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   Issue 27, Spring 2017

Print shows the harbor in Boston, Massachusetts, two ships at anchor, British soldiers and men working, merchandise on shore; an idealized view depicting Boston as a typical European city.


While this is a business oriented guide, given the nature of the topic and the time period covered, it was thought that including books written by noted historians covering the history of the European empires, was essential. We have tried to choose newer items with more of a modern perspective, but a number of older items were included because they are considered seminal. All of the items were chosen to provide background on the larger forces at play during the period covered in this guide, particularly as the topic of trade involves relations between the colony and the home country as well as between other European powers and their colonial possessions. While some of these items may not be specifically about trade, this section does include books that are more explicitly about trade with the exception of sources that are purely data and those that are focused on a particular place which can be found in other parts of this guide.

BERA - Business & Economics Research Advisor - A Quarterly Guide to Business & Economics Topics

Issue 27: Spring 2017

The Colonies in America: Commerce, Business, and the Economy

Table of Contents

General History
The Local Perspective
Trade & Mercantilism    New resource
   Atlantic Slave Trade   New resource
Money, Prices, & Banking   New resource
Statistics & Data
Internet Sources & Map Collections
LC Subject Headings


Caption (image left):
Vuë de Boston. Prospect von Boston gegen der Bucht am Hasen Vuë de Boston vers le Cale du Port.
Habermann, Franz Xaver, 1721-1796.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

There are many books and sources on this topic but what is included here is broad in nature and it is intended to be just a starting point. For more particular discussions – about particular colonies, commodities, situations, etc., other books and articles are going to be necessary to supplement and expand on what is found below.

Barck, Oscar Theodore, Jr. and Hugh Talmage Lefler. Colonial America. 2d ed. New York, Macmillan [1968]
LC Call Number: E188 .B26 1968
LC Catalog Record: 68010104

The author's intent was to provide more focus on the economic and cultural aspect of early American life up to the Revolution and less a focus on the Age of Exploration. There is a roughly chronological presentation to this work though it is not explicitly stated that and goes though the Constitutional years. It begins with chapters on the founding of the English colonies – Virginia, Maryland, New England, Massachusetts Bay, etc. It does cover the Dutch and Quaker colonies and periods of unrest in the colonies and in England. There is a good chapter on 18th century colonial administration and other on the land system and agriculture; industrial life; travel, transportation, and trade; and several dealing with religion, culture and events leading up to the Revolution and several chapters devoted to the years after. This is the second edition (the original was published in 1958) and includes many new additions including maps and bibliographic sources. There are a series of maps as well as an extensive bibliography that has two parts, one for those advanced students of colonial history one with sources by chapter.

Bowen, H. V. Elites, Enterprise, and the Making of the British Overseas Empire, 1688-1775. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire : Macmillan ; New York : St. Martins, 1996.
LC Call Number: JV1016 .B69 1996
LC Catalog Record: 96002596

This book looks at the cultural, economic, and social forces that shaped the British Empire with a focus on the forces and influences of the metropolitan elites from the landowners to the merchants and bankers of the commercial sphere. The book is organized thematically with a focus more on the underlying changes and forces in play and less on presenting a series of discrete political, military, and constitutional developments that have been the more traditional focus. Chapters include: Gentlemen and Entrepreneurs: Landowners, Merchants and Bankers; Merchants, Planters and the Gentlemanly Ideal; Enterprise and Expansion: Drawing a Line. It includes a rather extensive bibliography.

Boxer, C. R. The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 1600-1800. [1st American ed.] New York, Knopf, 1965.
LC Call Number: JV2511 .B67
LC Catalog Record: 64019095

Charles Ralph Boxer was a noted historian of Dutch and Portuguese maritime and colonial history. While the title has a wide scope and includes Dutch activities outside of North America, given the time period covered falls within the scope of this guide and does help put their North American colonial activities into a larger picture. It begins with how the Eight Years War impacted Dutch society. Chapters include: "Burgher-oligarchs and merchant-adventurers," "Sedentary workers and seafaring folk". This title is part of a series The History of Human Society that includes The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (Boxer) and The Spanish Seaborne Empire (Parry). There is an Appendix that provides a helpful timeline, another that has some salary scales of seafaring and overseas personnel, and an extensive bibliography.

Boxer, C. R. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825. London, Hutchinson, 1969.
LC Call Number: HF3694 .B68
LC Catalog Record: 75432586

Charles Ralph Boxer was a noted historian of Dutch and Portuguese maritime and colonial history. This title looks at all of the Portuguese empire and because it does, there is little about the North American colonies. However, it has been included here as a way to provide a piece of the larger trade puzzle. This title is part of a series The History of Human Society that includes The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 1600-1800 (Boxer) and The Spanish Seaborne Empire (Parry). There is an extensive bibliography.

The Cambridge Economic History of Europe. General editors, M.M. Postan and H.J. Habakkuk. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Cambridge U.P., 1966-<1989 >
LC Call Number: HC240 .C312
LC Catalog Record: 66066029

This is a multi-volume set and volume 4 is the most relevant. It is titled "The economy of expanding Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries." Chapters in this volume cover topics like transport and trade; European economic institutions and the new world and chartered companies; and Colonial settlement and its labor problems.

