The English overseas possessions, also known as the English colonial empire, comprised a variety of overseas territories that were colonised, conquered, or otherwise acquired by the former Kingdom of England during the centuries before the Acts of Union of 1707 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland created the Kingdom of Great Britain. The many English possessions then became the foundation of the British Empire and its fast-growing naval and mercantile power, which until then had yet to overtake those of the Dutch Republic, the Kingdom of Portugal, and the Kingdom of Spain.
The first English overseas settlements were established in Ireland, quickly followed by others in North America, Bermuda, and the West Indies, and by trading posts called "factories" in the East Indies, such as Bantam, and in the Indian subcontinent, beginning with Surat. In 1639, a series of English fortresses on the Indian coast was initiated with Fort St George. In 1661, the marriage of King Charles II to Catherine of Braganza brought him as part of her dowry new possessions which until then had been Portuguese, including Tangier in North Africa and Bombay in India.
In North America, Newfoundland and Virginia were the first centres of English colonisation. During the 17th century, Maine, Plymouth, New Hampshire, Salem, Massachusetts Bay, New Scotland, Connecticut, New Haven, Maryland, and Rhode Island and Providence were settled. In 1664, New Netherland and New Sweden were taken from the Dutch, becoming New York, New Jersey, and parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The Kingdom of England is generally dated from the rule of Æthelstan from 927.During the rule of the House of Knýtlinga, from 1013 to 1014 and 1016 to 1042, England was part of a personal union that included domains in Scandinavia. In 1066, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, conquered England, making the Duchy a Crown land of the English throne. Through the remainder of the Middle Ages the kings of England held extensive territories in France, based on their history in this Duchy. Under the Angevin Empire, England formed part of a collection of lands in the British Isles and France held by the Plantagenet dynasty. The collapse of this dynasty led to the Hundred Years' War between England and France. At the outset of the war the Kings of England ruled almost all of France, but by the end of it in 1453 only the Pale of Calais remained to them. Calais was eventually lost to the French in 1558. The Channel Islands, as the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy, retain their link to the Crown to the present day,
Other early English expansion occurred within the British Isles. As early as 1169, the Norman invasion of Ireland began to establish English possessions in Ireland, with thousands of English and Welsh settlers arriving in Ireland. [ page needed ] English control of Ireland fluctuated for centuries until Ireland was incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801.As a result of this the Lordship of Ireland was held for centuries by the English monarch, although it was not until the early 17th century that the Plantation of Ulster began.
The voyages of Christopher Columbus began in 1492, and he sighted land in the West Indies on 12 October that year. In 1496, excited by the successes in overseas exploration of the Portuguese and the Spanish, King Henry VII of England commissioned John Cabot to lead a voyage to find a route from the Atlantic to the Spice Islands of Asia, subsequently known as the search for the North West Passage. Cabot sailed in 1497, successfully making landfall on the coast of Newfoundland. There, he believed he had reached Asia and made no attempt to found a permanent colony.He led another voyage to the Americas the following year, but nothing was heard of him or his ships again.
The Reformation had made enemies of England and Spain, and in 1562 Elizabeth sanctioned the privateers Hawkins and Drake to attack Spanish ships off the coast of West Africa.Later, as the Anglo-Spanish Wars intensified, Elizabeth approved further raids against Spanish ports in the Americas and against shipping returning to Europe with treasure from the New World. Meanwhile, the influential writers Richard Hakluyt and John Dee were beginning to press for the establishment of England's own overseas empire. Spain was well established in the Americas, while Portugal had built up a network of trading posts and fortresses on the coasts of Africa, Brazil, and China, and the French had already begun to settle the Saint Lawrence River, which later became New France.
The first serious attempts to establish English colonies overseas were made in the last quarter of the 16th century, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.The 1580s saw the first attempt at permanent English settlements in North America, a generation before the Plantation of Ulster. Soon there was an explosion of English colonial activity, driven by men seeking new land, by the pursuit of trade, and by the search for religious freedom. In the 17th century, the destination of most English people making a new life overseas was in the West Indies rather than in North America.
Financed by the Muscovy Company, Martin Frobisher set sail on 7 June 1576, from Blackwall, London, seeking the North West Passage. In August 1576 he landed at Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island and this was marked by the first Church of England service recorded on North American soil. Frobisher returned to Frobisher Bay in 1577, solemnly taking possession of the south side of it in Queen Elizabeth's name. In a third voyage, in 1578, he reached the shores of Greenland and also made an unsuccessful attempt at founding a settlement in Frobisher Bay.While on the coast of Greenland, he also claimed that for England.
At the same time, between 1577 and 1580, Sir Francis Drake was circumnavigating the globe. He claimed Elizabeth Island off Cape Horn for his queen, and on 24 August 1578 claimed another Elizabeth Island, in the Straits of Magellan.In 1579, he landed on the north coast of California, claiming the area for Elizabeth as "New Albion". However, these claims were not followed up by settlements.
