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Updated: Oct 5, 2020


Towards the end of the sixteenth century, for various reasons, many people left England and went to foreign lands like America.

  • Some people were dissatisfied with life in their native country because of religious persecution.

  • Some others who did not have their own land in England were inspired by the desire of possessing land in New World.

  • Some others found life in England dull, as there was no scope for adventures.


  • The Wars of the Roses were a series of blood civil wars for throne of England between two competing royal families

1. The House of York

2. The House of Lancaster

  • Both house members are of the age-old royal Plantagenet family.

  • The war was waged between 1455 and 1485

  • The Wars of the Roses earned its flowery name because the white rose was the badge of the Yorks and the red rose was the badge of the Lancastrians.

  • After 30 years of political manipulation, horrific carnage and brief periods of peace, the wars ended and a new royal dynasty emerged.

  • After the Wars of the Roses wealth was increasing which served as an incentive for overseas enterprise.


  • By adventurers’ hard works Colonies were founded in America and in the West Indian Islands.

  • Important trade centres were established in South Africa and India.

  • By the early decades of the 18th century, there were thirteen colonies on the east coast of America.

  • They were between Nova Scotia in the north and Florida in the south.

  • These colonies were of three groups, namely,

1. New England Colonies.

2. The Middle Colonies.

3. The Southern Colonies.

  • New England Colonies – New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rode Island.

  • The Middle Colonies – New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

  • The Southern Colonies – Maryland, Virginia, North South Carolina and Georgia.


  • The first colony to be founded was Virginia.

  • As early as in the Elizabethan period Sir Walter Raleigh made several attempts to establish colonies.

  • His first settlement was on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina.

  • These adventures had the support of Queen Elizabeth.

  • Part of the new land was named Virginia in her honour (the Virgin Queen)

  • Later, Sir Walter Raleigh sold his rights to the two companies.

  • These companies were started to promote colonisation:

1. Plymouth Company

2. London Company

  • London Company was under the leadership of Captain John Smith.

  • In 1607 it made the first permanent settlement.

  • They called it Jamestown in honour of James I, the king of England.

  • The colonists were not used to hard labour and so used Negro slaves for manual works.

  • King James gave them a Charter.

  • The colony was governed under the terms of the Charter by the company from London.

(As it was not found satisfactory, a representative assembly called the House of Burgesses met at Jamestown, Williamsburg, and this form of popular assembly governed Virginia up to the Revolution.)


  • A group of Puritans who had been living in Holland decided to migrate to America in 1620.

  • They also decided to establish a religious society there.

  • These “Pilgrim Fathers” set out from Plymouth harbor in England.

  • They sailed in a ship called the Mayflower and landed near Cape Cod.

  • The place where they landed was named as New Plymouth to commemorate the English port from which they had sailed.

  • It remained independent until 1691 when it was united with the Massachusetts BayColony.


  • Later a group of wealthy puritans set up a colony in Massachusetts.

  • They obtained a Charter from Charles I in 1629.

  • Their chief town was called Boston.

  • Because, many of the settlers came from Boston in Lincolnshire.

  • Massachusetts was the chief colony of New England.

  • Two more colonies were founded in New England.

  • It was founded in the early part of the 17th century by the Puritan settlers in Massachusetts.

  • Roger Williams believed in complete religious freedom for everybody.

  • His idea was opposed by the Puritans.

  • In 1636 he founded small settlement called Providence.

  • The smallest of the colonies, Rhode Island grew by this settlement.

  • Charles II gave them a Charter in 1663.

  • Thomas Hooker, a religious leader settled at a place which he called New Haven.

  • This colony was named Connecticut.

  • Similarly, another colony called New Hampshire was formed later.


  • In 1632 Charles I granted to Lord Baltimore a block of land on the Potomac River.

  • Lord Baltimore is a Roman Catholic.

  • In 1634, the Maryland Colony was founded.

  • Maryland colony was the first Roman Catholic settlement in America.

  • They named the colony in honour of Mary, mother of Christ.

  • These catholic colonists wanted to escape persecution at home and so came here.

  • But many Protestants came with them and as a result a certain amount of strife followed.

  • Later, an agreement was drawn up, whereby anyone could worship as he/she chose.

  • So religious toleration became the cardinal principle of this settlement.


  • The Dutch had formed the settlement called a settlement of New Amsterdam.

  • The king had assigned this Dutch colony, where there were already many English settlers, to the Duke of York.

  • During the Dutch war in 1664 this area passed into the hands of the British.

  • This was named as New York in honour of the Duke of York.

  • Duke of York is the brother of Charles II, who later became James II.


  • In 1681 Charles II gave William Penn a large tract of land west of the Delaware River.

  • William Penn is a Quaker.

  • This land was named Pennsylvania.

  • Pennsylvania means “Penn’s Woods”

  • The Quakers also had suffered persecution in England.

  • So they were glad to come to America.

  • Other Protestants later joined this colony.

  • Penn founded the city of Philadelphia in 1682.

  • As Quakers were thrifty and law-abiding, Pennsylvania as colonial experiment became a great success.

  • Later on, Penn leased land in the south from Swedes.

  • This became the Colony of Delware.

  • Also leased land to the east which became New Jersey.


  • IN 1663 Charle II granted all territory south of Virginia to eight noblemen called “Proprietors”

  • This region of south of Virginia was called Carolina.

  • The city of Charleston was founded about 1670.

  • Later this colony was divided into two colonies:

1. North Carolina

2. South Carolina

  • In 1733, the southernmost and the youngest of the thirteen colonies Georgia was founded.

  • The colony was named after George II.

  • James Oglethorpe, the humanitarian got the land between Carolina and Florida from George II.

  • This land was to settle the poor debtors who had been in English prisons.


  • In 1670 Prince Rupert founded Hudson Bay Company.

  • This ruled a large province in Canada.

  • There were also colonies in West Indian Islands.

  • Barbados was occupied by the English in 1605.

  • Important islands like St. Kith and Nevis were occupied in subsequent years.

  • In Cromwell’s time the island of Jamaica was taken from Spain by Admira Penn.

  • And this was made as a British colony in 1655.


  • Trade connections with Africa paved the way for the establishment of British power in South Africa.

  • It was gold and slaves that attracted Englishmen to West Africa.

  • As early as in 1562 Sir John Hawkins managed to get three hundred slaves from the Guinea coast.

  • Three companies were established, but they were not successful.

  • At last in 1672 the Royal African Company was founded with a monopoly trade from the Cape to Tangier.

  • This had come to England as part of the dowry of the Portuguese bride of Charles II.

  • This Company brought home GOLD, IVORY and DYEING MATERIALS.

  • These were also shared in the slave trade with America.


  • The first important step towards England’s commercial enterprise in the east was taken on 31st December 1600.

  • In 1600, Queen Elizabeth granted a Royal Charter to the East India Company.

  • But it was not till 1609 that the Company was able to open factories in India.

  • The first factory was established at Surat.

  • In 1639 they built Fort St. George in Madras.

  • In 1661 Charles II gave to the East India Company the island of Bombay.

  • He had received that from Portugal as a part of the dowry at time of his marriage to Catherine of Braganza.

  • Calcutta was founded later in 1690.


  • By the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which followed the Spanish Succession War, England became the possessor of territories in all parts of the world.

  • England also possessed Gibraltar and Minorca, a large number of settlements in India; the island of St. Helena; factories in Gambia, Gold Coast and Lagos; many of the West Indian islands, the Atlantic seaboard from Florida to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, and the territories of the Hudson Bay Company.

  • Hence, the Stuart Age may be considered as a period of colonial expansion.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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