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After the Ming dynasty prohibited private overseas trade in 1374, China’s once-flourishing maritime commerce languished until the 1520s, when a boom in Japanese silver mining impelled Chinese mariners to flock to Japan for the monetary metal in high demand in China. Dubbed “Japanese pirates” (Wokou) by the Ming government, these Chinese entrepreneurs developed multinational merchant coalitions and trade networks (including Japanese and Portuguese traders) across the East/Southeast Asian maritime world. The Wokou also became crucial allies of the daimyo of western Japan, embroiled in civil wars and eager to obtain both trade revenue and Portuguese gunpowder weapons. Ming military campaigns in 1548–1557 eliminated many Wokou leaders, but the smuggling trade proved intractable and the Ming lifted its maritime ban in 1567. The Wokou era also witnessed – albeit temporarily – the emergence of the “port polity” as an alternative to the Chinese imperial model of political economy within East Asia.
Colonial practices of jurisdictional accumulation consist, in the Iberian case, of the requerimiento, encomiendas, audiencias, and the various jurisdictional opportunities they provided leading to jurisdictional competition and subjectivities in colonial New Spain. Castile’s mercantilism is also discussed in relation to its governance and administrative structures and commercial–legal institutions. Relying on the jurisdictional incorporation of both settlers and Native American subjectivities, Castilian practices of imperial expansion transplanted Castilian authority and are primarily concerned with authority over people providing jurisdictional opportunities of contestation and subjugation. Different practices of jurisdictional accumulation are identified in the French, Dutch, and English/British empires. These mostly relate to trading and chartered companies and settlements primarily concerned with authority over land and resources, where inhabitants of the colonised land need to be excluded rather than jurisdictionally incorporated. The more commercial, indirect, and outsourced practices of these empires are discussed through the debates on mercantilism and the practices of corsairing, which produced conditions for jurisdictional accumulation as transports of authority (i.e. focused on the use of intermediaries and a jurisdictional distancing between the imperial centres and their colonies).
Chapter 2 discusses historical sociology as the framework adopted to develop a new approach to early modern jurisdictions. The project aims to enrich diplomatic history's institutional and cultural paradigm through a more productive engagement with new legal histories of extraterritoriality and historical materialist approaches. Debates regarding Eurocentrism and how to conceptualise imperial agency in historical sociology are discussed, and an outward methodological internalism is proposed as required by the research problem posed in Chapter 1, namely the problem of narrow and linear sources of the means of imperial expansions of authority such as ambassadorial immunities. To frame this methodology, the commodity form theory of law is discussed as a powerful but overly structural approach to processes of expansion that conflates mercantilism and capitalism. In response, the methodology is framed instead by Political Marxism, as a more agency-based and historicist approach to international history, that relies on the concept of social property relations.
This chapter depicts the failure of the English nation state to launch and sustain overseas enterprises in Asia in the early seventeenth century. It reveals that the East India Company was conceived as a mercantilist strategy of monopoly and force by the crown to acquire new markets and sources of wealth beyond the Cape of Good Hope. But a combination of fiscal–military weakness, unrealistic policies fostered on it by the state and a general economic and constitutional crises which engulfed England by the mid-century, all combined to undermine the Company’s attempt to establish itself at Bantam, Japan and on the Coromandel Coast in India. The result was the abandonment by Company servants on the spot in Asia of metropolitan policies in favour of realising their own local private interests of trade, power and transcultural immersion. As the Company teetered on the verge of collapse in England, it left a vacuum of authority and leadership within its factories in Asia, allowing Company servants to seize new opportunities to empower themselves and appropriate Company policies to suit their own interests. As investment, shipping and specie stopped flowing from Europe, Company servants insinuated themselves into pre-existing Asian networks of commerce and influence.
Chapter 8 offers comprehensive treatment of Burke’s thoughts on Anglo-Irish commercial relations. Burke was Parliament’s leading proponent of the Irish trade bills in the late 1770s, which were intended to relax commercial restrictions between Ireland and England. In Two Letters of the Trade of Ireland, he argued that free trade granted advantages to the trading nations and produced collective prosperity. Burke’s legislative activities in support of the Irish trade bills also illustrated his famous trustee theory of representation: he was willing to jeopardize his seat in Parliament in pursuit if Irish free trade, a policy goal that upset many Bristol merchants apprehensive about foreign competition. Furthermore, I discuss instances in which Burke did not argue for the maximum amount of free trade, such as his opposition to William Pitt’s commercial propositions and the Anglo-French Treaty of 1786. These cases reveal that Burke took into account other considerations of the British Empire, such as national security, when reflecting on matters of commercial policy. I also challenge the interpretation that Burke was originally a committed adherent of mercantilism. Rather than being a mercantilist or free trade absolutist, he sought to balance a defense of commercial liberty with the imperatives of empire.
