British Empire
The rise of the British empire - North America
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British map of North America produced in 1757
(Catalogue ref: CO 700 America North and South 31A, 31B)
  • This map was produced in 1757. Its aim was to show North America accurately, and a close look at it suggests that it was a very detailed and accurate map.
  • The other purpose of the map was to show the lands ruled in North America by the Spanish, French and British.
  • In 1757 Britain was in the midst of the Seven Years War (1756-63) with France, so another aim of this map was to show how the war was going.
  • A further aim was to suggest that the French were to blame and that they were a threat to Britain's lands in North America.
  • The wealth of detail, and focus on rivers and waterfalls, suggests that traders and explorers as well as the military would use this map. Rivers were the main method of communication across the vast distances in North America, especially since much of the continent was wooded.
  • It is also interesting to see that the lands of the different Native American peoples are carefully shown. The British and French allied with different Native American nations in their wars. They relied heavily on them to carry out trade and warfare.
  • America was not densely inhabited by European standards, but this map shows that the British were aware of the lands controlled by the Native Americans. For example, you can see the land of the Twightwee nation, who feature in source 4 of this case study.
  • Some of the commentaries show that some nations surrendered their lands to the English. This usually meant that they accepted the British king as their ruler. This changed little for them, since they still ran and profited from the fur trade. However, in later years they would suffer as European settlers used treaties from the early 1700s as a justification for settling on Native American lands. This in turn led to conflicts, mainly in the later 1800s.
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