Carlos, Ann M., and Stephen Nicholas. "Theory and History: Seventeenth-Century Joint-Stock Chartered Trading Companies." The Journal of Economic History 56, no. 4 (1996):916–924.

This is an article about joint stock companies. It references the 1996 article from S.R.H. Jones and Simon P. Ville "Efficient Transactors or Rent-Seeking Monopolists: The Rational for Early Chartered Trading Companies."

Coleman, D. C. (Donald Cuthbert). Revisions in Mercantilism, edited with an introd. by D. C. Coleman. New York, Barnes & Noble [1969]
LC Call Number: HB91 .C628 1969b
LC Catalog Record: 71009997

This book sets out to review the history of ideas and discussions surrounding mercantilism and update the discussion taking into consideration changing ideas and knowledge. The various chapters were written by different authors and include specific chapters on Heckscher and mercantilism in Germany. There is a nice bibliography broken into parts – general works, works on English, French, German and Dutch mercantilism.

McCusker, John J. and Kenneth Morgan, ed. The Early Modern Atlantic Economy. Cambridge, UK ; New York ; Cambridge, Eng. : Cambridge University Press, 2000.
LC Call Number: HF3093 .E2 2000
LC Catalog Record: 00028924
Sample text
Publisher description
Table of contents

This book focuses on the commercial relationships of the Atlantic trading world before the American and French Revolutions. There are four major themes - the role of merchants and their connections; the development of trades; imperial economies; and Colonial working societies.

Great Britain. Board of Trade records, 1682-1786.
LC Catalog Record: mm83098236
Finding aid

This is a manuscript collection that chronicles British trade decisions and actions concerning fishing, shipping, and whaling, and trade disputes with Spain. It contain correspondence, reports, orders, instructions, commissions, and other records documenting British trade in Canada, the Caribbean, and America. Notes trade with Antigua, Bermuda, France, Jamaica, New England, Newfoundland, New Jersey, Nova Scotia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Harper, Lawrence A. The English Navigation Laws; a Seventeenth-Century Experiment in Social Engineering. New York, Columbia university press, 1939.
LC Call Number: HE587.G7 H3 1939a
LC Catalog Record: 40000244

This title is broken up into several parts. The first part, "Origin of the Laws" covers the history of the laws with chapters devoted to a legislative history, a look at the Acts, and introduction into the "mercantile mind", and some early experiments. Parts two and three cover enforcement, specifically in England and the Colonies. Part three which covers the colonies, goes into colonial courts, limits on colonial governors, and administration. Part four are the results – with one chapter looking at Asia, Africa, and America. There are two appendices: one is a brief summary of the laws of trade and navigation the other is an examination of port books. There is a nice bibliography and a table of statutes cited.

Heckscher, Eli F. Mercantilism. New York : Garland Pub., 1983, c1935.
LC Call Number: HB91 .H42 1983
LC Catalog Record: 82048308

Originally published in 1935 in Swedish, this is a republished version of the English translation. Part One includes an historical background as far back as Medieval Europe, as well as a specific look at countries particularly England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

History of World Trade Since 1450. John J. McCusker, editor in chief. Farmington Hills, MI : Macmillan Reference USA, c2006.
LC Call Number: HF1379 .H574 2006
LC Catalog Record: 2005018624
Table of Contents

This title is important for those interested in knowing about the evolution of global relations. It covers the age of Discovery, the Industrial Revolution, the rise of capitalism, and the effects of imperialism on the global economy, defining and explaining terminology and profiles the major players (individuals and businesses), geographical regions, and commodities that shaped world commerce since the 15th century.

Jones, S. R. H., and Simon P. Ville. "Efficient Transactors or Rent-Seeking Monopolists? The Rationale for Early Chartered Trading Companies." The Journal of Economic History 56, no. 4 (1996):898–915.

This was published in the same issue as Ann M. Carlos and Stephen Nicholas "Theory and History: Seventeenth-Century Joint-Stock Chartered Trading Companies" and as their article reference Jones and Ville, this references Carolos and Nicholas' article.

McCusker, John J. Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic World. London ; New York : Routledge, 1997.
LC Call Number: HC104 .M383 1997
LC Catalog Record: 97005386

Chapters include: Guides to primary sources for the history of early British America; The tonnage of ships engaged in British Colonial trade during the eighteenth century; Weights and measures in the Colonial sugar trade – the gallon and the pound and their international equivalents; The rate of exchange on Amsterdam in London, 1590-1660; The Italian business press in early modern Europe; The business press in England before 1775; New York City and the Bristol Packet (postal history); Colonial civil servant and counter-revolutionary – Thomas Irving (1738/-1800) in Boston, Charleston, and London; The current value of English exports 1697-1800; sources of investment capital in the Colonial Philadelphia shipping industry; The economy of the British West Indies, 1763-1790; etc. Title does include detailed charts, graphs, and an index.

