Lesson 6: Specialization and Trade in the Thirteen Colonies

The students examine information about resources and opportunities for specialization among the New England, Middle and Southern colonies. They use a five-step process to examine the costs and benefits arising from specialization in these regions. By reference to the concepts of specialization, trade, and opportunity cost, the students examine one of the triangular trade routes that developed during the colonial period. As members of the British Empire, the 13 colonies produced wealth for Britain. In their efforts to do so, colonial producers operated on the basis of comparative advantage, allocating their limited resources to maximize the amount of goods and services they produced, while minimizing costs. Colonists, other members of the British Empire and their trading partners all benefited from these efforts. Despite the obligation to produce wealth or the mother country, colonial producers benefited from economic growth fostered by specialization, trade and investment.


Comparative advantage, Economic growth, Interdependence, Opportunity costs in production, Specialization, Trade, Decision Making/Cost-Benefit Analysis
National Content Standards in Economics:
  • Standard #2: Decision Making
  • Standard #6: Specialization