Mercantilism JOINT-STOCK COMPANIES In place of government

In place of government (crown) funding, joint-stock companies formed to gather funding for colonization
through the sale of public stock. “Shares” were sold to individual investors and profits of the companies
would be divided according to the amount of shares one owned. Along with religious groups, these
companies were responsible for most English colonization throughout the seventeenth century.
Mercantilism is economic nationalism for the purpose of building a wealthy and powerful state. Adam
Smith coined the term “mercantile system” to describe the system that sought to enrich the country by
restraining imports and encouraging exports. The goal of these policies was to achieve a balance of trade
that would bring gold and silver into the country and maintain domestic employment. This system
dominated Western policies from the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries.
Governments would provide capital (investment money) to new industries, exempt new industries from
guild rules and taxes, and establish monopolies over local and colonial markets.
Mercantilism led to the end of the feudal era by large, competitive nation-states, colonization outside
Europe – in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Mercantilism led to the increase in trade and the increase in the
use of a monetary system, particularly gold and silver, relative to earlier barter transactions. With the
growth of colonies and the shipment of gold from the New World into Spain and Portugal, control of the
oceans was considered vital to national power. Military conflict between nation-states was both more
frequent and more extensive than at any other time in history.
Columbian Exchange
After 1492, human voyagers began a
re-establishment of connections
through the commingling of Old and
New World plants, animals, and
bacteria, commonly known as the
Columbian Exchange, is one of the
more spectacular and significant
ecological and social events of the
past millennium.
Atlantic Slave Trade (Triangular Trade)
The Spanish Conquistadors established the Encomienda system—forced native slavery. Under European
rule, as many as 90% of the natives would eventually die from disease, malnutrition, and fatigue.
Bartoleme de las Casas, a conquistador turned priest, spoke out against the system and the treatment of
the Native Americans. His voice led to the New Laws of the Indies in 1542, banning forced labor of the
natives. In search of other labor, it was recommended the plantations hire cheap skilled labor from Africa.
It would turn into the largest exchange of human slavery in the western world – the Atlantic Slave Trade.
The forced migration of up to 15 million Africans to the new world was the outcome of the Age of
Exploration and the Columbian Exchange. Europeans obtained most enslaved people from African slavetraders made up of warring African tribes, an industry that had been in progress for 400 years with the
trade going to the Muslim middle east.
Ships departed Europe on The First Leg of the trip for African markets with
manufactured goods.
On the Second Leg, or Middle Passage, purchased Africans from West and Central
Africa were transported across the Atlantic to South and Central America, and
eventually, North America; the slaves were then sold or traded for raw materials
such as sugar, cotton, tobacco. Excessively close quarters and extremely
unsanitary conditions, while being chained together, led to
disease with an estimated 15% of the Africans dying at sea on
what became known as “floating coffins”. The number of
deaths directly attributable to the Middle Passage is estimated
at two million.
The slaves would labor on coffee, cocoa tobacco, and cotton
plantations, in gold and silver mines, in rice fields, the
construction industry, timber, and shipping.
The Third leg would transport the goods picked up in the Americas back to
Europe to complete the voyage. An amazing amount of wealth would be
built up in Europe. It is this wealth that would soon help finance the
Industrial Revolution.
This new melting pot of cultures comprised of the native peoples, Europeans,
hardened conquistadors, and Africans soon developed a new culture in
central and south America. Families were started, Catholicism spread, with
each peoples bringing their unique talents and skills to the new “America”.