THE COLONIAL PERIOD
INTRODUCTION: THE CHARACTER AND SIGNIFICANCE OF ECONOMIC HISTORY
The Nature of Economic History. At the beginning of our study it is important to get clearly in mind an understanding of the general character of economic history and the purposes that may be served by the study of that subject. Only thus can we judge of the relative significance of the large mass of facts presented or appreciate the broader and most vital aspects of the problems with which we are dealing. . Economics or political economy has been defined as the science dealing with the activities of man in the processes of producing, distributing, and consuming economic goods or wealth, or more briefly the process of getting a living. Since getting a living is the primary objective of the business world, economics is sometimes called "the science of business." As it deals with the activities of men both individually and collectively, it is a social science as distinguished from a natural science. The economic history of the United States, therefore, deals with the methods and processes by which the people of this country have endeavored during the different stages of the country's development to supply their economic wants or get a living. Since the people of the country both as individuals and through group or national action have generally sought to devise better or more economical ways and means for getting a living, there has been a constant change in the methods and devices used. Thus an evolutionary social process is discernible and our study becomes a history of the evolution of industrial society in the United States.
To obtain a clearer idea of the nature of this study it is essential to understand the fundamental conditions underlying industrial society and the necessity for getting a living. These all go back to the fact that nature--our physical environment--does not freely supply enough things to satisfy man's wants. There is a lack of harmony between our wants and our physical environment. "In the sweat of thy brow shalt