Explain what motivated England to establish American colonies.

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

England was motivated to establish the American colonies for complex reasons. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries marked economic changes and the sudden increase in demand for woolen cloth. With the dawn of the Enclosure Acts, landowners could suddenly fence off their farms; this resulted in both an increase in the product of wool to be sold throughout Europe and the sudden uprooting of smaller farmers who had rented plots of land from larger farmers.

Faced with sudden poverty, these migrating farmers hopefully saw the New World as a place for possible re-establishment, while English leaders saw the potential colonization of the Americas as a way to resolve the displacement of these individuals and the poor.

Additionally, England believed that settling the colonies could prove to be profitable, desiring to take advantage the seemingly limitless and untouched natural resources that would be available there. These raw materials could be sent directly back to England so that the country would no longer have to purchase them from other countries. The colonies could then themselves act as a market for England's manufactured goods. 

Thus, out of these political and economic interests, the Virginia Company was granted its first chapter by King James I, giving permission for the joint-stock company to establish their first colonies in Virginia.