Teaching Students About the Navigation Acts

The Navigation Acts were a series of laws passed by the English Parliament between 1651 and 1696. These acts aimed to control trade between England and its colonies, ensuring that English merchants profited from colonial trade while rival nations were excluded. Teaching students about the Navigation Acts is essential for understanding the development of the British Empire, colonial American history, and early global trade.

In this article, we will guide you on how to teach students about the Navigation Acts effectively and engagingly.

1. Setting the Stage

Begin by providing an overview of the historical context leading up to the Navigation Acts. Discuss the emerging global trade networks in the early modern period and explain how countries sought to control their own trade to increase their wealth and power. Introduce concepts such as mercantilism and protectionism, which underpinned the rationale behind the Navigation Acts.

2. Delving Into Key Aspects

Break down the key aspects of the Navigation Acts to facilitate understanding among your students:

a) The Purpose: Emphasize that these laws aimed to strengthen England’s economy by promoting its merchants, shipbuilders, and sailors while disadvantaging foreign competitors.

b) The Content: Walk students through significant legislations like:

– The 1651 Act: Explain that it required all goods transported between England and its colonies to be carried on English or colonial ships.

– The 1663 Staple Act: Discuss how it prohibited direct colonial trade with Europe or Asia, forcing colonies to send goods exclusively through England first.

– The 1673 Plantation Duty Act: Highlight how it imposed extra duties on goods passing through English ports on their way from one colony to another.

c) The Effects: Underline both immediate consequences like increased smuggling, as well as long-term implications for colonial economies and relationships with England.

3. Engaging Activities

Introduce interactive activities to give students hands-on experience with the Navigation Acts. For instance:

a) Role-Playing: Organize students into groups to represent different stakeholders such as English merchants, colonial farmers, or Dutch traders. Lead them in a moderated debate to discuss the advantages and drawbacks of the Navigation Acts from each perspective.

b) Analyzing Primary Sources: Provide excerpts from key documents like parliamentary records or colonial governors’ letters for students to analyze. Guide them to identify biases, intentions, and consequences of the acts.

c) Establishing Connections: Assist students in connecting the concepts learned to modern global trade relations. Discuss contemporary practices like tariffs or trade wars and their similarities and differences compared to the Navigation Acts.

4. Assessing Learning Outcomes

Design assessments to gauge your students’ understanding of the Navigation Acts and their significance. Use a mix of methods like quizzes, essays, and creative projects, encouraging students to express their learning through multiple formats.

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