13 Original Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were the British colonial holdings in America which broke away from the crown to become an independent nation-the United States of America. They weren't the only colonies Britain had in North America. Places like Quebec in present-day Canada, and the British West Indies in the Caribbean. Each of the Thirteen Colonies has a unique history but common issues inspired them to band together against British rule.
Britain was one of the later arrivals in the colonial scene, launching their Roanoke Colony in 1585 in what is today North Carolina. The Roanoke Colony saw the first English child born in the Americas, but today it is not counted as the first colony, but rather the 'lost colony' as nobody knows what happened to the colonists... they disappeared without a trace after five years.
Britain launched their first successful North American colony in 1607 with the Jamestown settlement in present-day Virginia. Virginia saw many firsts, both good and bad-the first European women brought to a settlement... and the first documented African slaves owned by the English colonists. Slavery was entrenched in American history from the very beginning.
Britain's success in Virginia spurred them to found further settlements in quick succession. A group of Puritans were granted a charter to form the famous Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620-these are the people with belt buckles on their hats, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
A flurry of colonial growth began, with several colonies rising in the span of just thirty years, including New Hampshire, Maryland, Delaware, Carolina, and Pennsylvania. In 1623 New Hampshire was founded as a fishing colony, the year after, Maryland was settled as a refuge for Catholics, who were unpopular in England.
The people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony spawned two further colonies as well in 1636-Connecticut and Rhode Island. The latter was established by one Roger Williams, who was thrown out of Massachusetts for his belief in separation of church and state, which would become a staple of US policy 100 years later.
Some more notable colonies include the Dutch colony of New Netherland which, in 1664, was annexed by Britain and renamed New York, and Georgia, the last colony to be founded in 1732, and populated by recently released convicts seeking a fresh start.
It's important to note that many colonies did not resemble the states we know today, but were constantly shifting their borders, being re-arranged by the crown, and buying land from each other. For instance, North and South Carolina were actually just one state, Carolina, prior to 1729.
The colonies grew quickly. Between the year 1625 and the start of the Revolutionary War, just 150 years later, the population had grown from 1,980 people to 2,400,000. The colonies were immensely profitable.
Unless you were a slave-African American slaves made up 20% of the population by the start of the Revolutionary War, and were horribly mistreated. As for the Revolution, for most of colonial history Britain adopted a relatively hands-off approach which kept the colonists happy. It was only after the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, that separatist sentiment grew in the Thirteen Colonies.
To link to this 13 Original Colonies page, copy the following code to your site: