How does mercantilism affect the Jews?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The commercial revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries was bought on by vast new supplies of money, gold and silver ingots from Mexico and Peru.  As this gold and silver poured in,the continent became dependent upon these metals for a rising standard of living.

Gold and silver allowed Jewish people to live in feudal countries where heretofore they could not have existed since they neither could own land or work on the land.  And, with money providing rulers wealth to equip and/or hire armies to help them defeat other nations, battles were fought for remote islands rich in spices or mineral resources; this process of gaining empires of trade was called mercantilism.  And, the mercantilist was rarely concerned about religion or morality.

Now, with divisions of theology as no longer relevant, the Jew was tolerated for his financial acumen.  Thus, the Jewish problem initially perceived as a religious problem (heresy) then moved the political realm.  An additional source of national power, certain classes of Jews were allowed to remain in European nations, although often confined to peddling and money-lending/pawning and confined to certain neighborhoods of cities.

With the disappearance of Christian guilds which restricted Jewish trade, Jews became merchants who were involved in the trade of cloth, fur, agricultural products, hardware, etc.  They even began to emerge from the confining ghettos and share the profits of the mercantile order.

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