Colonial Period Timeline

The Colonial Period of North American extends from 1607 all the way to the birth of United States. During this period, several European powers established colonies in North America.

Notable among these were the French, the Spanish and the British. Following is the timeline of the important events from the colonial period.

1607 – Jamestown colony is established

In 1606, the London Virginia Company was granted a charter by King James I of England. This charter allowed the establishment of a settlement or colony in North America.

The first group of colonists arrived in 1607 and established a colony at Jamestown, Virginia. This was the first British settlement in North America.

1620 – Mayflower ship arrives with Pilgrims

In 1620, the second notable wave of British colonists arrived in America. These were the Pilgrims on board the ship Mayflower. Pilgrims were puritans who came to North America to escape religious persecution and to practice their beliefs freely. They established the Plymouth colony.

1623 – New Netherland colony is established by the Dutch

In 1623, colonists from the Netherlands established the colony of New Netherland in North America. This was the only Dutch colony of importance and significance in North America.

It was based around New Amsterdam which was the capital of the colony. The colony remained an important Dutch possession until the second half of the 17th century when it was taken over by the British. It was later renamed New York.

1628 – Massachusetts Bay Colony is established

After the Pilgrims, more waves of Puritans arrived in North America. Some of these established more settlements near the original Plymouth colony.

One group banded together as the Massachusetts Bay Company and laid the foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1636 – Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations is established

In 1935, Roger Williams was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for having different religious views. He then established the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1636. It eventually evolved into one of the Thirteen Colonies that became the United States.

1636 – 1638 – Pequot War is fought

In 1636, the Pequot War began. This war was fought between the British colonies of Plymouth, Saybrook and Massachusetts Bay at one side, and the Native American tribe of Pequot at the other side. The war continued until 1638 when the Pequot were decisively defeated and most of them were either killed, captured or sold into slavery.

1638 – The First Swedish Colony is established in Delaware

In 1638, Swedish colonists started arriving in North America. They established a settlement in Delaware which became known as New Sweden.

1660 – The First Navigation Acts are passed by the British government

By 1660, New England or the British colonies in North America were an important source of wealth, trade and resources for Britain. The British government passed the First Navigation Acts. These Acts regulated trade with the colonies and levied taxes on this trade.

1663 – Province of Carolina is established

In 1663, the British crown granted the permission to establish the Province of Carolina. Most of the land was given to Lord Proprietors by King Charles II and it remained in the ownership of their heirs all the way until 1729.

1664 – English forces capture New Netherland

In 1664, King Charles II decided to attack and take over the Dutch possessions in North America. Four British frigates entered the harbor of the Dutch colony, New Netherland. They quickly gained control of the colony and renamed it New York.

1673 – Plantation Duty Act is imposed

In 1673, the British Parliament imposed the Plantation Duty Act. This Act was introduced to prevent the smuggling of products like sugar and tobacco between colonies. Instead, the Act encouraged the colonists to export products between colonies and to Britain.

1676 – Bacon’s Rebellion is quelled

In 1676, Nathanial Bacon started a rebellion against the governor of the Virginia colony. The governor didn’t address the grievances faced by the settlers who lived on the frontier.

So Bacon rallied these discontented settlers and launched the rebellion. The rebellion initially gained significant momentum and rebels burned down Jamestown. Soon afterwards, Bacon died and the rebellion was suppressed by the British forces.

1677 – Culpeper’s Rebellion takes place

In 1677, the Culpeper Rebellion took place. This rebellion was started by John Culpeper in response to the British Navigation Acts. The rebellion was initially successful and the rebels were able to remove the governor in Carolina. However, the new governor appointed by the rebels was removed and the colonial government was able to re-impose its authority.

1681 – Province of Pennsylvania is established

In 1681, King Charles II granted a royal charter to William Penn. This charter authorized Penn to establish the Province of Pennsylvania. Also known as the Pennsylvania Colony, it was established the same year.

1685 – The Dominion of New England is created

The British Crown and the Parliament wanted to exert more control over the British colonies in North America. In 1686, King James II created the Dominion of New England. Under this dominion, the King combined East Jersey, West Jersey, Connecticut, Plymouth, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1689 – Colonies revolt against British rule

In 1689, the Glorious Revolution took place in Britain. This revolution overthrew the Catholic James II monarch and replaced him with the Protestant monarchs, William III and Mary II.

At the same time, several colonies in America began a revolt against British-appointed governors. Notable among these was the Leisler’s Rebellion which took place in the New York colony. All the rebellions were put down by the colonial authorities, although some of them took as long as several years.

1702 – East Jersey and West Jersey merge to become New Jersey

In 1702, East Jersey and West Jersey were combined to become the royal colony of New Jersey. The colony was officially named the ‘Province of New Jersey’.