In 1578, while Drake was away on his circumnavigation, Queen Elizabeth granted a patent for overseas exploration to his half-brother Humphrey Gilbert, and that year Gilbert sailed for the West Indies to engage in piracy and to establish a colony in North America. However, the expedition was abandoned before the Atlantic had been crossed. In 1583, Gilbert sailed to Newfoundland, where in a formal ceremony he took possession of the harbour of St John's together with all land within two hundred leagues to the north and south of it, although he left no settlers behind him. He did not survive the return journey to England.
On 25 March 1584, Queen Elizabeth I (the "Virgin Queen") granted Sir Walter Raleigh a charter for the colonization of an area of North America which was to be called, in her honour, Virginia. This charter specified that Raleigh had seven years in which to establish a settlement, or else lose his right to do so. Raleigh and Elizabeth intended that the venture should provide riches from the New World and a base from which to send privateers on raids against the treasure fleets of Spain. Raleigh himself never visited North America, although he led expeditions in 1595 and 1617 to the Orinoco River basin in South America in search of the golden city of El Dorado. Instead, he sent others to found the Roanoke Colony, later known as the "Lost Colony".
On 31 December 1600, Elizabeth gave a charter to the East India Company, under the name "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies".The Company soon established its first trading post in the East Indies, at Bantam on the island of Java, and others, beginning with Surat, on the coasts of what is now India and Bangladesh.
Most of the new English colonies established in North America and the West Indies, whether successfully or otherwise, were proprietary colonies with Proprietors, appointed to found and govern settlements under Royal charters granted to individuals or to joint stock companies. Early examples of these are the Virginia Company, which created the first successful English overseas settlements at Jamestown in 1607 and Bermuda, unofficially in 1609 and officially in 1612, its spin-off, the Somers Isles Company, to which Bermuda (also known as the Somers Isles) was transferred in 1615, and the Newfoundland Company which settled Cuper's Cove near St John's, Newfoundland in 1610. Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts Bay, each incorporated during the early 1600s, were charter colonies, as was Virginia for a time. They were established through land patents issued by the Crown for specified tracts of land. In a few instances the charter specified that the colony's territory extended westward to the Pacific Ocean. The charter of Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay and Virginia each contained this "sea to sea" provision.
Bermuda, today the oldest-remaining British Overseas Territory, was settled and claimed by England as a result of the shipwreck there in 1609 of the Virginia Company's flagship Sea Venture . The town of St George's, founded in Bermuda in 1612, remains the oldest continuously-inhabited English settlement in the New World. Some historians state that with its formation predating the conversion of "James Fort" into "Jamestown" in 1619, St George's was actually the first successful town the English established in the New World. Bermuda and Bermudians have played important, sometimes pivotal, roles in the shaping of the English and British trans-Atlantic empires. These include roles in maritime commerce, settlement of the continent and of the West Indies, and the projection of naval power via the colony's privateers, among others.
Between 1640 and 1660, the West Indies were the destination of more than two-thirds of English emigrants to the New World. By 1650, there were 44,000 English people in the Caribbean, compared to 12,000 on the Chesapeake and 23,000 in New England.The most substantial English settlement in that period was at Barbados.
In 1660, King Charles II established the Royal African Company, essentially a trading company dealing in slaves, led by his brother James, Duke of York. In 1661, Charles's marriage to the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza brought him the ports of Tangier in Africa and Bombay in India as part of her dowry. Tangier proved very expensive to hold and was abandoned in 1684.
After the Dutch surrender of Fort Amsterdam to English control in 1664, England took over the Dutch colony of New Netherland, including New Amsterdam. Formalized in 1667, this contributed to the Second Anglo–Dutch War. In 1664, New Netherland was renamed the Province of New York. At the same time, the English also came to control the former New Sweden, in the present-day US state of Delaware, which had also been a Dutch possession and later became part of Pennsylvania. In 1673, the Dutch regained New Netherland, but they gave it up again under the Treaty of Westminster of 1674.
In 1621, following a downturn in overseas trade which had created financial problems for the Exchequer, King James instructed his Privy Council to establish an ad hoc committee of inquiry to look into the causes of the decline. This was called The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of all matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations. Intended to be a temporary creation, the committee, later called a 'Council', became the origin of the Board of Trade which has had an almost continuous existence since 1621. The Committee quickly took a hand in promoting the more profitable enterprises of the English possessions, and in particular the production of tobacco and sugar.
The Treaty of Union of 1706, which with effect from 1707 combined England and Scotland into a new sovereign state called Great Britain, provided for the subjects of the new state to "have full freedom and intercourse of trade and navigation to and from any port or place within the said united kingdom and the Dominions and Plantations thereunto belonging". While the Treaty of Union also provided for the winding up of the Scottish African and Indian Company, it made no such provision for the English companies or colonies. In effect, with the Union they became British colonies.
