foulds, Nancy Brown. "Colonial Office". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  4. Lambert, David. "An introduction to the Caribbean, empire and slavery". British Library. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  5. Swingen, Abigail L. (2015). The Slave Trade, the Asiento, and the National Interest, 1698–1718. Yale Scholarship Online. Yale University Press. doi:10.12987/yale/9780300187540.001.0001. ISBN 9780300187540. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
  6. "Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663". Secretary of State of Rhode Island. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  7. "Charles II Granted Rhode Island New Charter". 8 July 1663. Retrieved 14 April 2011.

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