1712 -French Fox Wars begin

In 1712, the French Fox Wars began. These wars were fought between the French colonists at one side and the Fox Indians at the other side. Both wanted to control the Fox River system in the Great Lakes region.

This river was important for the lucrative fur trade. The conflict resulted in two wars, the First Fox War and the Second Fox War. The conflict ended in 1733 when the Fox were decisively defeated and nearly all of them had been killed or sold into slavery.

1715 – The Yamasee War begins

In 1715, an alliance of Native American tribes began a war against the colony of South Carolina. During the war, white settlers were attacked all over the colony’s frontier.

This forced the settlers to leave their lands and seek refuge in Charles Town. Nearly 7% of the colony’s population was killed during this war. In the end, the colony was saved from complete annihilation by the Cherokee Indians who decided to side with the colonists.

1732 – Province of Georgia is founded

In 1732, a charter was granted by King George II for the establishment of the Georgia Colony. This colony was founded by General James Oglethorpe.

Oglethorpe wanted to establish a colony where small parcels of land were given to people who had been imprisoned for debt back in Britain. He hoped the colony would serve as a bulwark against Spanish Florida. He also banned slavery. However, most of his reforms couldn’t take root.

1740 – Plantation Act is passed

In 1740, the British Parliament passed the Plantation Act. This act simplified the process of becoming a British subject in one of its colonies.

The Act specified that any Protestant living in the American colonies for at least 7 years was eligible to become a British subject. The Act also required that the person should not leave the colony for more than two months.

1746 – Princeton University is founded

In 1746, the College of New Jersey was established in Princeton, New Jersey. This college eventually evolved to become the prestigious Princeton University.

1754 – 63 – French and Indian War begins

In the 1750s, most of the European powers were at war in the Seven Years’ War. France and Britain fought against each other in this war. The war extended to North America as well. In North America, the French and British colonies fought each other.

The French colonists were fewer in numbers, so they heavily relied on their Indian allies. This is why it is known as the French and Indian War. The war continued for many years and ended in 1763 when Britain decisively won. Most of the French colonies including Canada came under British possession.

1763 – Treaty of Paris is signed

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the European powers. This treaty brought the Seven Years’ War to an end.

1764 – British Parliament imposes the Sugar Act

In 1763, the Seven Years’ War had ended. Britain had incurred considerable debt during this war. British parliament believed that some of the burden of this debt should be shared by the colonies as British forces fought off French invasion of the colonies.

To this end, the Sugar Act was imposed. This Act levied a tax on molasses and related products. The Act angered the colonists who believed they were being made to pay for the wars waged by Britain.

1765 – Stamp Act is passed

Stamp Act required all colonies to use special paper printed in Britain for making legal deeds and agreements. This paper was costly, so the colonists resented it. Riots began in Boston in response to British attempts to levy taxes on the colonies.

1770 – Boston Massacre takes place

Boston Massacre was an incident in which British soldiers, threatened by an angry mob, shot and killed five people. This incident significantly contributed to anti-British resentment in the colonies, especially in the Boston region.

1773 – Boston Tea Party incident takes place

British Parliament imposed new taxes on the import of tea to the colonies. At the same time, smuggling of tea was discouraged through strict regulations.

In reaction to this, a group of colonists boarded British ships in the Boston harbor. They threw chests of tea into the sea as retaliation to the taxes on tea. This became known as the Boston Tea Party.

1774 – First Continental Congress meets

By 1774, the tensions between British government and the colonists were very high. Britain felt that it had been betrayed by the colonists who refused to pay taxes.

The colonists believed they were being unjustly taxed for the riches and luxury of the British elite. The First Continental Congress brought together representatives from all American colonies. The Congress formally shared its grievances with the British Crown.

1775 – American Revolutionary War begins

The conflict between Britain and the colonies came to a head with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The two battles were fought in April 1775 and sparked off the war which became known as the American Revolutionary War.

This war pitted colonial militias against the British forces. Britain initially scored important victories but the tide began to turn soon afterwards. Colonial armies proved themselves to be formidable fighting forces under the military command of George Washington.

1776 – United States Declaration of Independence is adopted

Even after the war had begun, many colonists believed that they could find a compromise with the British Empire. But when the King branded them as rebels, this hope was lost.

In 1776, the colonies jointly adopted the Declaration of Independence. This Declaration formally stated that the American colonies now considered themselves independent of British rule.

1783 – Britain accepts defeat in the Treaty of Paris

After a long war, British forces in North America were defeated, exhausted and surrounded. So Britain was forced to sue for peace. A peace treaty was signed between the two sides in 1783. This became known as the Treaty of Paris. In this treaty, Britain formally recognized the independence of the American colonies.

The last major remnants of the British forces in United States, stationed at New York, were evacuated from the area. General George Washington was hailed as the victorious leader of the revolutionary war.