North America

April 1, 2009

The British first established colonies in continental North America and the islands of the Caribbean such as Jamaica and Barbados. The Caribbean colonies soon adopted the system of sugar plantations and to ensure that the increasing profits remained in English hands, English ships could only ply their trade in English colonies. Production of cane sugar became the economic and political strength of the Jamaican British Company. Sugar plantations dominated Jamaican life and led to massive importation of slaves from Africa to provide labor. Eventually, extensive trade began among other Caribbean islands, not only in sugar but in other manufactured goods. The American colonies were less successful than those of the Caribbean, but still had large areas of good agricultural land. The British Empire in the West Indies was based on slavery. Before the abolition of the slave trade, Britain was responsible for the transportation of 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas, which is a third of all slaves transported across the Atlantic. So, forts were established on the coast of West Africa to make this trade easier. The slave trade was extremely profitable and became a major contribution to the economy. After the American Revolution, many British Loyalists settled in Canada. Hudson’s Bay Company gains control on the fur trade, and forts and trading posts were established by the Company. Today, most Canadians are of European descent (mostly British and French origins) and even their culture is influenced by British and American culture. Most of the country uses common law which was derived from the British parliamentary tradition.

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