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Lecture 3

HISA04H3 Lecture 3: Themes In World History Lecture Notes 3


Department
History
Course Code
HISA04H3
Professor
Daniel Bender
Lecture
3

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The Classic Case Continued: Western Europe
The Role of Merchant Capital
Late Feudalism
A subsistence economy is predominant - Most people are growing just enough food to survive
on the land
Unfree labour is widespread - Serfdom. Not free to innovate, they can’t choose what food to
grow or animals to tend, etc.
Cracks in the feudal system (recap) - Ecology/Demography, peasant revolts, rise of towns
Prefigurative elements - Merchants and trade, urban handicrafts. Capital investment was not a
huge factor in this era, but it does begin to change.
Merchant Capital China
Sung dynasty (960-1279)
This dynasty saw the export of fine goods such as porcelain, paper, silk, tea, metals and the
import of horses, spices, medicines, precious stones, cotton fabrics.
The main textile exchanges (silk, cotton, etc) were between the Middle East and the Far East.
Capitalist features were suppressed due to a strong authoritarian central state (Mongols,
Mings). There is movement from merchant capitalism (trade) to full on capitalism.
Merchant Capital Arabia
This region was free from Christian restriction on the lending and charging of interest of money,
which led to the use of credit thriving.
Subsistence agriculture was the norm.
Merchants did not have access to real political power, which were held by noble landowners
and military leaders who, for the most part, supported decided to develop agricultural
technology as opposed to trade.
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Hanseatic League
An alliance of merchants concentrated in the Northern part of Europe in the Baltic region, which
dealt in the trade mostly of preserved fish (mainly herring).
Italian City States: Venice, Genoa, Florence, Siena
These regions saw the emergence of some of the first banks and merchant trade features.
Venice took advantage of its position in the Eastern Mediterranean to access all the goods
coming from Asia and the Middle East.
Innovation
Double entry bookkeeping - When a business keeps track of both expenses and revenue. This
first emerged in places like Vienna, Siena, and Florence. This feature allows businesses to see
the whole picture and they can find out if operations would actually make a profit. This was
useful for Historians because it allowed them to find out how economies or businesses in the
past functioned and provides a nice picture of the commercial and social networks that were
around back then.
Banks -
Stock Exchanges -
Commercial Law - In the same early modern age that governments began to recognize
corporations as different than individuals. For example, if an employee screws up and is sued,
the entire corporation gets sued as a whole. Protects an individual and their investment.
Spices (Pepper)
One of the most lucrative trades that went on during the Renaissance era. Pepper was involved
in creating the world’s first corporation (East India Company etc.) All these companies were
after pepper. Pepper was extremely valuable and it took a lot of effort and investment to obtain
it.
Household production; before commercial capitalism
Mode of production - A way to describe feudalism or capitalism, artisan production, etc.
Social relations of production - Work was generally established in very small areas or homes,
and were supervised by Journeymen (masters at their craft) and they produced goods for the
townspeople and their neighbors and these customers would trade for some of these products
with other goods.
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