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of colonies of Great Britain on the Atlantic coast of America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries which declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. The Thirteen Colonies had very similar political, constitutional, and legal systems, and were dominated by Protestant English-speakers. The New England colonies were founded primarily for religious beliefs, while the other colonies were founded for business and economic expansion. All thirteen were part of Britain's possessions in the New World, which also included colonies in Canada, Florida, and the Caribbean.
The Dutch colonization of the Americas began with the establishment of Dutch trading posts and plantations in the Americas, which preceded the much wider known colonisation activities of the Dutch in Asia. While the first Dutch fort in Asia was built in 1600, the first forts and settlements on the Essequibo River in Guyana date from the 1590s. Actual colonization, with the Dutch settling in the new lands, was not as common as with other European nations. Many of the Dutch settlements were lost or abandoned by the end of the 17th century, but the Netherlands managed to retain possession of Suriname until it gained independence in 1975, as well as the Netherlands Antilles, which remain within the Kingdom of the Netherlands today.
The British colonization of the Americas describes the history of the establishment of control, settlement, and decolonization of the continents of the Americas by the Kingdom of England, the Kingdom of Scotland, and, after the union of those two countries in 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain. Colonization efforts began in the 16th century with efforts by the Kingdom of England to establish colonies in North America, but the first permanent British colony was established in Jamestown in 1607. Over the next several centuries more colonies were established in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Though most British colonies in the Americas eventually gained independence, some colonies have opted to remain under Britain's jurisdiction as British Overseas Territories.
The Colony of Virginia, chartered in 1606 and settled in 1607, was the first enduring English colony in North America, following failed proprietary attempts at settlement on Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, and the subsequent further south Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 1580s.
British North America refers to the British Empire's colonial territories in North America from 1783 to 1907, not including the Caribbean and Bermuda. The term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. These territories today form modern-day Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
This section of the timeline of United States history concerns events from before the lead up to the American Revolution.
A proprietary colony was a type of English colony mostly in North America and the Caribbean in the 17th century. In the British Empire, all land belonged to the ruler, and it was his/her prerogative to divide. Therefore, all colonial properties were partitioned by royal charter into one of four types: proprietary, royal, joint stock, or covenant. King Charles II used the proprietary solution to reward allies and focus his own attention on Britain itself. He offered his friends colonial charters which facilitated private investment and colonial self-government. The charters made the proprietor the effective ruler, albeit one ultimately responsible to English Law and the King. Charles II gave New Netherland to his younger brother The Duke of York, who named it New York. He gave an area to William Penn who named it Pennsylvania.
The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states
Scottish colonisation of the Americas comprised a number of failed or abandoned Scottish settlements in North America; a colony at Darien on the Isthmus of Panama; and a number of wholly or largely Scottish settlements made after the Acts of Union 1707, and those made by the enforced resettlement after the Battle of Culloden and the Highland Clearances.
Captain William Sayle was a prominent American landholder who was Governor of Bermuda in 1643 and again in 1658. As an Independent in religion and politics, and an adherent of Oliver Cromwell, he was dissatisfied with life in Bermuda, and so founded the company of the Eleutheran Adventurers who became the first settlers of the Bahamas between 1646 and 1648. He later became the first governor of colonial South Carolina from 1670 to 1671.
A colonial empire is a collective of territories, either contiguous with the imperial center or located overseas, settled by the population of a certain state and governed by that state.
British America refers to 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. After the American Revolution, the term British North America referred to the remainder of Great Britain's Canadian possessions. That term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), generally known as the Durham Report.
The Somers Isles Company was formed in 1615 to operate the English colony of the Somers Isles, also known as Bermuda, as a commercial venture. It held a royal charter for Bermuda until 1684, when it was dissolved, and the Crown assumed responsibility for the administration of Bermuda as a royal colony.
This is a chronology and timeline of the colonization of North America, with founding dates of selected European settlements. See also European colonization of the Americas.
The New England Colonies of British America included Connecticut Colony, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, and the Province of New Hampshire, as well as a few smaller short-lived colonies. The New England colonies were part of the Thirteen Colonies and eventually became five of the six states in New England. Captain John Smith's 1616 work A Description of New England first applied the term "New England" to the coastal lands from Long Island Sound to Newfoundland.
Between 1639 and 1651 English overseas possessions were involved in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of civil wars and wars that were fought in and between England, Scotland and in Ireland.
This Timeline of European imperialism covers episodes of imperialism by western nations since 1400 but does not take into account imperialism by other nations such as the Inca, the Chinese Empire or Japanese Imperialism, to give only a few of many examples. As such, readers may wish to treat it with some caution if using it as a resource to understand the complete phenomena of imperialism and colonialism.