Before the Industrial Revolution, the British shipbuilding industry was completely dependent on the countries around the Baltic Sea for timber and for other materials such as masts, tar and pitch needed to build ships. As a strong maritime nation, this frightful dependence on other countries for raw materials not only undermined Britain’s defense, it also worsened the growing trade deficit Britain had with the entire Baltic region. Only a small percentage of Britain’s demand for timber was fulfilled by the American colonies despite the nearly inexhaustible supply of wood in New England. This was because of the vast distance that separated the two nations, which made importing timber from across the Atlantic uneconomical.
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Logs waiting for the spring flood to be transported to the Columbia River in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Photo credit: Oregon Historical Society