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Chapter 17
The Transatlantic Economy
Trade Wars, and Colonial Rebellion
European History
The Middle of the 18th century witnesses a renewal of European warfare on a worldwide
scale. Austria and Prussia fought for dominance in central Europe. Great Britain and
France dueled for commercial and colonial supremacy.
Key Topics
- Europe’s mercantilist empires
- Spain’s vast colonial empire in the Americas
- Africa, slavery, and the transatlantic plantation economies
- The wars of the mid-18th century in Europe and the colonies
- The struggle for independence in Britain’s North America colonies
Periods of European Overseas Empires
European contacts with the world have 4 stages1. Discovery, exploration, conquest, settlement
2. Colonial trade rivalry among Spain, France & Britain
3. European imperialism in Africa & Asia
4. Decolonization of people previously under European rule
The Europeans were able to exert influence and domination for so long over much of the
world was do to a technological supremacy related to naval power and gun power.
Mercantile Empires
Navies and merchant shipping were the keystones of the mercantile empires. The Treaty
of Utrecht (1713) established the boundaries of empires. Spain controlled most of South
America, also Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida, Mexico, California, and the Southwest. Britain
consisted of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Jamaica, Barbados and along the east cost of
North America. French controlled Saint Lawrence River valley, Ohio and Mississippi
river valleys, West Indian islands, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. Dutch controlled
Surinam, Guiana, Indonesia, Ceylon, and Bengal.
Mercantilist Goals
European Empires used the theory of mercantilism. Colonies were to provide markets
and natural resources for the industries of the mother country. The Imperialist country
provided military security and the instruments of government. The Imperialist country
protected its investments from competitors by keeping a tight monopoly on trade with its
Mercantilism- This economic theory emphasized a favorable balance of trade and
dictated that colonies existed for the benefit of the mother nation. Mercantilist ideas
however worked far better in theory than in practice. Colonist of different countries often
found it more profitable to trade with each other than with the home country, a situation
which made the eighteenth century the golden age of smugglers. Traders from one nation
continually tried to break the monopoly of the other. Britain and France in particular
preyed upon Spanish markets which resulted in distrust and Spanish retaliation
French – British Rivalry
Britain and France colonies in North America fought against each other constantly. The
West Indies and India were fought over because of their production of coffee, spieces,
cotton, and indigo.
The Spanish Colonial System p 555
The primary purpose of the Spanish Empire was to supply Spain with precious metals
from the Americas.
Colonial Government
Queen Isabella of Castile assigned the governing of the Americas to the Council of
Indies, which then nominated the viceroys as the chief executives who carried out the
laws created by the Council of Indies in the New World.
Trade Regulation
Casa de Contratacion (House of Trade) in Seville regulated all trade with the New World.
The Consulado was the merchant guild. Set locations and ports were to be used to control
trading and to collect money.
Colonial Reform Under the Spanish Bourbon Monarchs
The Spanish Succession and the Treaty of Utrecht replaced the Spanish Habsburgs with
the Bourbons Philip V (Louis son). The Spanish under French rule tried to reassert their
power over the New World, which will lead to a war with England in 1739. Charles III
1759-1788 creates more reforms with the New World. He abolishes monopolies,
established direct trading with the Americas, created a 4th viceroyalty, increased the
efficiency of tax collection and ended bureaucratic corruption
Black African Slavery, the Plantation System, and the Atlantic Economy p560
Before the 18th Century no moral or religious stigma was attached to slavery. Slave labor
became a fundamental social and economic factor in Europe, Africa and the Americas.
The African Presence in the Americas
The Spanish and Portuguese faced a server shortage in labor and turned to slave labor,
because the indigenous populations decreased dramatically do to diseases. The major
source for slaves were slave markets in Central West Africa in Senegambia, Sierra
Leone, the Gold Coast Benin and Biafra
The West Indies, Brazil, and Sugar- The demand for these products led to a large import
of slaves to Central and South America. Slaves had to be constantly imported do to the
low fertility rate of earlier slaves and a high death rate from diseases, over work and
Slavery and the Transatlantic Economy
- Portuguese / Spanish
- Dutch
The order of who controlled the slave trade
- English
The TRIANGLE- European goods such as guns were taken to Africa for trade, their they
exchange for slaves, who were taken the West Indies and exchanged for sugar and other
products that were then taken to Europe to repeat the process.
The Experience of Slavery
Slave traders forcibly transported about 9 million slaves to the New World. The
conditions of slave’s passage across the Atlantic were wretched. Quarters were cramped,
food was bad, diseases were rampant and many died in the crossing. New slaves were
subjected to seasoning such given new names, jobs and to learn they were no longer free.
The African Slave TradeSlavery is one of the oldest of human institutions and virtually every pre-modern state in
history depended on it to some extent. The African slave trade must be seen as part of
the large commercial system of Atlantic trade between Europe, and African and
European colonies in North and South America and the Caribbean. The system was
directed to exploitation of the New World and thus colonial economic needs. The major
sources for slaves were the Kong-Angola region and the Guinea coast. Well over 12
million persons were lost to Africa through the Atlantic trade. Taken as a whole the slave
trade varied in extent quite sharply from period to period with its peak in the 18 century
and its demise in the 19th. The effects of the slave trade on Africa are not easy to assess.
