Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690–1763 | National Humanities Center

Primary Source Guides

Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690–1763

Made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Hand drawn map in color of the eastern shore of North America from 1763
1763: A New Map of North America (before Treaty of Paris). Courtesy Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Becoming American: The British Atlantic Colonies, 1690–1763” is an open educational resource that explores various themes related to the growth and development of the British Atlantic colonies, which later became the United States of America, during the period from 1690 to 1763. This primary source guide is organized into five sub-topics and each section contains a vast collection of primary source materials including historical documents, literary texts, and works of art which have been contextualized with annotations and notes, and feature a set of discussion questions for classroom use.


  • Examines the factors that promoted or hindered the growth of the British Atlantic colonies.
  • Explores how European colonists reacted to increasing diversity in terms of religion, ethnicity, economic status, and origin
  • Analyzes the impact of the colonies' growth on Native Americans and enslaved Africans.
  • Investigates how the concept of liberty and rights evolved with the colonies' growth.
  • Considers the power dynamics between various entities, such as colonies and England, settlers and Native Americans, and how these dynamics influenced the colonies' growth and self-perception.


  • Explores the diverse personal experiences of individuals in eighteenth-century British America, whether native-born or immigrants, free, bonded, or enslaved.
  • Examines how people responded to the racial, ethnic, religious, and economic diversity in British America, shaping concepts like tolerance, rights, and opportunity.
  • Investigates how these responses influenced colonial society as a whole and the evolving meaning of “American” by 1763.


  • Analyzes the local, regional, and global economies of pre-revolutionary America in the 1700s.
  • Explores how these economies influenced the colonies' self-determination and outlook for the future.
  • Considers the impact of economic factors on the lives of individuals, including those who were free, bonded, or enslaved.


  • Examines the central ideas that distinguished the eighteenth-century American colonies from the seventeenth century.
  • Explores the formation of these ideas and their influence on colonists' perceptions of themselves, their relationships with God, each other, and Britain.
  • Tracks changes in concepts of liberty, rights, equality, and independence during this period.
  • Discusses the extent to which these shaping ideas were distinctly “American.”


  • Investigates the evolving political relationship between the colonies and Great Britain during this period.
  • Explores the role of individual colonies and colonists in influencing and responding to these changes.
  • Considers the process of the colonies and colonists “becoming American” in the context of their changing political ties and evolving identity.

This educational resource provides a comprehensive exploration of the historical, social, economic, and ideological factors that shaped the British Atlantic colonies and laid the foundation for the emergence of the United States of America.

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History / American History / Colonialism / Thirteen Colonies / United States of America /


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