The establishment of the colonies was only possible after England became a great power. England had defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and it was ready to establish colonies. England's initial motivations were not unlike those of Spain: it hoped to find gold and secure a route (Northwest Passage) to...
The establishment of the colonies was only possible after England became a great power. England had defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, and it was ready to establish colonies. England's initial motivations were not unlike those of Spain: it hoped to find gold and secure a route (Northwest Passage) to Asia.
The thirteen original colonies shared many similarities and differences. One unifying factor was geography. They were all located on the eastern seaboard of North America. Because of their location, they were not close to other British colonies, such as those in the West Indies. They were also united because most of them had similar enemies: the French and Spanish, and Native Americans. They were all under London's control, but the degree of control varied according to the colony and the era. Virginia became the most English of all the colonies. The Protestant Reformation was also an important influence on the development of the colonies. Various Protestant sects sought religious autonomy away from England.
The earliest colonies were set up in the South and in New England, and both nearly failed. The Virginia Company had hoped to make a fortune in North America. The Pilgrims and Puritans, on the other hand, went to New England in search of religious autonomy. Early settlers had underestimated the difficulties of surviving in the new wilderness. Jamestown, founded in 1607, almost failed until tobacco crops saved it. The Pilgrims, who barely survived the harsh New England winter, celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621. New England's economy, on the other hand, was not dependent on agriculture; it was more diverse than that of the South and included shipbuilding.
Maryland's founders had both commercial and religious incentives. Lord Baltimore, a Catholic, had failed to establish a colony in Newfoundland. His son, Cecilius Calvert, established a Catholic colony in Maryland. But most settlers were Protestant and religious freedom was granted. Maryland's economy, like that of neighboring Virginia, was primarily agricultural and its labor force included indentured servants.
Pennsylvania was an extremely important middle colony. It was a 'Holy Experiment' by William Penn (1644–1718). It was established with the goal of granting both religious and political freedom to its residents.