The Western World in Africa before 1800 The Mercantilist Period of European Contact

Essay by subojacUniversity, Bachelor's September 2004

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The mercantilist period in European economic history:

- The era of merchant capital as opposed to industrial capital

- Merchant capital depends for its growth on the connections between different social and productive systems, e.g. profits from trade.

- This kind of capital grew and developed in the trade between the vastly different cultural, religious, political and economic systems of East( China, India, Japan) and West( Europe).

- Merchant capital involves "mastering the connections" between different worlds: trade routes (sea ports); places along coastal routes; islands en route to major trade routes.

- (In this way European South Africa came into existence)

In contrast, industrial capital

- Arise from a transformation within a particular system.

- Involves changes in process of production and social relations.

Merchant capital dominated European world trade up to the C18:

- Mercantilist period did not involve the establishment of formal colonies

- No attempt to conquer African people or territory

- Did not involve attempts to impose European culture, religion or politics by force

- European traders or missionaries worked or adapted to existing political and social systems.

- What interested Europeans was trade in profitable goods and not territory.

The Mercantilist period of European contact with Africa can be divided into 2 preriods:

- Mid 15th -mid 17th centuries, dominated by the Portuguese

- 17th to 19th dominated first by Dutch and then British and French.

- It is in this era that the slave trade emerged, grew and developed.

- The slave trade eventually came to dominate trade between Africa and Europe.

- Europeans who arrived in Africa were traders, missionaries and soldiers

- Established economic and trade relations

- Merchant capital in Europe originated from individuals or companies involved in long-distance commerce.

The Portugese Epoch

The major purpose of Portuguese trade with...