You can read a full chronological account of the creation, administration and decline of the British Empire in the Timeline section of the website. This section is intended to analyse the empire on a regional basis. It attempts to explain the motivations of why the Empire was successful in some parts of the world and not in others. It attempts to explain the myriad forms of colony and to differentiate between the formal and informal empire. Many parts of the world were not coloured pink, but British influence was considerable and vital in those places nonetheless. Often, the British felt no need to take colonies as it was seen as an expensive open-ended commitment. Colonies were taken at different stages of time for different purposes. Sometimes, they were taken for commerical reasons, sometimes for strategic purposes and often to forestall other rival Empires from taking them. Britain's geographical focus changed over time also. The first baby steps into colonialism were to take place by the then English Crown in North America.
The first exploratory forays were to attempt to discover a North West Passage linking the Atlantic with the spices and exotic goods of the Orient. This resulted in John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland in 1497 but little else besides. These were followed up by other explorers who all came empty handed. A century later, Sir Francis Drake attempted to look for the North West Passage from the Pacific side. He failed to discover it but did claim 'New Albion' as a colony on the West Coast of America. There were attempts by Raleigh to establish a similar colony on the East Coast of the Americas but this with English settlers to start it up. Neither of these colonies thrived largely due to the antagnonism and hostility of Spain which was attempting to guard its own claims to the New World. A further attempt to establish a colony in Virginia seemed as if it would seriously collapse only for it to discover a light weight substance that could be sold at profit back in Europe; Tobacco. This crop slowly but surely transformed the economic rationale for settlers on the other side of the Atlantic. For the first time, they could afford to buy the supplies and equipment from Europe to allow them to set up and run the economy.