Historians have long debated the impact of Britain's mercantilist economic policy on the colonies. Explain the mercantilist economic theory and show how Parliament incorporated it into the navigation system.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mercantilism involved Britain becoming involved in trade. Through trade, the government tried to ensure a minimum amount of gold leaving the country and a maximum amount of gold entering the country. This favorable balance of trade was to be secured through a nation controlling its own supply of raw materials. It had to be self-sufficient as much as possible. This is part of what drove the scramble for colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as nations sought to control their own supplies of raw materials in order to gain wealth as well as promote domestic economic growth.

The British Parliament instituted this by creating Navigation Acts that the American colonists were supposed to follow. Goods were to be shipped on English vessels to English markets. This allowed Parliament to maximize its power over trade. The colonists resented this as it did not allow them the freedom to get the best price for their goods. The colonists had no problems trading with Spain and France, two of Britain's traditional enemies, if it meant securing the best prices for goods. This led to a strong smuggling economy in the colonies that existed during the period of salutary neglect. After the French and Indian War, Parliament sought to tighten their Navigation Acts—this was one of the pressures that led to the American Revolution.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial