After gaining its independence from Great Britain, the United States needed to develop its economic base. Restricted during colonial times to supplying raw materials to the industrializing English economy, and excluded from most of the British markets after independence, Americans looked to international trade as a means to generate wealth and provide employment for many. Trade with China, from which the colonies had been barred, seemed to offer immediate opportunities for wealth.
The activities in this unit use the early China trade to explore the place of the United States in the world order and economy of late 18th and early 19th centuries. They also provide insight into the role of trade in nation building before and after the War of 1812. In addition, they provide the background for understanding the United States' interest in events in and along the Pacific Rim later in the 19th century.