Ormrod, David. The Rise of Commercial Empires : England and the Netherlands in the Age of Mercantilism, 1650-1770. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
LC Call Number: HF3505 .O76 2003
LC Catalog Record: 2002074191
Table of Contents

This book looks at the overall, North Sea economy and its inter-locking network of trade and the Anglo-Dutch competition and collaboration. The history of the Dutch dominance and the rise of English mercantilism that eclipsed that Dutch dominance.

Parry, J. H. The Spanish Seaborne Empire. London, Hutchinson, 1966.
LC Call Number: F1410 .P3 1966a
LC Catalog Record: 66002583

This is a classical assessment of the Spanish empire written by preeminent historian Joh Horace Parry. While a large part of this book covers Latin America and not North America it is helpful in understanding the entire picture of Spanish colonial history. There are five particular sections of this title. Section one covers the beginning exploration and establishment of a presence in the "new" world. The second section describes the responsibilities – rights and duties, enforcement of the laws, etc. The third looks at the cost of empires from a demographic perspective to an economic one. Sections four and five look at the decline and disintegration of the Spanish empire. This title is part of a series – The History of Human Society – the series includes the Boxer titles The Dutch Seaborne Empire, 1600-1800 and The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825. There is also a 1990 edition. The bibliographic notes section is helpful in identifying additional resources. It was republished in 1973 and 1990.

Parry, J. H. Trade and Dominion: the European Overseas Empires in the Eighteenth Century. New York, Praeger [1971]
LC Call Number: JV165 .P35
LC Catalog Record: 76100940

Parry was a noted historian and author of a number of books including The Spanish Seaborne Empire, Europe and a Wider World, and The Spanish Theory of Empire in the Sixteenth Century. There are four sections – section I looks at the various geographical places including the South Atlantic/West Indies and the West Indies and North America. Section II looks at several mutinies and dynastic issues, while section III focuses on the "Second age of Discovery". The last section looks at merchants and manufacturers, agents of government, and the more local governments/governance. There is a bibliography and list of works cited. This was reprinted in 2000.

Rich, E. E. (Edwin Ernest). The History of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1670-1870. With a foreword by Winston Churchill. New York, Macmillan [1961, c1960]
LC Call Number: F1060 .R5 1961
LC Catalog Record: 61001394

The Hudson's Bay Company External Link was established in 1670 by English royal charter as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay and controlled the area of the Hudson Bay watershed. E.E. Rich was a professor of Naval and Imperial History and wrote/edited a number of works covering the imperial/early Colonial period. He was tasked with working on the archives of the company and this three volume title, which covers the period 1670-1763, is an outgrowth of that project. Volume one is limited to the discussion of fur trading. In volume two, "From Charter to Utrecht, 1670-1717" several chapters are devoted to various issues/situation related to France but also includes chapters about particular people particularly Gov. John Nixon and Henry Kelsey as well as the notable ships The Eaglet and The Nonsuch. The third volume "From Utrecht to Paris, 1713," begins with the Treaty of Utrecht where France ceded to Great Britain its claims to Newfoundland and to the Hudson's Bay Company territories and ends the year the Treaty of Paris was signed when France ceded to Great Britain all of their claims in the Hudson Bay area as well as the impact those changes had on the company's competitive position.

Sawers, Larry . "The Navigation Acts revisited". Economic History Review 45 no.2 (1992):262–284.

This article looks at the impact of the Navigation Acts and revisits Robert P. Thomas' article of 1964.

Thomas, Robert P. "A Quantitative Approach to the Study of the Effects of British Imperial Policy of Colonial Welfare: Some Preliminary Findings". Journal of Economic History 25 no.4 (1964):615–638.

This is a seminal article attempting to measure the burden of the Navigation Acts on the American colonies.

Williams, Glyndwr. The Expansion of Europe in the Eighteenth Century; Overseas Rivalry, Discovery, and Exploitation. New York, Walker [1967]
LC Call Number: JV165 .W5 1967
LC Catalog Record: 67015568

Glyndwr Williams is a noted historian in the areas of exploration and the history of Europe overseas. This title is broken into four sections presented by theme. Section I introduces the players – Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and France. Section II covers the period 1700-1763 and is primarily looking at the west – in this case the Caribbean and the Americas. Specifically within that, attention is paid to mercantilism, seapower, the slave trade, and areas of tension particularly French and British friction. Section III covers the period 1740-1790 and focus outside of North America. Section IV covers the time period 1763-1815 with particular focus on the age of Revolution. There is a nice selected bibliography.

Zahedieh, Nuala. The Capital and the Colonies: London and the Atlantic Economy, 1660-. Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2010.
LC Call Number: HF3093 .Z35 2010
LC Catalog Record: 2009053749

This covers the time between 1660 and 1700 when London was the capital and commercial hub of an Atlantic empire and played a vital coordinating role in the Atlantic system by being a detailed picture of how that mercantile system was made to work and identifying the leading Colonial merchants.

Last updated: 02/20/2018

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