British America

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British America and the British West Indies

Flag of British America
British colonies in America (red) and the island colonies of the British West Indies near the Caribbean Sea (pink)
British colonies in America (red) and the island colonies of the British West Indies near the Caribbean Sea (pink)
StatusColonies of England (1607–1707)
Colonies of Great Britain (1707–1783)
CapitalAdministered from London, England
Common languagesEnglish (official)
Spoken languages:
Scottish Gaelic
Indian languages
Anglicanism, Protestantism, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, American Indian religion
GovernmentConstitutional monarchy
• 1607–1625
James I and VI (first)
• 1760–1783
George III (last)
• Bermuda
• Jamaica
CurrencyPound sterling, Spanish dollar, colonial money, bills of credit, commodity money, and many local currencies
Preceded by
Succeeded by
New Netherland
New France
Spanish Florida
New Sweden
British North America
British West Indies
United States
Spanish Florida
Today part of

British America included the British Empire's colonial territories in America from 1607 to 1783. 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.[1] After that, the term British North America described the remainder of Great Britain's continental American possessions. That term was used informally in 1783 by the end of the American Revolution, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report.

British America gained large amounts of new territory following the Treaty of Paris (1763) which ended the French and Indian War in America, and ended British involvement in the Seven Years' War in Europe. At the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775, the British Empire included 20 colonies north and east of New Spain. (New Spain included areas of Mexico and the western United States.) Britain ceded East and West Florida to the Kingdom of Spain in the Treaty of Paris (1783) which ended the American Revolution, and then Spain ceded them to the United States in 1819 after treaty negotiations to settle the old southwest border with Spanish Florida (eastern Louisiana, southern Alabama, Mississippi, and western Georgia). The remaining continental colonies of British North America to the northeast formed Canada by uniting provinces between 1867 and 1873. The Dominion of Newfoundland to the east joined Canada in 1949.


British map of North America, 1710

A number of English colonies were established in America between 1606 and 1670 by individuals and companies whose investors expected to reap rewards from their speculation. They were granted commercial charters by King James I, King Charles I, Parliament, and King Charles II. 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, with 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.[2]

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 of British North America and territories that became part of Canada:

Former French and Spanish Colonies

Several British colonies and territories were ruled by Britain from 1763 after the Seven Years' War, but were later ceded to Spain (the Floridas) or the United States (the Indian Reserve and Southwestern Quebec).

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

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

See also


  1. ^ "A Summary View of the Rights of British America – Thomas Jefferson".
  2. ^ Foulds, Nancy Brown. "Colonial Office". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Rhode Island Royal Charter of 1663". Secretary of State of Rhode Island. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  4. ^ "Charles II Granted Rhode Island New Charter". 8 July 1663. Retrieved 14 April 2011.

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