How did nation-state building, territorial expansion, and imperialism reshape the global economy?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Europeans saw their colonies mainly as sources of raw materials and revenue and competed with one another for their establishment. Charter companies represented the close ties between merchants and their nation-building governments, as economics and politics became closely linked in a European state-building system later labeled mercantilism.

For the Hapsburg...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Spanish Empire, agriculture and mining under the encomienda system formed the basis of the economy, the French colonies flourished in the fur trade and sugar plantations, while the English, in addition to agriculture, focused on the harvesting of raw materials to support colonial and home trade and manufacturing. Although the Dutch were pushed out of their New World colonies, they flourished in the Asia trade through the Dutch East India Company as well as in finance.

Slave-based sugar plantations (pioneered by the Italians in the Mediterranean and by the Portuguese in islands of the Atlantic) were established in the New World by the rising European powers and proved highly profitable. The inadvertent decimation of the native population by smallpox and other diseases meant a new labor force had to be found. The answer was the African slave market, already highly developed by the Ottoman Empire. This was particularly true for the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the English and French in the Caribbean island sugar plantations, and to a lesser extent in the southern agricultural colonies of Virginia and South Carolina where cash crops of Tobacco, Rice, and Indigo became the primary exports.

Silver mined in the New World gave Europeans access to previously closed markets in India, China, and the Ottoman world, and their naval power helped defend and maintain this access. The trade was mutually beneficial and the Asian Empires flourished along with Europeans.

With the industrial revolution English productivity soared (an English power loom was forty times more productive) and steam and eventually electric power was soon applied to transport and other types of manufacturing. The effects of this revolution on international trade became destabilizing for the many of the previously dominant Asian powers such as the Moghuls of India, the Ottomans of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Levant, and North Africa, and the Chinese. As Atlantic commercial and military power expanded, many of the previously dominant Asian powers remained complacent in their sense of superiority and were unprepared for the power shift underway from Asia to the West. England, the United States, and Germany rapidly industrialized and their high-quality, low-cost goods began to dominate world markets displacing the less efficient output of the non-industrial regions. Through rapid industrialization, the Atlantic world of Western Europe and North America became the core of the world economy and the rest had suddenly become the underdeveloped periphery. How well the societies of the new periphery adapted to the new economic reality would have decisive long-run effects on their societies. The transformation was socially destabilizing to elites and common people alike in both the core and periphery. The economic, scientific, cultural, artistic, and military might of the West became undeniable by the 19th century and a people whose ancestors in the 16th and 17th centuries had feared being conquered and enslaved by the Ottoman Empire, now controlled the dominant imperial powers of the world. European imperial economic and political domination of the periphery led to inevitable resentment, conflicts and to the response of the periphery in nationalist independence movements seeking self-rule and national economic development on their own terms.

Approved by eNotes Editorial