The economic theory of mercantilism was the firm foundation upon which England’s attitude towards its American colonies was built. Enforcement of that economic relationship formed the basis of English policy towards the 13 colonies, and active avoidance of that policy through smuggling was symptomatic of growing colonial resentment of and resistance to English authority.
While it’s essential that students understand the economic concept of mercantilism in order to understand the basis of colonial dissatisfaction with English mercantile policy – made into law with the Navigation Acts -- it’s not exactly the most gripping of topics to teach. This game is designed to make mercantilism and colonial resistance to the Navigation Acts come to life by having students compete for goods and money just like England, the colonies, and other European merchants would have, three centuries ago.
Students compete against each other in small groups of 4-5 players each as England, France, Holland, and the colonies. While England tries to enforce its Navigation Acts with its navy, the colonies, France and Holland try to avoid paying duties and capture to buy and sell smuggled goods. It’s a game of economics, negotiation, and cat-and-mouse.
One caveat: the game does require a fair amount of movement in the classroom, particularly as the “navy” tries to catch “smugglers,” so if your class is particularly wild, this may not work. On the other hand, if you’ve got students who need to get up and move around, this is a great way for them to be kinetic and learn at the same time. Be prepared for noise!
* teacher’s instructions
* instructions for each of the different table groups
* “supply” cards
* “resource” cards
* one, five, and ten dollar bill sheets
Materials are provided as word docs and PDFs in one zip file.
There is about 30 minutes of one-time set up (copying and cutting out supply cards, resource cards, and money for use in the game). I’ve played this game in my 8th grade class for years, and it never fails to be a big hit.
This activity is part of a complete and comprehensive unit
on the Road to Revolution.
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