American Colonies by 1763

History AS - Unit 2

How Were Colonies Governed?

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Salutary Neglect

  • British realised in the 18th Century that it was best not to stir up trouble within colonies (too far away)
  • left them greatly to their own devices; no central committees to run the colonies
  • otherwise - potential strain on relationship; different opinions on how to be ruled
  • improved relationship/reduced conflict


  • mother country is made self-sufficient
  • all raw materials pass through England; control through trade
  • Navigation Acts - controlled shipping across the British Empire - any ship trading with English colonies must be from the Empire
  • developed in 16th Century; Britain were the most passionate believers of it:
a mother country (Britain) uses her colonies to get rich; importing cheap materials and exporting expensive finished products

  • all colonies must trade solely with the mother country and buy it's finished products e.g. £4 per tonne of wood --> through trade --> 400 chairs - £10 per chair
  • 1660 - British passed Navigation Acts - all colonies could only trade with British/colonial ships - most products were transported back to Britain, list of products grew: Woolen Act (1699), Hat Act (1732), Molasses Act (1733), Iron Act (1750)
  • British put limits on factories that were allowed in the colonies and how much they could produce - provided them with a market BUT became very expensive + difficult - not wholly successful

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landowners, merchants etc

  • mimicked behaviour/social values of English aristocracy
  • built extravagant houses, gambled, educated sons + had portraits painted
  • 1770: richest 1% owned 15% America's wealth
  • lacked titles, privileges, possessions etc


ministers, lawyers, doctors etc

  • achieved status with hard-work/good fortune - often held positions of public responsibility


50% of free American males

  • usually owned between 50 - 500 acres of land
  • aimed to support families + guarantee future for their children



  • 2/3 were self-employed craftsmen


laboured for others

  • diverse group
  • 30% land farmed was rented (not owned) by tenants
  • only 1/5 adult white males were land-less labourers


black slaves from Africa

  • over 90% existed in the south
  • could be bought/sold
  • worked as domestic servants OR on plantations (tobacco, rice etc)
  • quality of life varied e.g. house servant in NYC vs. slave in rural area



  • head of family: white male --> in charge/responsible for everyone within the household (including servants)
  • Hierarchical:
father (male)

mother (female)




  • similar to Europe - less-strict way of life; encouraged young people to leave home (easy access to land) --> start new life - lessened chances of fatherly control over marriage
  • women - denied political/civil rights - no legal right to property


  • strongly encouraged, especially in New England; residents there were particularly literate
  • population outnumbered availability;
1763 - 75% white American males were literate

60% of English

  • women/black slaves - unimportant
  • increasing booksellers/over 30 newspapers
  • Harvard College - founded in Boston 1636; 8 others elsewhere
(influenced by the Enlightenment)


  • church membership - very common (especially in New England)
  • majority of Americans were protestants - shaped their lives
  • no dominant religion within colonies
  • variation of denominations
  • most of America: anti-catholic

The Great Awakening

  • religious rivals went through colonies in 2 decades from 1720s
  • preachers like William Tennent tried to convert people
  • sparked democratic spirit by implying all were equal + could find a path to God regardless of social status
  • led to controversy and division