European Overseas Expansion

 and the Commercial Revolution



Š     What combination of factors contributed to European expansion in the 16th century?

Š     What were the consequences for the Native Americans?  How were they to be treated? What were the consequences for Europeans?

Š     What conditions made the “commercial revolution” and the rise of early mercantile capitalism possible in the between 1550 and 1750 centuries?


Key Terms

1) Politics of History/Culture Wars        6) Putting Out System

2) Juan de Sepulveda                                  7) Jean Colbert

3) Bartolomew de Las Casas                       8) joint-stock company

4) “Price Revolution”/Great Inflation                 

5) Enclosure                                             



I.  The Motives and Means of Expansion:  Why Europe?


Š     Motives:

§  Economics:  Land, Trade, and Birth of Capitalism

§  Politics:  Centralizing Monarchies, International Competition

§  Religion:  Messianic Impulses and Crusader Mentality

§  Individualism:  The New Adventurer?  Lack of Opportunity?


Š     Means:

§  Technology:  Ships, Navigation, and Guns

Š     Caravel and the Astrolabe

§  Financial Support:  Monarchies and Investors


Š     The Native Americans: 

§  Population Decline, Slavery, and Christianity

§  Introduction of Slavery from Africa


II. How to Rule over non-Europeans? 


Š     Brutality or Benevolent Paternalism? 


Š     Do the Native Americans have souls?


Š     Charles V and the Council of the Indies


Š     Opposing Views: Juan de Sepulveda vs. Bartolomew de Las Cases (1550)



III. The Commercial Revolution and the Origins of Capitalism




Š     Trade, Imperial Expansion, Population Growth

Š     The “Price Revolution” and Inflation (and the Problem of Deflation)

Š     New Use of Land:  Enclosure and (More) Market-Oriented Agriculture


The Role of the Entrepreneur and Private Interest

Š     The New Merchant Class vs. the Guilds

Š     Proto-industrialization: The “Domestic” or “Putting Out” System

Š     New Banking and Joint-Stock Companies:  The East India Company (1600)

Š     Advantages in New Markets:  Internal and External

Š     A New Economic Culture and Identity


The Role of the State and Public Interest

Š     Centralizing States as Consumers

Š     Law, Order, Stability, and Infrastructure

Š     State Intervention: Favorable Trade Balance and Economic Regulation

Š     Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683):  The “Paradox” of Mercantilism

Š     Mercantilism Today: The Rise of China  (NYT, WSJ, WP)