British Empire
Living in the British empire - North America
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Sketch map showing the US - Canadian Border agreed in the Ashburton Treaty of 1842
(Catalogue ref: WO 80/11)
  • This sketch map shows part of the border agreed between Britain and the USA in the Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Much of this land was so wild that it was quite difficult to agree and stick to a border.
  • From the 1600s onwards Britain gradually developed its empire in North America. By the late 1700s Britain controlled the Thirteen Colonies on the east coast of North America, as well as large parts of present day Canada.
  • In 1776 the Thirteen Colonies revolted against British rule and after a long war threw off British control. They became the United States of America.
  • The British kept control of Canada. This was divided into regions such as Upper Canada (modern Ontario), Lower Canada (modern Quebec), and Newfoundland. As settlers moved westward in the 1800s new regions were added, such as Victoria and British Columbia.
  • One of the most serious concerns for the British government was that Canada and the USA might unite. Canada was an important source of resources for Britain and its naval bases were also vital to Britain.
  • In the end Canada remained British. Most Canadians were loyal to Britain, especially after the Durham Report of 1839 gave them the right to rule their own affairs.
  • Even so, the USA was often seen as a possible threat. Britain and the USA went to war in 1812. Long after this, large numbers of troops were kept on the border between Canada and the USA. This map shows the many forts in the area.
  • One interesting point is that large numbers of British troops in this border area were black soldiers descended from Africans. In 1833 slavery was abolished in the British empire but it remained in the USA until 1865 - this meant there was little chance of these troops deserting to the USA.
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