After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Describe and analyze the evolution of British colonial policy towards the North American colonies from the mid-seventeenth century to the Revolution.
- Describe the structure of colonial governments in British North America and explain how the colonial political system differed from that of the mother country.
- Analyze the impact of the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening on British colonial society in North America.
- Explain how the Colonial Wars reflected both European and colonial political struggles.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the fortunes of many colonists in British North America had changed for the better. Although they still faced somewhat trying conditions, migrants could earn their own keep without being beholden to anyone, own land, and practice their faith openly. The colonists became somewhat self-sufficient because of their economic ties to the mother country through the mercantilist system. Moreover, the colonists defined their rights by the British political system they lived under, which they considered truly enlightened. Likewise, intellectual trends and religious developments helped to increase ties between the colonists that did not exist in the seventeenth century. Finally, the imperial wars between Britain, France, and Spain brought the colonists’ similarities sharply into focus because the wars exacerbated the tensions between the colonies and the mother country. In the end, the road to the revolution originated in the early eighteenth century as the British colonies began to mature economically, politically, and socially.
- 6.1: Colonial Administration
- By the mid-seventeenth century, the British actively sought ways to expand their overseas empire. To achieve this goal, they needed a strong navy and a healthy commercial network. The navy helped protect British merchants at home and in the colonies; meanwhile, duties on commerce funded much of the navy’s rapid growth. As these military and commercial interests melded together, the government developed mercantilism-based policies to meet the needs of the empire.
- 6.2: The Enlightenment and the Great Awakening
- The ideas of the Scientific Revolution inspired people in many fields besides science. With Newton demonstrating rational explanations for the functions of the universe, philosophers were inspired to re-think humanity and its place in the universe. The Scientific Revolution, then, was at the root of the Enlightenment.
- 6.3: Colonial Conflicts and Wars
- From 1675 to 1748, violence and warfare plagued the British colonies. The first of these was Metacom’s War, also known as King Philip’s War (1675-1676), a brutal engagement between the New Englanders and the Wampanoag Indians. Shortly thereafter, Bacon’s Rebellion (1676) broke out in Virginia, which also involved disputes with the Indians and the colonial government. Following these conflicts were King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, and King George’s War.
Thumbnail: The Burning of Jamestown depicting the burning of Jamestown, Virginia during Bacon's Rebellion (A.D. 1676-77) (Public domain; Howard Pyle used to illustrate the article "Jamestown" in Harper's Encyclopaedia of United States History: from 458 A.D. to 1905 (1905) via Wikipedia).