4 July 1776: US colonists declare independence

In 1607, English settlers began to colonise America. By 1732, there were 13 distinct colonies, each controlled by a Crown-appointed governor, ranging from New Hampshire in the north to Georgia in the south. By 1749 the total population had hit one million. A formal attempt to unite the colonies in 1754 failed, but they slowly began to work together.

Because land was so plentiful, a much larger proportion of the population than in Britain were landowners, and so allowed to vote. This meant citizens of the colonies were more politically aware.

As a result, there was a growing discontent with trade policies imposed by Whitehall, which aimed to discourage trade with French and Spanish colonies in favour of British merchants.

Matters reached boiling point when the British government refused to repeal the trade restrictions and passed the Royal Proclamation of 1763, a deal with Native Americans that severely restricted westwards expansion.

More controversial still was the 1765 Stamp Act, which forced most printed publications and legal documents to use a stamp bought from the British government.

By 1774, disputes over duties had spiralled into open rebellion. After several attempts to negotiate, King George III publicly rejected any deal in October 1775 and said he would impose order by force.

This convinced lawmakers from each of the colonies to issue a declaration of independence in July 1776. By April 1782, the British parliament voted to end the war. The Treaty of Paris formally confirmed this in 1783.