Regional Economy and the American Revolution

Regional Economy and the American Revolution

Advancements in transportation and communication within colonial America in the 18th century helped create the conditions for independence.


3 - 12


Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

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Improvements in transportation and communication have shaped the history of many countries. The United States is one major example. The American Revolution might not have happened without the important changes that preceded it.

The American Revolution was an uprising against British colonial rule. It was helped by the steady improvement of infrastructure like roads and bridges as well as improvements in communication. These improvements helped bind the 13 British American colonies together. Before then, the colonies had felt closer to Britain than to each other.

In the early decades of colonial America, there was no collective community whatsoever. The first settlers lived in scattered outposts along the Atlantic coast or by rivers. At first, survival was their largest challenge. Slowly, the British colonists progressed beyond simply surviving. They began growing many more crops. Soon, they were sending these crops to Britain in exchange for needed goods. However, the colonies remained separated from each other by large areas of wilderness.

Growing Population

The early colonists did much of their traveling over water. By the early 1700s, many harbor towns had sprung up. Soon, some coastal trade had developed. Land routes were slowly cleared as inland areas were settled and the colonial population grew. Later in the 1700s, a number of important cities developed along the Atlantic coast. As these cities grew, new roads were built to connect them.

Postal service was one of the main means of communication in colonial North America. However, most mail was sent between the colonists and European countries. This mail was sent by sea.

In the mid-1700s, that situation finally changed. Post roads were established that allowed mail to be delivered between the 13 colonies. This project was overseen by Benjamin Franklin. He had become a postmaster general for the colonies in 1753.

Franklin was also deeply involved in his time's other main form of communication: printing. Franklin was in the newspaper business for about 25 years. He also founded one of the first American magazines in 1741.

Fighting Back against British Rule

In 1765, the British introduced a tax on the printing trade through the Stamp Act of 1765. This sparked an angry uprising in the colonies. Within a few months, the British were forced to drop the new tax. For the first time, the colonists had fought back against British rule.

By 1765, overland travel routes were being developed. New bridges and new roads were built. Over time, post roads and other large graveled roads linked up and grew into intercolonial highways. These improved roads led to major growth in trade between colonies.

Newspapers were equally important. Known as "gazettes," they were now operating in every colony. The gazettes no longer focused on information provided by the British government. Instead, they tried to keep colonists informed of events and trends occurring elsewhere in North America.

Weekly Newspapers

Colonists from Maine to Georgia became increasingly acquainted with one another through the weekly gazettes. They began to recognize the common interests between themselves and other British subjects in North America. For the first time, they began to feel like Americans.

Writers such as Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine began making the case for American independence. They were read by many thousands of people across British North America. Soon, their ideas were being discussed in coffeehouses and market squares. For the first time, the colonists had a sense of sharing a common future.

The effects of this change were revolutionary. To protest excessive taxes, the colonists banded together and vowed to stop buying British goods. In 1776, they took the final step and declared their independence from Britain.

Following the revolution, the new United States shifted away from dependence on trade with Britain. The U.S. quickly established trading relations with other countries. It also quickly developed trade within the country. By the early 1800s, the United States had become one vast nationwide market. The wealth this created made the country into a worldwide power.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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