English Colonies

During the era of exploration, many European countries were setting sail to claim lands for their royalty and their country. Great Britain was one of these countries, and they, along with others, laid claim to areas in North America. From 1585 through to 1776, the British expanded their empire by establishing colonies in the Northeast.

The first colony that the British tried to create was in 1585 and is known as the Roanoke Colony. The inhabitants of this colony disappeared and are considered to be a failure. The next colony was in 1607 and was settled in Jamestown, Virginia. This is the first settlement that had some success for the British.

As time passed, the areas settled in North America began to grow and brought profitable trade for the British Crown. The colonies began to expand and eventually settled into thirteen distinct colonies. A colony is defined as an area of land that remains under the control of another country. In the case of the thirteen colonies, they were under the political control of England. Colonies can be founded and settled by individuals of multiple countries, which is the case of the thirteen original colonies that had settlers from many European countries.

  • The British Empire encouraged the creation of the colonies in North America as a way to get land, wealth, create trading ports, all designed to make a profit.
  • Britain was in competition with some of the other European countries such as Spain and France, to make claims to land.
  • The original thirteen colonies placed freedom of religion as a priority. Many of those that settled in the colonies had escaped religious persecution in England.
  • Some of the colonists were those that wanted to separate from the Church of England, and these were known as “Separatist Pilgrims.” This group settled in the Plymouth Colony.
  • Puritans settled in the area of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Quakers settled in Pennsylvania, and the Roman Catholics settled in Maryland.
  • The colonies that were founded by religious groups or leaders include Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The other colonies had a priority based on additional trade opportunities.
  • Historians divide the colonies into three distinct regions that include: New England Colonies, Southern Colonies, and Middle Colonies.

A list of the thirteen colonies, when they were founded and who founded them:

1607: Virginia, founded by John Smith and the London Company.

1626: New York; founded originally by the Dutch, and then in 1664, it became a British colony.

1623: New Hampshire; the first landholder was John Mason.

1630: Massachusetts Bay; the Puritans.

1633: Maryland: Founded as a Catholic haven by George & Cecil Calvert.

1636: Connecticut; After Thomas Hooker was told to depart from Massachusetts.

1636: Rhode Island: Roger Williams sought safety for religious practices.

1638: Delaware: Became a British colony in 1664, founded by Peter Minuit & New Sweden Co.

1663: North Carolina: Split from the Province of Carolina in 1712.

1663: South Carolina: Split from Province of Carolina in 1712.

1664: New Jersey: the Dutch settled, and then in 1664, the British took over.

1681: Pennsylvania: Settled by William Penn and the Quakers.

1732: Georgia: Established as a settlement for debtors by James Oglethorpe.


What were the years that the British were expanding their lands to include the areas of the 13 colonies?
From 1585 through to 1776

What is the reason that the Separatists came to the New World?
Separate themselves from the Church of England for religious beliefs

What is the reason that the Puritans came to the New World?
Locate safe havens for freedom of various religions

Why did Britain encourage the development of the 13 colonies?
More profit

What colony did the Quakers settle in?

Which colony dropped its name when it split into two separate colonies?
Province of Carolina