European Colonization of North America

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When did Britain colonize America?

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Britain tried to start a colony in the late sixteenth century, under Queen Elizabeth I, in Roanoke, North Carolina, but this attempt failed. It wasn't until the early seventeenth century that the British gained a permanent foothold in North America with the Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth Bay (1621) colonies.

European missionaries, explorers, and people seeking to make money had been coming to America for a century, but they did not intend to stay permanently. Catholic missionaries wanted to convert the Native Americans to Christianity, but eventually they intended to return home. Explorers wanted to chart and claim territory for their nation, then go back to their home countries. Hunters and other fortune-seekers sought to come back to Europe with furs and treasure but not to stay long in the "New World."

The trading outposts and temporary shelters built by men hoping to spend a few years in a hostile environment became too sporadic and uncertain for European countries that were insatiably hungry for a steady and abundant flow of raw materials and cash crops from their colonies. This drove a desire on the part of countries like England to establish permanent colonies in America, which meant they would control the land they rested on for the benefit of their homeland and which would ensure a steady and highly profitable flow of supplies into Europe.

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