Early American Trade with China

Trade Routes & Trading Strategies

Economics of the China Trade

Contrasting Views of Trade

Life on a Merchant Ship


Lesson Overview

TEACHING LEVEL: 9-12 grade
TEACHING TIME: Two 50-minute class periods


  • Students will use basic terms of economics (“imports,” “exports,” “balance of trade”) as they analyze data presented in graphs and tables.
  • Students will be able to list commodities that were important in early trade with China.
  • Students will be able to put America’s trade with China into the broader context of the world political and economic scene.
  • Students will be able to use information presented in a table to explain how trade changed over time.
  • Students will be able to explain why trade with China played a significant role in the early development of the United States.


Adapting the Lesson for Middle School

The goal of this lesson is to address the subject of trading strategies from an economic perspective. If this approach is not appropriate for the students, the handouts on “Trading Strategies” and the “Profits and Commodities of the China Trade” can be used to explore the kinds of goods that appealed to American and European consumers at the time.

The final activity in the lesson, using the graph of imports and exports, is intended to put the subject of early trade with China into the context of American trade and world political situations, a topic which is probably more complex and detailed than Middle School students are interested in or prepared for.

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