At home, England grew by merging with neighboring Scotland. In 1701, the Act of Union united the two countries in the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The union brought economic advantages.
Free trade between both lands created a larger market for farmers and manufacturers. The United Kingdom also included Wales, and in 1801 Ireland would be added to Great Britain.
In 1760, George III began a 60-year reign. Unlike his German father and grandfather, the new king was born in England. He spoke English and loved Britain. But George was eager to recover the powers the crown had lost since the Glorious Revolution. Following his mother's advice, “George, be a king!” he set out to reassert royal power. He wanted to end Whig domination, choose his own ministers, dissolve the cabinet system, and make Parliament follow his will.
Gradually, George found seats in Parliament for “the king's friends.” With their help, he began to assert his leadership. Many of his policies, however, would prove disastrous. He angered colonists in North America, leading 13 English colonies to declare independence.
Britain's loss of its American colonies discredited the king. Increasingly, too, he suffered from bouts of mental illness. By 1788, cabinet rule was restored in Britain.
What were some of the elements that led to Britain's rise to global prominence in the 1700s?
By 1750, a string of prosperous colonies stretched along the eastern coast of North America. They were part of Britain's growing empire. Colonial cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were busy commercial centers that linked North America to the West Indies, Africa, and Europe. Colonial shipyards produced many vessels for this trade.
Britain applied mercantilist policies to its colonies in an attempt to strengthen its own economy by exporting more than it imported. To this end, in the 1600s, Parliament had passed the Navigation Acts to regulate colonial trade and manufacturing. For the most part, however, these acts were not rigorously enforced. Therefore, activities like smuggling were common and not considered crimes by the colonists.
By the mid-1700s, the colonies were home to diverse religious and ethnic groups.
What do all of the colonies on this map have in common?