Slavery was a result not a cause of regional instability and change; increase warfare
meant the slave trade produced Africa’s major economy which was also one of the major
migrations off global history. From an American perspective it was an important element
in the formation of our modern society
Mid-Eighteenth-Century Wars p 567
Statesmen generally assumed warfare could be used to further national interests. Wars
were not associated with domestic political or social upheaval and peace was not
associated with the achievements of international stability. Their were two areas of great
rivalry, the overseas empires and central and eastern Europe.
The War of Jenkins’s Ear
West Indies had become a hotbed of trade rivalry. Spain wanted to protect its interest and
patrolled the area for smugglers. The Spanish boarded a English ship and cut the ear off
of Robert Jenkins. Robert returned to Britain and merchants became outraged and
pressured the British government to war against Spain.
The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748)
Frederick II of Prussia seized the Austrian province of Silesia upsetting the balance of
power in Germany.
Maria Theresa Preserves the Habsburg Empire- She gave her nobles more power which
in turn made them more loyal to her and were able to stop the advancement of Prussia
and other potential invaders.
The Diplomatic Revolution
January 1756 Prussia and Great Britain signed the Convention of Westminster, a
defensive alliance aimed at preventing the entry of foreign troops into the Germanies.
Frederick feared invasions from Russia and France. In May 1756 France and Austria sign
their own defense alliance pact.
Seven Years’ War 1756-1763
France and Britain struggle unofficially on their colonial front. The clashes were from the
settlers in the Ohio River Valley and in Upper New England. It will become known as the
French and Indian War.
Frederick the Great Opens Hostilities- 1756 Frederick invades Saxony starting the 7 year
war because he wanted to destroy Austria before they invade him. Russia, France,
Sweden, Austria and other German states join forces against Prussia, and were
unsuccessful. The Treaty of Hubertusburg in 1763 ended the continental conflict.
William Pitt’s Strategy for Winning North America- Pitt wanted all of North America
east of the Mississippi for Great Britain. He sent 40,000 troops to the French Canada.
The Treaty of Paris of 1763- Britain received all of Canada, the Ohio Valley and the
eastern Mississippi river valley in return France received Pondicherry and Chandernagore
in India and the West Indian sugar islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The American Revolution and Europe
Resistance to the Imperial Search for Revenue
After the Treaty of Paris of 1763 Britain had two problems. 1. The cost of their empire
was expensive, the national debt was increasing and taxation was increasing 2. The vast
amount of land Britain gained in the Americas. The solution was to gain revenue from the
Americas because they benefited from the French and Indian war.
These conflicts required great sums of money and Britain was victorious however in debt.
The British government believed that the colonist should bear part of the cost of their
protection and administration. Britain levied new taxes on America. The Sugar and
Stamp Acts of 1776-1783. The Sugar Act lowered the duties imposed by the muchevaded Molasses Act of 1733, but sought to insure that the new tariffs would be
diligently collected. The Stamp Act required them to buy and place revenue stamps on all
official legal documents, deeds, newspapers, pamphlets, dice, and playing cards.
Colonists strongly opposed the Stamp Act. In part, the colonists were alarmed by the
economic costs imposed on them by the reforms. Ordinary people had always been
lightly taxed in America and did not want their money to be used to support British
officials. Intolerable Acts popular name given to a series of laws passed by the British
Parliament in March 1774 as punitive measures against the colony of Massachusetts; also
called Coercive Acts. The Boston Port Act closed the port of Boston to trade; the
Massachusetts Government Act revoked the colony's charter and forbade town meetings;
the Quartering Act required the colonists to provide billets for British soldiers; and the
Impartial Administration of Justice Act removed British officials from the jurisdiction of
Massachusetts courts. At the same time, Parliament enacted the Québec Act, which many
colonists associated with the Intolerable Acts because it expanded the territory of Québec
and did not allow for representative government in that colony. Considering these acts
“intolerable,” the other American colonies united in sympathy with Massachusetts.
The colonist showed how to establish revolutionary but orderly political bodies that
would function outside the existing political framework. European writers sensed that a
new era was dawning one of constituent assemblies constitutions and declarations of
The American Revolution- Had its roots in Europe. The Declaration of Independence
derived largely from John Locke’s idea of political contract. But if American
revolutionaries had been influenced by Europe, they in turn provided a model to
Europeans. Britons as well as Americans believed that they were improperly represented
in Parliament. In the late 1770’s the extralegal Association Movement began to call for
reforming the corrupt system of parliamentary elections; it failed however because its
leaders did not appeal for broad popular support as the American example dictated.
America Political Ideas
The American colonist looked to the English Revolution of 1688 as having established
many political liberties. The colonist demanded no taxation without representation
Broader Impact of the American Revolution
America demonstrated a government without kings and nobility. America embraced
republican political ideals. The America adopted a Bill of Rights to specifically
protecting series of civil liberties. They would reject social status based on birth and
inheritance. However they did not release their slaves which will lead to a civil war.