John Law and the Mississippi Bubble: 1718-1720 Lesson Plan

Karla Smith


History has provided evidence that economic prosperity and stability is essential to the social stability of any nation or civilization. John Law was able to rally support for his own economic adventure, with the promise that France would become an economic powerhouse at a time when the country’s economy need rejuvenation. Unfortunately, the world of business has many unpredictable factors that can influence the outcome of events that appear to be a “sure thing.” John Law's Mississippi Company was an economic dream that was brought to an end by unpredictable factors.


Mississippi Studies Framework: Competencies 1, 3, and 4


Grades 9 to 12


  1. Mississippi History Now article, “John Law and the Mississippi Bubble”
  2. Various Mississippi History textbooks and other references for maps and commercials
  3. Pen/pencil, colored pencils
  4. Notebook paper and unlined paper
  5. Computer
  6. Whiteboard and marker
  7. Miscellaneous material for commercial


Students will:

  • Locate French colonies in North America on a student-created map.
  • Construct a timeline that shows the development of the Mississippi Company under the direction of John Law.
  • Explain the rise and fall of the Mississippi Company under the leadership of John Law.
  • Create a commercial for the Mississippi Company.


The teacher will ask the students to speculate on how an individual or group of individuals might secure money to start a business. The teacher will ask the students to speculate on what happens when businesses and corporations do not make anticipated profits. The teacher will ask students to share their knowledge of businesses and corporations in the country, as well as in their own community, that have experienced downsizing, layoffs, and closures. The teacher will ask the students to speculate on what has caused these economic changes. After discussing student responses, the teacher will explain to the students that the colonization of the Americas was an economic investment for European nations, to help revitalize their economy. Tell the students that today in class they will learn about one specific economic venture that is a small part, a footnote if you will, of the history of their own state.


  1. Instruct the students to draw a map of North America. They should label the following items on the map: French territory in North America from 1699-1763, the Natchez District, Biloxi, the Mississippi River, Canada, Louisiana, and the Atlantic Ocean. The students may work with partners or individually on this portion of the lesson. The teacher will ask the students to speculate on why the French chose the areas located on the maps for settlement. (Possible answers - Biloxi is located on the coast, which was the first area settled in the region; Louisiana surrounds the Mississippi River, which was necessary for transportation; Canada was the first region reached by the French and is also on a similar latitude as Europe). The students can make references to their maps as they speculate on the answers to the questions.
  2. Have the students work alone or with a partner to construct a timeline of the Mississippi Company under John Law’s leadership. Have the students select ten events from the Mississippi History Now article to place on the timeline. You may want to review the chronological order with the students. Specify as to whether you want the students to design their timelines horizontally or vertically. Ask for student volunteers to share one or more events they listed on their timeline. The students should explain why they felt this event was significant in the development of the Mississippi Company.
  3. Have the students work with a partner to answer the following questions using the Mississippi History Now article.
    • Describe the power John Law possessed over French finances as administrator of the Mississippi Company.
    • Explain how John Law reacted to falling share prices in 1720.
    • Describe how John Law lost control of the Mississippi Company.
    • Explain how the terms monopoly and bubble relate to the Mississippi Company.
  4. The teacher will have student volunteers share their answers to the questions.
  5. The teacher will divide the students into groups of four or five. Tell the students that their groups will be acting as an advertising company. You might even allow them to name their companies. Tell the groups that their agency has been hired by John Law to design a commercial for the Mississippi Company.
  6. The teacher may want to show example commercials in order to explain to the students what type of information should be found in their production. Explain to the students that commercials should only show the positive aspect of the subject and the commercial should persuade the audience to support the subject. 
  7. The teacher may want to use the following information as criteria to evaluate the student-created commercial. This information could be easily placed on the board for student viewing. This would make an excellent checklist for the groups. (The following information can certainly be altered to meet the needs of individual teachers and students)
    • Commercial should be no longer than five minutes.
    • Written script which must be approved by the teacher before it is presented to the class. The final copy must be typed.
    • Script should contain correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.
    • Script should be neat and well-organized.
    • Script should be stapled and contain a cover sheet with the following information: title of project, names of group members, subject, class period, date.
    • All group members must be involved in the writing and production of the commercial.
    • Information about John Law and the Mississippi Company must be accurate ( You may want to require certain information be included in the commercial. Example: geography, date, trade, etc.)
    • Costumes and props will enhance grade.
    • Commercial should entice audience to invest in the Mississippi Company.
    • Presentation of commercial should be clear and well-organized.


The teacher will allow each “advertising company” to present their commercial to the class.


  1. Maps
  2. Timelines
  3. Answers to questions
  4. Commercials
  5. Student participation


  1. Invite a stock broker to class to discuss investments.
  2. Allow students to research the banking industry.
  3. Allow students to research trade between the United States and France today.
  4. Allow the students to research the origin of a major business or company in their local community.