The discovery of the new world was a mercantilist process. The private property method was more successful than the public method. But, moving people to the new world was difficult while life in Europe was better. Thus, indentured servants were a large group second only to religious refugees.
Agricultural products like fish, whale oil, grain, tobacco, naval stores, rice, and indigo (and later cotton) were key exports back to Britain. A triangular trading pattern emerged: Africa shipped slaves to the West Indies to work sugar cane fields. Sugar was transported to New England to make rum. Rum was exported back to England.
The British often directly intervened in Colonial trade. The Navigation Acts from 1651 up to the American Revolution forced trade on only English ships, enriching the English.
Philadelphia was the largest Colonial city.
Lecture 4 of 9 from Mark Thornton's The Economic History of the United States.
Mark Thornton is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and the book review editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He has authored seven books and is a frequent guest on national radio shows.