Texas Liberal

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How A Global Economy Impacted Colonial America

The following is from American Colonies: The Settling of North America by Alan Taylor. It tells about the global economy in the 18th century as it impacted American colonists. 

The effects of war, the easy movement of goods across the seas and immigrant labor have long made a difference in how people live. It also seems veterans have always been easy to discard when their service is completed.  

From Taylor—

“……the growing number….. of urban poor alarmed contemporaries. The poverty seemed especially glaring  because it was such a contrast with the increasingly conspicuous wealth of the lawyers, merchants, and government officials in the seaports. According to tax records, in 1771 the wealthiest tenth of Bostonians owned more than 60% of the urban wealth, while the bottom three-tenths owned practically virtually nothing. 

The growth in urban poverty reflected the greater transatlantic integration of the British Empire in the three ways. First, the imperial wars swelled the numbers killed, incapacitated or rendered alcoholic by military service. War widows, orphans, and cripples strained poor relief, especially in the cities, which attracted the most desperate people. Second, after 1763, emigration surged from Europe….flooding the seaports with poor newcomers, depressing wages ans swelling unemployment for all. Third the freer flow of credit, goods, and information across the Atlantic linked the colonies with the mother country in a shared market.

Increasingly tied to the metropolitan economy of Britain, the colonial seaports became more vulnerable to a boom-and-bust economic cycle. Market-driven unemployment compounded the more traditional cycle of cold-weather job loss. More entwined in a far-flung capitalist economy, the urban colonists could lose work at any time–whenever British creditors felt obliged to curtail credit and call for their debts, imperiling colonial merchants and artisans, and their laborers.”

November 21, 2007 - Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History | , , , , ,

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