by Francis J. Bremer

The thirteen colonies that joined together to become the United States of America were but a part of the first British Empire. They were the product of a broad and dramatic expansion of England that began with the establishment of “plantations” in Ireland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and reached a peak with the conquest of Canada and the extension of British influence over India during the 1760s. In the New World alone at the time of the American Revolution Britain had close to two dozen colonies, most in the Caribbean, apart from the thirteen rebellious ones. As was the case for other colonizing nations, this expansion was driven by a variety of factors, including religion, nationalism, and economics—often categorized as God, Glory, and Gold. Specific colonies typically combined more than one of these objectives. The Roanoke colony of 1585, for example, was intended to serve as a privateer base that would undermine Spain’s Catholic empire in America, advance the interests of England, and enrich those who would actually capture Spanish possessions.More »

Featured Primary Sources

A view of Savanah [sic] as it stood the 29th of March, 1734, engraving by Pierre

A View of Savannah, Georgia, 1734

Creator: Pierre Fourdrinier Curriculum Subjects: World History Grade Levels: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi [map of North America], by Guil

Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississipi, 1718

Creator: Guillaume De l’Isle Curriculum Subjects: Geography, World History Grade Levels:
A Memorial of the State of the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England to Q

The Province of Massachusetts Bay requests aid from Queen Anne, 1708

Creator: Thomas Oliver Curriculum Subjects: Economics, Government and Civics Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13+
View All

Teaching Resources

Back in 1734

Curriculum Subjects: Grade Levels: K, 1, 2, 3

Making a Lens

Curriculum Subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Grade Levels: K, 1, 2, 3
View All


The Age of Homespun: Family Labor in the Colonial Economy

Speaker(s): Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Duration: 47 minutes 4 seconds
View All