What Was the Economy of the New England Colonies Like?

Though the most important goal of early New England colonists was to provide food and necessities for themselves and their families, many settlers came to the New World in search of untapped resources and financial opportunities. Fur, lumber, fish and iron ore soon became important industries and helped establish New England’s economic system, according to HowStuffWorks.

It was common for European companies to fund colonial expeditions with the expectation that the colonists would provide a return on the investment once they were established. The first colonists traded with the Indians, receiving furs in exchange for European goods. They sold these furs back to Europe and the fur trade grew into a successful industry. Lumber and iron ore were also profitable industries for New England colonists, since these were both important resources in England. Initially, most goods were transported by boat, but colonists soon developed roads to carry timber to the waterways.

Slavery provided only a small amount of the labor force in early colonies. Much more common were indentured servants, who were either sent over by European governments as punishment, or came of their own free will but without the means to pay their way to the New World. Tradesmen, industrialists and wealthy farmers paid to bring these men over to work for them and help their profits grow.