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Commerce and Colonisation: Studies of Early Modern Merchant Capitalism in the Atlantic Economy

by Rönnbäck, Klas, PhD

Abstract (Summary)
This dissertation consists of four chapters which study early modern merchant capitalism, with a special focus upon the developing Atlantic economy. The introductory chapter is followed by chapter 2, studying the issue of market integration and price convergence in inter-continental trade during the early modern period. Previously, scholars have claimed that there is no evidence of price convergence prior to the 1820s. This chapter on the contrary finds that there is ample evidence of this for most of the commodities studied. The issue of an early modern globalisation can thus not be dismissed as easily as it often has been done previously. Chapter 3 studies the profits to be made from colonialism for various agents in Europe. Previous research on Britain has shown that while individual merchants and planters might have gained from colonialism, the British state and consumers had to pay much of the bill. The chapter contrasts previous studies by looking at the Danish colonies in the West Indies. The conclusion is that, in contrast to the British case, the, all Danish agents were able to profit from colonialism in the West Indies. The Danish case might thus put the British experience into perspective. Chapter 4 focuses upon the balance of payments for trade on the Baltic. Common know-ledge has it that key Baltic exports largely were paid for in bullion during the early modern period. The importance of colonial goods have however been underestimated in previous research. By the late 18th century, the chapter finds, just the sugar re-exported from Western Europe to the Baltic was worth approximately half of the value of grains exported in the opposite direction. The chapter concludes that re-exports of colonial goods increasingly contributed positively to the balance of payments for the Western European nations’ trade on the Baltic. Chapter 5, finally, studies the trade in colonial goods on the Baltic from the perspective of environmental economic history. The Baltic was for a long period of time a net exporter of acreage, in the form of bulk commodities such as grains and forestry products. The chapter shows that increasing imports of colonial commodities required an growing amount of overseas ghost acreage. The trade, this chapter concludes, might however be understood less by an American abundance of land, than through the low price of enslaved labour in the Americas.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Göteborgs universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; History and philosophy subjects; History subjects; Economic history; globalisation; market integration; price convergence; colonial goods; international trade; imperialism; colonialism; Williams-thesis; slavery; sugar; balance of payments; Atlantic economy; the Baltic; ghost acreage

ISBN:978-91-86217-02-0

Date of Publication:01/01/2009

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