Unit 1: Global Networks of Exchange in the 1600s
By the early 17th century, European merchants had established maritime trade networks across the Atlantic Ocean and eastward to India and China. These networks allowed them to acquire furs, tea, sugar, spices, and other luxury commodities that were in great demand throughout Europe. In the Americas, European settlers began using large numbers of enslaved Africans to grow labor-intensive crops such as sugarcane and tobacco for export to Europe. Portuguese, and later Dutch, merchants acquired many of these slaves from trade posts on the West African coast. Once the slaves had been sold in the Americas, merchants used the proceeds to acquire local commodities to sell in Europe. This circular trade pattern dominated the Atlantic economy until the 1800s. European nations closely guarded their trade networks against rival states. The Dutch East India Company, for example, possessed its own private army and navy, which it used to defend its trade links with India and Southeast Asia.
Global trade altered production and consumption patterns throughout the world and led to the rapid growth and development of England and the Netherlands at the expense of older colonial powers such as Spain and Portugal. In this unit, we will examine the growth of global trade networks in the 1600s and evaluate the political, social, and cultural impact of these networks on the peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 12 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- identify and analyze the growth of global trade networks in the 17th century, and assess the importance of the political, economic, and cultural exchange along these routes;
- describe and analyze the rise of European empires and the parallel expansion of the Atlantic slave trade; and
- assess the role of European mercantile policies in the formation of colonial economies and trade networks.
1.1: The Atlantic World
Read chapter 30 on pages 517–564. This textbook will give you a general overview of the time periods that we will address in this course. It is organized chronologically and geographically. Each chapter offers a brief summary of the major historical events and trends that occurred throughout the world over the course of a 100-year period.
First, we will cover the 16th century (1501–1600). We will examine the impact of European trade and colonization efforts on the peoples of Asia and the Americas.
Read Chapter 9 on pages 320–324. This chapter gives a brief overview of the global networks of exchange developed by Spanish, Portuguese, and later Dutch and English merchants in the 17th century. As you read, pay attention to the role of religion, politics, and commerce in global exploration and settlement.
1.1.1: European Colonization
Read this article, which offers a brief overview of the European exploration and settlement efforts in America.
1.1.2: The Slave Trade and the Expanding Atlantic Economy
Listen to this lecture, which compares the views and practices of 17th and 18th-century Spanish and Portuguese slaveholders with those of Northern European colonists from the same era. Much of the lecture focuses on the origins and development of the slaveholding system instituted by Spanish and Portuguese colonists during these centuries. As you listen to the lecture, consider how the Spanish slaveholding system differed from slaveholding systems developed by Northern Europeans.
1.1.3: Demographic Shifts and Settlement Patterns
Read this short article, which compares settlement patterns in Spanish, French, and British colonies in the Americas. The article also compares the economies of the three ethnic regions and discusses how economic factors influenced settlement patterns. As you read, pay close attention to the impact of European settlement on Native American inhabitants.
1.1.4: Spain and Portugal's Global Connections
Read this article. As you read, consider how the empire established economic and cultural bonds between Asia, Africa, and the Americas. This short history of the Portuguese Empire focuses on the origins of the global empire in the 16th century and its maturation during the 17th century. The article discusses the shift from Asian to Atlantic trade during the late 16th century due to competition from Northern European trade companies.
1.2: European Trade with the Middle East and Asia
1.2.1: Trade Networks and State Monopolies
Listen to these lectures. As you listen to the first lecture on the first 100 years, think about the political and religious factors that led to the creation of the Dutch East Indies Company in the 1600s. How did the firm represent an effort by Northern Europeans to challenge the economic and political power of Portugal and Spain? As you listen to the second lecture on the second hundred years, think about the political and religious factors that led to the creation of the Dutch East Indies Company in the 1600s. How did the firm represent an effort by Northern Europeans to challenge the economic and political power of Portugal and Spain?
1.2.2: Supply and Demand
Read Chapter 1 on pages 1–92. As you read, note the variety of commodities traded by merchants in this era. Which commodities did Western Europeans seek? What did they have to trade with merchants in the East? Was the balance of trade equal, or one-sided?
Chapter 1 of this book offers a detailed study of Portuguese, Dutch, and later English efforts to cultivate trade networks with the Middle East, India, China, and the East Indies during the 17th century.
1.2.3: Economic and Political Impact of the India Trade
Read Chapter 4 on pages 246–307. As you read, think about how national politics shaped British trade practices during this era.
Chapter 4 of this book focuses on the economic and political impact of the East India trade on England at the end of the 17th century. Advocates of free trade challenged the British East India Company's trade monopoly with India and Asia and asserted that state-sponsored monopolies were harmful, rather than helpful, to the national economy.
1.3: Impact of Global Exchange
1.3.1: Ecological Impact
Read the three pages of the essay. After you read, consider the questions that Crosby poses as the third page. What are some of the lasting consequences of the Columbian Exchange in the Americas and Europe?
This short essay discusses the ecological and biological consequences of European exploration and colonization of the Americas. The author focuses on the differences between American and European plants and animals, and he discusses the impact of infectious diseases on Native American and European populations.
1.3.2: Changing patterns of Production and Consumption
Read this article. As you read, consider how matters of international trade disrupted local economies throughout the Indian Subcontinent.
This article discusses the various handcrafts that originated in the Indian Subcontinent and examines how they formed the basis of regional trade until the British East India Company established economic domination over the region in the late-17th and early-18th centuries. The British discouraged local textile and metal trades and instead encouraged the production of opium for trade with China. This disrupted regional economies and led to dramatic changes in patterns of wealth. As you read the article, consider how matters of international trade disrupted local economies throughout the Indian Subcontinent.
1.3.3: Shifting Power Balance between European States
Read this article, which offers a brief overview of the dramatic expansion of the British Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries. As you read, consider the role that the East India Trade played in Britain's emergence as an international power.
1.3.4: Changing Economic Relationship between East and West
Read the excerpts from Andre Gunder Frank's book.
In this article, economic historian Andre Gunder Frank, who teaches at the University of Amsterdam, discusses the economic relationship between Europe and Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. He argues that Asian nations were far wealthier and more powerful than European nations during these centuries and did far more to shape the world economy. Only in the 19th century, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and European colonization efforts, did European nations surpass Asian nations in economic power. As you read, consider the historical evidence that Gunder Frank presents to support his arguments. Why does he characterize Europe as the "caboose" to the "Asian economic train"?
Unit 1 Assessment
Read this page as a brief review for the Unit 1 Assessment. Here, the author reviews the European exploration and settlement efforts in America and their lasting influence.
Review the Chapter 16 outline.
If you wish, you may review the questions in the quiz sections, but note that these questions do not indicate whether or not your chosen answer is correct.