Exports and Imports

During the seventeenth century, the thirteen British colonies developed fairly economically separate. The cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston had more contact with London than they did with each other. Boston, the largest city in the colony of Massachusetts, set the tone for commerce, politics, and culture, and served as the religious, economic and cultural center for most of the colony’s early history. Regardless of location, all colonials became consumers, wanting luxury items that made life more pleasant and that reminded them of England. Imports increased, and colonials purchased large quantities of items such as:

  • Silver plated goods
  • Mirrors
  • Books
  • Home decorations
  • Spices
  • Tobacco
  • Sugar
  • Salt

To be able to purchase these goods, Bostonians had to learn to be producers as well. The above items could best be obtained by producing exports for trade- usually exports such as foodstuffs or raw materials. A market for these goods could be found in the English West Indies, where almost all efforts and resources were devoted strictly to sugar production. In order to function, these areas depended on foods and goods from elsewhere. The Boston port was a major center for where these crucial exports could be processed and sold or traded for other needed and desired commodities from England or the West Indies.

Major colonial cities had specific imports/exports associated with their ports - here, it is shown that the Boston Port specialized in shipbuilding, lumber and iron industries

Major colonial port cities had specific imports/exports associated with their harbors – here, it is shown that the Boston Port specialized in shipbuilding, lumber and iron industries

 

Triangular Trade in the Colonies

New England colonies, including Massachusetts and the city of Boston actively participated in the so-called Triangular Trade. The trade was called “triangular” because of the specific pattern in which the goods were exchanged. Like any other trade the purpose was to bring goods from overseas that were in high demand at home and trade them for goods that would be more expensive if sold overseas. The usual flow of goods followed this pattern:

  • Great Britain or other European countries – the shipments of beads, copper, cloth, hardware, guns and munitions, was taken for sale in Africa.
  • West Africa – the European shipment was traded for slaves for work on sugar plantations in the Caribbean or tobacco or hemp plantations in American colonies in the south.
  • American Colonies – the slaves were traded for sugar, molasses, rum and tobacco to ship back to England.
Map of the usual Triangular Trade routes between the Colonies (including the port of Boston), African nations, and Europe

Map of the usual Triangular Trade routes between the Colonies (including the port of Boston), African nations, and Europe

 

The Triangular Trade came to Boston in 17th century. When operations of the local merchants grew, they discovered that New England colonies could replace England in the exchange of goods. Ships from Boston carried rum made in New England to Africa to trade for slaves that were then brought to Caribbean plantations, where molasses (liquid sugar) was purchased and brought back to New England to make rum. The New England route was shorter and therefore faster to complete than the traditional European one.

One of the consequences of this new economic development was a huge growth of rum-making distilleries in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It also gave a push to other industries, such as shipbuilding to carry goods to longer distances such as Africa.

 

Sources used on page –

  • “Colonial Trade.” San Diego Maritime Museum. San Diego Maritime Museum, 2009. Web. 25 Mar. 2015. <http://www.sdmaritime.org/assets/Uploads/ Educational/ColonialTrade.pdf>.
  • “Early American Trade with China.” Early American Trade with China. University of Illinois Board of Trustees, 2006. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. <http://teachingresources.atlas.illinois.edu/chinatrade/introduction04.html
  • Lambert, Tim. “A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOSTON, LINCOLNSHIRE, ENGLAND.” A History of Boston. Localhistories.org, n.d. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. <http://www.localhistories.org/boston.html>.

 

 

Click here to get back to the Home Page *