The early and mid-18th century brought far-reaching changes to the colonies, including a massive immigration, especially of the Scots-Irish; the forced importation of tens of thousands of enslaved Africans; and increasing economic stratification in both the northern and southern colonies.
A series of religious revivals known as the Great Awakening helped to generate an American identity that cut across colony lines.
Between 1660 and 1760, England sought to centralize control over its New World empire and began to impose a series of imperial laws upon its American colonies. From time to time, when the imperial laws became too restrictive, the colonists resisted these impositions, and Britain responded with a system of accommodation known as “salutary neglect.”
During the late 17th and early and mid-18th centuries, the colonists became embroiled in a series of contests for empire between Britain, France and Spain. By the 1760s—after Britain had decisively defeated the French—the colonists were in a position to challenge their subordinate position within the British empire.