'Divergence or Convergence?' Were the British American colonies becoming more like or less like Britain and each other in the eighteenth century?

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In 1760, Benjamin Franklin declared that of the fourteen British colonies on the American mainland, no two were alike. Sixteen years later the Declaration of Independence was signed separating these colonies from their mother land and partnering these supposed different colonies together. Topics including political and human rights, social development and class society need to be examined when comparing the colonies and Britain in the 18th Century. As well as these differences between the colonies and Britain, the divisions between northern and southern colonies highlight that though the emigrants shared many beliefs, others considerations such as slavery divided them. The majority of colonists were still loyal to the British crown during the period prior to 1776, even considering the differences between those British subjects in the colonies from those at home. In the context of British America, this essay will consider the theory that though the colonies had separate governors, laws and interests, they converged together during the mid to late 18th century.

Sir Walter Ralegh dispatched an expedition in 1585 that landed at Roanoake Island. This was the first manoeuvre by the English crown to establish colonies in America. The colony at Roanoake ultimately failed, but continued efforts saw later expeditions to Virginia and New England succeed. Unemployment within Britain during the 17th Century made many consider migration to America where the prospect of gaining land would have been a huge attraction. Many those who left for the colonies in search of riches were forced into entering into indentured servitude as the majority were from the lower classes.

Beginning in the 1740s an unprecedented flow of manufactured goods, coveted in the colonies, created widespread availability of British made consumer products. By 1773, the American colonies accounted for approximately 25% of all British exports, so this growth of this market increased the importance of the colonial consumers to the British economy. Keeping the colonists dependent on British goods, was now an essential aspect of the British economy, so various Navigation Acts were passed to ensure colonists only bought their products. The colonists accepted these acts in principle as long as the acts were to the benefit of Britain, as they did not wish to support the economies of Spain or France. These acts, such as the Iron Act of 1750 did affect the growth in America, by stemming the growth of manufacturing, in the interest of preventing any conflict with the British industrial heartlands of Lancashire. The colonists eventually began to realise their importance to the British economy, and they began to boycott British goods, expressing a belief that the mother country could not manage without their purchases. These boycotts fostered a sense of shared sacrifice and helped them connect with the larger interests of America as a whole.

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The social development of the colonies during the 18th century, leading up to the American Revolution, was a social and cultural convergence that led to the colonies in North America being more like British society than in any time, since the first colonists landed on American shores. In ‘Pursuits of Happiness’, Jack Greene claims that the New England colonies, far from being the norm, were the exception. They became less settled, cohesive and coherent as the century wore on, less like the original puritanical settlements and more like the Chesapeake and other British colonies. The puritans moved away from their community ...

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