Why Did the American Colonists Revolt?

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Why Did the American Colonists Revolt?

By | August 2010
Page 1 of 9
Thomas Ash

A complex mythology has been built up around the American Revolution: it is a national story of great significance to the way the United States views itself. But the mythology is just that - a mythology. Contrary to the picture presented in American primary schools, the Americans were not a separate, turkey-eating people, subjugated by the cruel, tyrannical and essentially foreign British. In fact, many colonists thought of themselves as British. Historians accept that the American Revolution had a wide variety of motives and causes: these included slightly differing political traditions, the economic interests of both parties, the trading interests of those directly or indirectly involved in transatlantic commerce, the large debt Britain had accumulated in the wake of the Seven Years War, and a fair amount of mutual misunderstanding as well.

The British colonies had been around for 150 years in the 1760s - Virginia was the first to be founded in 1606. By 1763 a sizable spread of land had been carved out for Britain, and the colonies were prospering. Most importantly, the Seven Years War had just finished, leading to a complete withdrawal from the American mainland on the part of France, and, for the Spanish, losses of all but a rump of formerly French holdings west of Florida. The two great territorial rivals of the British colonies had been removed as a threat. The future looked bright and secure for the Americans, with the prospect of unlimited westward expansion held back only by the British response to Indian raids, the Proclamation Line along the Appalachians which prevented further settlement of the continent's interior.

The 13 mainland colonies between South Carolina and Maine, in particular, had grown from British settlements established for trade and prestige, highly dependent on the motherland, into semi-autonomous states. The 10 other colonies were in a very different situation, with small white populations almost exclusively...
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