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Foundation of the 13 American colonies

This map is part of a series of 7 animated maps showing the history of European Colonies in North America.

In the decades that followed the establishment of the colony of Virginia, England sent settlers to sites all along the American coast between New France, to the North, and Spanish-controlled Florida, to the South. The first settlers were mostly people who left Europe because of religious discrimination.

 In November 1620,the Mayflower, with a hundred or so Puritans fleeing from England, anchored at Cape Code because of poor weather conditions. They decided to establish a settlement nearby and called it Plymouth.

The movement accelerated with the foundation of the colony of Massachusetts. In 1629 Charles I granted a charter to the Massachusetts Bay Company, a group of Puritan investors led by John Winthrop.

Accompanied by several hundred settlers, Winthrop sailed to the American continent and founded the town of Boston.

The new colony developed rapidly and, within ten years, nearly 20,000 settlers, mostly Puritans, had arrived in Massachusetts.

In 1632 Charles I granted the charter for Maryland to the Catholic noble family of Calvert.

As in Virginia, Maryland was a colony of plantations without a proper town and, for a while, its development was constrained by conflicts between Catholics and Puritans.

In the mid-1630s, political and religious difficulties in Massachusetts forced the settlers to create new settlements outside the colony.

The foundation of Hartford led to the colony of Connecticut. The representatives of these settlers adopted the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, believed by some to be the first democratic constitution in America.

Roger Williams founded Providence which later became the colony of Rhode Island. Its policy of religious tolerance attracted members of religious minorities, such as Quakers and Dutch Jews.

The foundation of Portsmouth led to the creation of New Hampshire on lands which had already been conceded by the English Crown.

In the mid-17th century, the territorial continuity between the colonies in New England and those of Chesapeake Bay was challenged by the development of the Dutch colony of New Holland in the Hudson and Delaware river valleys.

The English took over these territories during the 1660s and this led to the foundation of the colonies of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

 Further South, Spain’s presence was limited to Florida around the town of Saint Augustine while England was establishing settlements beyond Virginia. In 1663 a group of eight English aristocrats obtained a charter for the region named Carolina. The town of Charleston was founded in 1669.

The population grew slowly, in part because of sub-tropical illnesses which decimated the settlers. The farmers wanted slave labour to help them develop rice production in the marshes along the coastline and, as a result, this led to the presence of many people from Africa.

In 1681, William Penn, an aristocrat who became a Quaker, also obtained a charter from the English Crown. He created the Society of Free Traders, a group of several hundred investors which financed a fleet of some 50 ships that sailed to Pennsylvania in 1682 and 1683.

On his arrival, William Penn decided to buy land from the Amerindians. This agreement guaranteed a long period of peace between the settlers and the native population.

The spirit of tolerance which characterized Pennsylvania and the quality of its farmland contributed to the rapid growth in the colony’s population. In the early 18th century, Philadelphia became the largest town in England’s American colonies, with Boston in second place.

In 1712, Carolina was divided into two separate colonies: North Carolina and South Carolina.

In 1732, King Georges II attributed territory south of the Savannah River in order to challenge Spanish Florida and Georgia became the 13th British colony in North America.