Mercantilism was both an economical policy and different theoretical ideas. It was typically a European phenomenon which reached its highest development in the seventeenth century. It slowly disappeared during the eighteenth century. Thus, mercantilism covered the period from the Renaissance to the industrial era. Mercantilism was never a coherent economical doctrine. It was more an addition of different ways of thinking which appeared in different Europeans countries and were at the origin of national experiences. We can wonder in which way Mercantilism was a moral revolution and in what ways it represented a major breakthrough toward modernity. As most of the European colonial powers saw the process of colonization through mercantilist ideas, Colonies became an experimental field for mercantilism. Thus we can also wonder what significance it would hold for North American colonization efforts.
[...] Mercantilism implied the exploitation of natural resources of territory under their control. After a time when first discovers used to plunger territories, time had come to exploit territories rationally. Plantations increased and a slave trade was organized. For example by the mid- eighteenth century, the Chesapeake and Lower South regions were major exporters of tobacco, rice, and indigo. At the same time, middle colonies exported grain to Europe. It was forbidden for the colonies to develop their manufacturing production ability because it would be a concurrence for Europeans powers' industries (cf Wool Act of 1699, the Hat Act of 1732, and the Iron Act of 1750). [...]
[...] That is why it is interesting to focus on the British case in order to show what significance mercantilism hold for North American colonization efforts. Exploitation of colonies through mercantilism signified a colonial regulation. In the seventeenth century English manufacturers complained that Dutch appropriated much of the trade of the colonies. Indeed during the English civil war previous edits protecting British monopoly had not been observed. Merchant that dominated trading monopolies frequently carried Dutch products to colonial markets, ignoring English domestic industry. [...]
[...] Mercantilism did not only feed the need of an era. It had more global effects. It had first a great impact on economical thought. We can see in mercantilism the first effort to analyse precisely economical phenomena. The foundation of economical sciences became possible. But the role of mercantilism was more profound in the evolution of Economy. It was an essential step in the passage from a medieval economy characterized by small units to united national economies. Mercantilism helped nations in formation to create economies at their scale and to establish the framework of economical life. [...]
[...] Mercantilism brought a response in the economical field to the problems faced by medieval societies, problems caused by new historical phenomena which totally transformed these societies. These phenomena were Renaissance, discovery of America and colonization, massive entry of precious metal, formation of the European states and their struggles. In this context societies had to deal with new questions concerning wealth and the ways to increase it and to stimulate economical activity, the role and the goals of the economical policies, the role of the state, the behaviour of a nation towards others nations. [...]
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