Mississippi History Now Mississippi Historical SocietySite ToolsSponsorsEditorial Advisory Staff
Back Home Lesson Plan

Mississippi Under British Rule - British West Florida lesson plan


Becoming a part of the new American nation was no easy accomplishment for the area that now comprises the southern one-third or so of the state of Mississippi. French control gave way in 1763 to the British. They called it British West Florida and administered it with varying degrees of success for almost two decades. That relationship changed forever with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, but not before the British made an indelible imprint on the area. In their study of the British colonial period, students should consider the following questions:

What is the locational relationship between British West Florida and present-day Mississippi?

How did differences in the leadership styles of George Johnstone and Peter Chester affect the development of the colony?

Why did British West Florida not join with the other 13 British colonies in revolting against the English King?

What remaining evidence of the British presence can be found in the area?


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4.


Grades 7 through 12


Mississippi History Now essay, “Mississippi Under British Rule”

Unlined paper for map construction

Transparency film


Students will:

construct appropriate maps to depict the following information: changes in European territorial claims as a result of the French and Indian War; boundaries of British East and West Florida; significant rivers and settlements of British West Florida as listed in the Mississippi History Now article;

relate the boundaries of British West Florida to the area of the present state;

describe factors which affected the growth and development of British West Florida in its early years;

explain reasons for increased Anglo-American settlement of British West Florida after 1770; and,

examine the impact of the American Revolutionary War upon British West Florida.


Ask students to imagine that the United States has been defeated in war. The victorious nation, whose citizens do not speak English and who are unfamiliar with American institutions and customs, is establishing strongholds along the coasts and major rivers of the country. Due to its location on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Mississippi will be overrun with “foreign” soldiers, government officials, and immigrants. Allow students to discuss their feelings and concerns if they were “caught” in this unfortunate situation. Then, relate the story of the British take over of the Louisiana Territory as a result of the French and Indian War. Review with students the history of the war and the impact of its outcome on the New World. Place special emphasis on the area that would later become the state of Mississippi.



With teacher guidance and assistance as needed, students will construct a series of maps which show all the information contained in the first objective. Encourage students to be neat and accurate in their depictions. If time permits, they should add color to their maps.


With a partner, each student will discuss the information on his or her maps. This is excellent reinforcement and allows students to teach each other.


Teacher will convert several of the maps to transparencies and will ask a series of questions based on the map overheads. This will enable the teacher to ascertain student mastery of the information. If possible, use an overlay map of the state of Mississippi so students will understand the relationship between British West Florida and the current boundaries.


After students read the Mississippi History Now article, they will construct two webs (or a chart) describing the tenures of George Johnstone and Peter Chester as governors of British West Florida. (I would suggest having the students draw a small silhouette with Johnstone’s name in it and another one for Chester. They will then use words and terms to describe each person’s period of service. Students will circle these and connect them to the silhouette with lines.)


Encourage students to study their webs and speculate on how the events during these two periods affected the growth and development of British West Florida.


Ask students to study carefully the two types of land grants used by the British: a) large grants as rewards for civil or military service; and b) the “family” and “purchase” rights. Teacher will lead discussion to determine that students understand why the “family” and “purchase” arrangements encouraged a much larger population growth.


Each student will now take on the role of a British settler in the Natchez area. Tell them to adopt a “British” name, assign them a large tract of land near Natchez or a profitable occupation suitable to the time and place. In a free-writing exercise, have students describe their “good” life under British control. Now, remind them of the outbreak of the American Revolution. Ask them to continue writing and speculating on the impact of the war on their lives. They should respond to the following: Are you interested in joining the war effort of the 13 northern colonies? What would be the risks involved? How do you view the large number of Tories who relocated to the area during the war?


Have students spend time sharing their responses with a partner and with the entire class.



Have students research the treaties which ended the American Revolutionary War to determine how the “Mississippi” area was affected. If time allows, students should construct a final map showing changes to the area after the war.


Using a detailed map of Mississippi, have students list place names of British origin.


Teacher may want to “introduce” the Spanish period by reminding students of the lesson opening. Have the students imagine their lives now under Spanish rule.



Teacher observation of group and class participation


Map Construction


Oral or written questions from map transparency activity


Accuracy/completion of webs or chart


Role-play free-writing activity


Group assignments to present oral summaries of each objective to class as review or as assessment grade


Chronological order activity



Have students research the life of Sarah Truly, a Mississippi Tory. One of her sons remained a Tory while one left to fight with Virginia against England.


A group of students might want to write a play and act out the activities of James Willing.


Gather data on losses experienced by prominent settlers during the James Willing raid of 1778.


Research the Natchez economy during the colonial era. Use the essay "A Brief History of Mississippi, 1763-1817,” by William S. Coker, found in Native, European, and African Cultures in Mississippi , 1500-1800, pp. 91-103. Published in 1991 by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Patricia Galloway, editor.


Explore the British relationship with the American Indians.


A History of Mississippi, Volume 1, pp. 134 – 157, Edited by Richard Aubrey McLemore, University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 1973.

The Journal of Mississippi History, Vol. XXXVII, No. 1, February 1975. “James Willing and the Planters of Natchez: The American Revolution Comes to the Southwest,” by Robert V. Haynes, and “Sarah Truly, A Mississippi Tory,” by Madel Jacobs Morgan.

“Mississippi: The Past in the Present,” video by Walt Grayson

Historical Maps on File

Facts on File: Mississippi

Back Home Back to Top Return to Feature

Mississippi Historical Society © 2000–2017. All rights reserved.