A colony is a region of land that is under the political control of another country. Usually the controlling country is physically far away from the colony, as was the case with England and the American colonies.England made its first successful efforts at the start of the 17th century. Most of the new English colonies established in North America and the West Indies, whether successful or otherwise, were proprietary colonies. Proprietors were appointed to found and govern settlements under mercantile charters granted to joint stock companies. Soon, there was a rapid increase of English colonial activity, driven by the pursuit of new land, trade, and religious freedom. The Thirteen Colonies were the colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America, starting with Virginia in 1607, and ending with Georgia in 1733. The colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Each colony developed its own system of self-government.

In 1606, James I sold a charter containing lands between present-day South Carolina and the U.S.-Canada border to two competing groups of investors. The Plymouth Company was given the northern portions, and the London Company was given the southern portions. The Northern Plymouth settlement in Maine faltered and was abandoned. However, the London Virginia Company created the first successful English overseas settlements at Jamestown in 1607. Its first years were extremely difficult, with very high death rates from disease and starvation, wars with local American Indians, and little gold. The colony survived and flourished by developing tobacco as a cash crop for the colony; it served as a beginning for the colonial state of Virginia.In the 18th century, the British government operated its colonies under a policy of mercantilism, in which the central government administered its possessions for the economic benefit of the mother country. However, the Thirteen Colonies had a high degree of self-governance and active local elections, and resisted London's demands for more control. In the 1750s, the colonies began collaborating with one another instead of dealing directly with Britain. These inter-colonial activities cultivated a sense of shared American identity and led to calls for protection of the colonists' "Rights as Englishmen", especially the principle of "no taxation without representation". Grievances with the British government led to the American Revolution, in which the colonies collaborated in forming a Continental Congress which declared independence in 1776 and fought the American Revolutionary War (1775–83) with the aid of France, the Dutch Republic, and Spain.

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