Chapter 7 scrutinizes Burke’s economic insights in Observations on a Late State of the Nation, his speech defending the commercial policy of the Rockingham party, of which Burke was a prominent member in Parliament. The speech tends to be neglected in the study of Burke, but it contains many early clues about his emerging conception of political economy that I shed light on, such as his views that balance-of-trade theory is misguided; free trade promotes collective prosperity; and arbitrary systems of revenue undermine commercial progress. This section also supplies an examination of Burke’s remarks on commerce and the Navigation Acts in his two famous speeches on Anglo-American relations, Speech on American Taxation and Speech on Conciliation with America. The thrust of both speeches is that Britain should reestablish its theoretical imperial authority over the American colonies, but it should also allow American industry to flourish free from excessive government entanglements. Burke also provided a qualified defense of the Navigation Acts in the speeches, arguing that the Acts were partially responsible for the collective commercial enrichment of England and America in the eighteenth century.
This preindustrial history of capitalism touches on the history of guilds, the domestic systems of cloth production in England, and medieval international commerce as well as the early-modern expansion of Britain into the spice and textile trade of the Indian Ocean. The Atlantic triangular trade used Indian textiles to buy slaves in Africa to work on plantations that originated for the cultivation of sugar. All these elements feed into the Industrial Revolution story in the next chapter, where it is painted as the response of an existing textile industry to global competition.
Freemasonry emerged in London in the late 1710s as a form of sociability committed to tolerant, cosmopolitan constitutionalism of a characteristically Enlightenment cast. Welcoming to Jews and Catholics, and men of varying social class, the lodges were also frequented by many, quite probably a majority of, male theatre professionals. Among the famous actors, managers and dramatists, the masons counted George Lillo. My contention is that it is no accident that all the most important contributors to domestic tragedy were masons (Hill, Lillo, Moore) but that their generic innovations crafted a genre peculiarly able to represent the shocks of commercial capital and colonial trade on individuals sutured from traditional forms of familial and kinship network and support. The fraternal assistance of the lodge stood as an alternative source of succour in a hostile world, even if it often failed to rescue its fallen brothers. Lillo wrote The Tragedy of George Barnwell in the same year he joined a lodge, and his drama symbolically enacts the challenges and comforts of masonic fraternity.
Adam Smith has acquired the reputation as the father of economics, but he was not alone among the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment in his interest in the emerging discipline of political economy. This chapter examines the broader context of the political economy of the Scottish Enlightenment and relates it to the general move from the mercantile attitudes behind the great disaster of the Darien project to the critique of them developed by Smith in the Wealth of Nations. The economic thinking of David Hume and Sir James Steuart and others is examined in order to illustrate the breadth of the Scottish contribution to the development of thinking about the economy.
Since the days when the interest of historians was principally focused on forms of government the age of absolutism has been a label commonly attached to the period of European history between 1660 and 1789. Mercantilism as practised on the continent of Europe was an essential concomitant of absolutism and developed in every state pari passu with the growth in the monarch's power. To the Germans, mercantilism seems an integral part of the Enlightenment because of the rational and secular nature of its thinking. The Cameralism or mercantilism of central Europe was distinguished from its French counterpart because the study of its doctrines constituted an academic discipline which was obligatory for all the holders of administrative posts, and because the rulers themselves were its most receptive students. Civilization in the age of absolutism rested on a peasant base. In the major continental countries the Physiocrats' gospel appealed most strongly to the governments that found themselves in difficulties.
Recent decades have seen important changes in the objectives, techniques and methodologies of economic history in Europe. Early modern history, the age of the modern state, has traditionally been for economic historians the age of the mercantilist state and economy. The concept of mercantilism, a complex of ideas and policies designed to achieve national power and, ostensibly, wealth, has long been a source of controversy amongst historians. In recent economic historiography it is the village, or region, or continent which has tended to become the 'sites' most appropriate to the techniques and objectives of historians trying to fit together the diverse elements in particular socio-economic historical situations. This chapter reviews new techniques that have been used to help explain the growth or decline of national economies, very successfully in the case of the Dutch Republic, the economic prodigy of Europe from the 1590s, and of seventeenth-century France; partially in the case of Spain.
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