Alternative Medicine History

The Role of the Colonies in the British Mercantilist System

Mercantilism was a free-trade economic system that was self containing and self sustaining. The system was practiced throughout Europe and colonial North America during the 18th century. The British mercantilist system aimed to minimize imports that cost the nation money and maximize exports that made the nation money. Colonies were England’s way of lowering their dependence on foreign nations. Each colony would provide a raw material to the crown, allowing England to reduce the number of exports needed from other nations.

In the late 1600s and throughout the 1700s, a series of laws called The Navigation Acts were set in place and enacted, restricting trade between England and it’s colonies. The acts were established to force colonial development that was favorable for England. It was also designed to stop direct colonial trade with the Netherlands, France and other countries in Europe. “The Staple Act of 1663 extended the Navigation Act by requiring that all colonial exports to Europe be landed through an English port before being re-exported to Europe” (The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics).

People living with-in the British colonies during the mercantilist era were forced to either buy directly from England or re-sell products made by English merchants in England, regardless of the price that could be obtained elsewhere. This caused anger amongst the people in the colonies and eventually led up to the American Revolution.

The mercantilist era was a period of rapid economic growth for England and its colonies. The mercantilist system remained in effect in the colonies up until 1849 when it was finally repealed. The end of the mercantilist era came with the fall of formal British Empire.


Works Cited:

“Mercantilism.” : The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2013. <>.

“Mercantilist System.” Mercantilist System. Texas Digital Library, n.d. Web. 17 May 2013. <>.

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