The Colonial Economy

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What was the Navigation Act of 1763?

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The Navigation Acts were a series of legislative decrees enacted by the British Parliament to protect their trade with members of the British Empire and other colonies. Under the order of King George III, these policies of protectionism also stipulated that high value items, including tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton, and wool (which were often produced in countries part of the British Empire), could only be sold to England or its colonies, preventing trade with other countries and increasing the trade value of these items.

The Navigation Acts were designed primarily to increase Britain's standing in international trade and shipping. In the early seventeenth century, the Dutch had gradually become the dominant shipping force. Britain believed that, if they enacted laws that protected products coming from inside the Empire, it would increase their power on a global scale.

In the United States, the year 1763—though not being an actual date when a law was passed—is significant. After the defeat of the French in 1763, the Navigation Acts were more heavily enforced than they had been before on the thirteen colonies, with additional taxes being put on luxury items like tea and sugar. It would be this that led to unrest and ultimately, revolution, in the American colonies.

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