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An example where this got me stumped:

An 1833 Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies

Why the definite article before the "British"? From my point of view, that would be reasonable if, say, the headline was "..throughout the American colonies", so that it would specify what colonies they are talking about exactly (i.e. the British ones), but that's not the case.

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The definite article in that context simply refers to the colonies in question, those held by Britain, all of them. They are a defined, identified group. That's reason enough to use it.

Consider:

The candidate did well in rustbelt states.

The candidate did well in the rustbelt states.

The first, in rustbelt states, means "(some or all) states in the so-called rustbelt".

The second, in the rustbelt states, means "in those states identified as the rustbelt".

You might even see "Rustbelt States" to further emphasize this idea of a specific identified group.

  • you should make "all of them" at the end of the first sentence bold. They are the key to the answer. Please :) +1 – virolino Mar 4 at 9:08
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If you don't use the definite article it would imply that there is a defining clause or word that is missing.

  • An 1833 Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout British Colonies was well overdue.
  • An 1833 Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout all British Colonies.

The definite article is such a defining word, it implies 'all' or 'all of the'.

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