British Economists, Mercantilism and International Trade (XVII – XVIII Centuries)

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The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century not only moved a number of European and North American countries from being largely rural and agricultural societies to urban and industrialized ones, but it is often perceived as being the incubator of Great Britain’s status as a great commercial nation. However, this article will argue that the source of British power and wealth began much earlier than the onset of the Industrial Revolution and was underpinned by the principles of mercantilist practice. Mercantilism, often closely associated with Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Course of the Wealth of Nations, would not just provide the basis of Britain’s wealth, but it would also profoundly alter the basis of colonial rule resulting in both Spanish power waning and also the way in which large parts of the world would be governed for a number of centuries. In addition to this, subsequently European powers’ wealth from their colonies was created by trade rather than the acquisition of precious metals, particularly gold and silver, as had been the case previously. Furthermore, mercantilism would also influence the internal political discourse between Whigs and Tories in eighteenth century Great Britain. At mercantilism’s core was the desire for self-sufficiency if not within the metropole then certainly within the metropole’s empire. Moreover, the impact of mercantilism was still greater as it profoundly affected not just North American society (the restive aspects of mercantilist practice were key for the advent of the American Revolution) but also British society. Furthermore, it also shamefully caused an upsurge in the Atlantic slave trade with London at its center. In sum, the legacy of mercantilism was extensive, and would endure for an extended period of time for Britain, British colonies and global trade and governance in general.
Original languageRussian
Title of host publicationLatin American Almanac №23
PublisherLatin American Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Number of pages9
VolumeNumber 23
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

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