During the eighteenth century, British North American colonists experienced many economic, social, and political changes. In an attempt to expand the empire, the British adopted mercantilist policies to tie the colonies to the mother country. Through a series of Navigation Acts, the British pushed the colonies into a trade network that proved beneficial to most participants. The colonies produced raw materials and exchanged them for goods manufactured in the mother country. Such economic growth caused an increase in the colonists’ standard of living. To underscore mercantilism, the British attempted to extend their political control over the colonies. Under the political system that gave power to the colonial governor and the colonial assembly, the colonists concluded they had certain political rights, including the right to protest policies they did not like.
The American colonists also experienced social changes stemming from the Great Awakening, a wave of religious revivalism, and the Enlightenment, a period of intellectual development promoting personal improvement and social betterment. Both led to positive developments in American society during the eighteenth century. They caused the American colonists to be distrustful of institutionalized authority, yet favorably disposed to education and the instruction of educators. Moreover, the Enlightenment caused America’s educated elite to be suspicious of any attempt to shackle their minds or erode the rights of English citizens. Although different in their goals, the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment had similar motivations, largely in the way they revealed the fundamental pragmatism and practicality of the American people.
The attempt to expand the empire did not just affect internal colonial policy. The British wanted to eliminate France and Spain from the New World. Metacom’s War centered on tensions between New England settlers and the Wampanoags as the number of settlers increased. Bacon’s Rebellion focused on concerns about the availability of land in Virginia as more indentured servants survived their terms of service and looked to obtain their own plots. However, the remaining wars, King William’s War (1689 1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), and King George’s War (1744-1748), stemmed from the tensions between the European powers. Many colonists paid a high price for their participation in these wars. Their losses certainly lent themselves to a feeling that the colonists had made significant sacrifices for England, and therefore deserved equal and fair treatment as citizens of the British crown. British attempts to expand their power in North America ultimately paved the way for the revolution.