Category: British North America

Categories: Canadian History | British Colonies | British History


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This category refers to the British possessions in North America after the American Revolution and from between 1776 and 1907. The term, British North America was not commonly used at the time. It's first usage appeared informally in 1783, but it was not until 1839, in the Report on the Affairs of British North America, by Lord Durham, commonly called the Durham Report that it was really introduced. Each colony was managed locally through control from the Colonial Office in London, reporting to the Government at Westminster.

Major Events

In 1775, the British Empire included 20 territories in the Western Hemisphere north of New Spain. These were Newfoundland, Rupert's Land, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, the Thirteen Colonies (which fought Britain to gain independence and became the sovereign nation of the United States of America in 1783), East and West Florida, and the Province of Quebec.

Spain regained the Floridas, and the United States of America, upon acknowledgement of their sovereignty, acquired the part of Quebec south of the Great Lakes by the Treaty of Paris (1783), ending the American Revolutionary War.

As a result of the defeat in the American Revolutionary War between 40,000 and 60,000 Loyalists migrated to Canada. Most families were given free land to compensate their losses. Several thousand free blacks also arrived; most of them later went to Sierra Leone in Africa. The Constitutional Act of 1791 created the provinces of Upper Canada (mainly English-speaking) and Lower Canada (mainly French-speaking) to defuse tensions between the French and English-speaking communities.

The loss of the Thirteen Colonies in North America created the impetus for a shift in focus of foreign policy. Canada became central to British Government in North America; in India the focus shifted from a trading enterprise to part of the British Empire; Australia and New Zealand, following the exploration by Cook in the 1770's became a focus of migration, either forced or voluntary. In 1787 the First Fleet to Australia set sail, carrying the first shipment of convicts to the colony. It arrived in January 1788.

The Province of Nova Scotia was split into modern-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1784. The part of Quebec retained after 1783 was split into the primarily French-speaking Lower Canada and the primarily English-speaking Upper Canada in 1791.

After the War of 1812, the Treaty of 1818 established the 49th parallel as the United States–British North America border from Rupert's Land west to the Rocky Mountains. Britain gave up Oregon south of the 49th parallel, which was part of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia District, under the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

On 1 July 1867, an Act of the British Parliament called the British North America Act formed the Dominion of Canada from the Province of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province of Canada was split back into its pre-1841 parts, with Canada East (Lower Canada) renamed Quebec, and Canada West (Upper Canada) renamed Ontario. These were the original four provinces of Canada.

See also Wikipedia: British North America.

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