The First British Empire (1583-1783)

The First British Empire originated from Queen Elizabeth I granting Humphrey Gilbert a license to conduct overseas explorations in the name of the Crown (1578). The same license was later given to Walter Raleigh (1584). Gilbert explored the Caribbean while Raleigh founded a colony in today’s North Carolina territory.

By the 17th century, England had created a series of settlements in North America and on various Caribbean islands. In Asia, the East India Company was established, where it traded under the Crown’s license and acquired influence and territory in the area. Initially, the most profitable colonies were in areas of the Caribbean such as in St. Kitts, Barbados, and Nevis, where various sugar plantations developed and where Britain had the monopoly on trade. By the end of the 17th century, England had colonies in New England, Virginia, Maryland, the Bermudas, Honduras, Antigua, Barbados, Nova Scotia, and Jamaica.

Britain also continued to establish colonies in North America. Some of these colonies were bought; for example, Florida was originally ...

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