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Americas Economic Development during the Colonial Period

Essay Topic: ,

During the 17th and 18th centuries, European nations were heavily influenced by the economic system of mercantilism—a system which aims at maximizing the wealth of a nation (Scott, 2001). Europeans came to the Americas to increase their wealth, expand their influence, gain more power, and build an empire. To acquire wealth for their motherland, Europeans had to have colonies.

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The colonists regulated the economic activities of their colonies and then accumulated wealth for the European powers (Score, 2006).

From 1607 to 1732, the Europeans colonized thirteen countries, grouped as follows: (1) New England Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut)—more on shipbuilding and fur trading; (2) Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware)—more cosmopolitan and trading raw materials for manufactured items; and (3) Southern Colonies (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia)—predominantly rural economy (Conte & Karr, 2001).

The discovery of these countries resulted in a movement of European populations into the colonies. This demographic change facilitated the economic progress of the colonies. Their citizens of different origins developed a synergy to live together in harmony; utilized their crafts; and created towns with shops, markets, town halls (Think Quest). As the colonies became prosperous, the English realized that the colonies could expand their trade and further prosper.

In 1650s and 1660s, England instituted a set of Navigation Acts to limit colonial trade solely to British—and colonies’ exports to and imports from other countries had to be shipped through Great Britain, thereby increasing the latter’s import duty collections, and incomes for re-exportation of goods (Scott, 2001). These trade restrictions somehow benefited the colonies, e. g. , New England’s ship building industry benefited from foreign competition protection, South Carolina gained from an indigo subsidy, North Carolina profited from bounties on tar and lumber, and various other exporters benefited from zero import tariffs (Scott, 2001).

The Navigation Acts were strictly enforced in 1763, which heightened the interest of the colonies to gain their independence from Britain (Scott, 2001). References Conte, Christopher, and Albert R. Karr. (2001). Chapter 3 – The U. S. Economy: A Brief History. An Outline of the U. S. Economy. Retrieved May 25, 2008, from U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs Web site: http://usinfo. state. gov/products/pubs/oecon/chap3. htm. Score. (2006). A Study of the colonial economy from 1600-1750.

Retrieved May 25, 2008, from Schools of California Online Resources for Education (Score) Web site: http://score. rims. k12. ca. us/score_lessons/. Scott, Carole E. (2001). Mercantilism and the American Revolution. In American Economic History. Retrieved May 25, 2008, from Ancestry. com Web site: http://freepages. history. rootsweb. ancestry. com/~cescott/mercan. html. Think Quest. (n. d. ). The Colonial Period. Retrieved May 25, 2008, from Oracle Education Foundation Web site: http://library. thinkquest. org/C007803/colonia_period. htm.

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