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Emergence of early capitalism

From Academic Kids

The notion that capitalism can be divided into early, middle, and late periods is itself extremely controversial. Some scholars have found capitalism, or elements thereof, in very early times. Some philosophers consider capitalism not a time-bound practice or a historical era at all, but the recognition of some timeless elements of the human condition.

Nonetheless, periodization is often undertaken on the presumption that there was a uniquely notable explosion of capitalistic practice in early-modern Europe.

The Bruges Bourse opened in 1309 as a place for commodity traders to meet and trade their goods.

In the sixteenth century, merchants of Antwerp developed the idea of shareholdership, to facilitate the building of larger ships, and to make possible more extensive trade. The northern Netherlands became a Republic in 1581, and when Antwerp fell in 1585, many of these merchants went north to Amsterdam. The new Republic was largely controlled by its merchant class rather than by the nobility, and had an economy based on early capitalist principles rather than feudal ones. Specifically, the Republic was an early proponent of Free Trade ideas (e.g. Grotius). Its model of colonization was characterized by a strong belief in the bottom line and was entirely based on private enterprise rather than state control.

Britain and France, which each applied a mercantilist approach to economic policy, were able to outcompete the Republic, because in their model long term, politically motivated investments by the state were possible. One consequence of this failure was a crash in the speculative trade in Tulips (the 'windhandel') in 1637. See tulipomania.

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