Original Title: Focus Lesson 9. Chapter 17: “The Transatlantic Economy, Trade Wars, and Colonial Rebellion”
- Mercantilism and its impact
Understanding of the theory of mercantilism and its political and social ramifications is essential to understanding Europe in the eighteenth century. Prior to this time, European conflict was focused on religious issues, a remnant of the Reformation. However, by the eighteenth century European nations were looking outward and had begun to create empires. Now nation-states came into conflict with one another over territorial possessions and the right to trade with one another’s colonies. In addition, European nations played off against one another in an effort to achieve a balance of power. Alliances were made, broken, and remade. These conflicts had a tremendous impact on developments in the Americas. Britain and France, especially, would see their European conflicts spill over into their American colonies.
- African slave trade
In the Americas, the use of Africans as slaves began in the islands of the Caribbean and moved westward to Latin America and northwestward to the British colonies on the mainland. Initially, finding cheap labor to work sugar cane plantations in the West Indies was the motivation for enslaving Africans. By the end of the 1500s, in the West Indies and in major cities of South America, there were as many or more enslaved Africans as there were white colonists. While slavery did not continue to grow in much of South America, the institution prospered in Brazil, the islands of the Caribbean, and the North American colonies of Great Britain. Slavery became fundamental to the triangle trade that developed between Europe and Africa, Africa and the Caribbean islands, and the Caribbean islands and Europe or the Caribbean islands and the British mainland colonies. As the authors of the text note, the slave trade “touched most of the economy of the transatlantic world.” It was not just slavers and slave owners who prospered from slavery, but anyone who dealt with the results of the work of slaves, such as textile mill owners whose employees took raw cotton and turned it into cloth.
Summing Up Student Understanding
Mercantilism, an economic theory, had a wide-ranging impact on the peoples of the world. Its execution affected the economies of all nations involved, as well as developments in politics, society, culture, and religious beliefs over time. Have students create a concept map showing the impact of mercantilism. The above graphic organizer presents one set of categories that students could explore.
Some of the basics the students should mention include:
- the British-French rivalry led to wars both in Europe and in their colonies in the Americas and Asia
- the Spanish economy prospered from the bullion exported from its colonies
- the wars of the mid-eighteenth century were, in part, a response to the growing conflicts between England and France
- the American War for Independence was a direct reaction to British mercantile policies
- the African slave trade was a consequence of the desire of European nations to build powerful empires
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