British colonization of the Americas

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British colonization of the Americas (including colonization sponsored by both the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland before the 1707 Acts of Union which created the Kingdom of Great Britain) began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas. The British were one of the most important colonizers of the Americas, and their American empire came to rival the Spanish American colonies in military and economic might.

This British colonization caused dramatic upheaval among the indigenous civilizations in the Americas, both directly through British military force and indirectly through cultural disruption and introduced diseases. Relations between the colonists and natives varied between trade and conflict. Many of the indigenous societies had developed a warrior class and had a long history of warfare. The rapidity, silence, and ferocity of their war parties proved devastating against the colonial-style of waging war but the colonials generally emerged successful in the long term. Like the French, trade with the natives was an important part of British colonial policy but the British also heavily promoted settlement and development.

Three types of colonies existed in the British Empire in America during the height of its power in the eighteenth century. These were charter colonies, proprietary colonies and royal colonies. After the American War of Independence, British territories in the Americas were granted more responsible government until they were gradually granted independence in the twentieth century. In this way, two countries in North America, ten in the Caribbean, and one in South America have received their independence from the United Kingdom. Today, the United Kingdom retains eight overseas territories in the Americas, which it grants varying degrees of self-government. In addition, nine former British possessions in the Americas, which are now independent of the United Kingdom, are Commonwealth Realms.


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