Mercantilism is an economic theory that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world and that a nation's prosperity depends on its success in accumulating wealth by exporting more than it imports. European nations of the 17th-19th centuries attempted to put it into effect through commercial policies designed to produce a favourable balance of trade, through acquisition and development of colonies as exclusive markets and sources of raw materials, and, in England, through NAVIGATION ACTS
, which made the shipping and marketing of colonial goods the monopoly of British merchants and shippers. Mercantilism was intended to benefit European powers, but it was not wholly disadvantageous to the colonies, providing a protective mantle for early development. However, it has been argued that mercantilist policies left colonial economies dependent on staple production (see STAPLE THESIS
) and obstructed their industrial development. Though less rigid than the French system, English mercantilism brought no fundamental changes to the colonial economy after the CONQUEST
of New France (1760). The system was dismantled with the repeal of the CORN LAWS
in 1846 and the Navigation Acts in 1849, and the elimination of duties that had favoured colonial timber.
Links to Other Sites
Glossary: Social Science
Search or browse this online glossary of terms related to sociology, criminology, political science, and issues related to women. From Athabasca University and the International Consortium for the Advancement of Academic Publication.
Europe in America
An outline for a lecture on the development of economic institutions in European colonial possessions. Also, click on the link to hear the actual lecture K.J. Rea, Ph.D., University of Toronto.