Europe in America
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Agricultural economiesAt the time of the discoveries all European economies were largely agricultural
- most output intended for local markets
- traditional decision-making rooted based on "feudalism"
- status of the individual reflected nature of his or her relationship to property in land
But change was under way,
especially in England, due to:
What type of institutions European countries passed on to their colonial possessions in America depended on how far they had moved away from feudal to more modern institutions at home.
Feudalismworkers "bound to the land"
social hierarchy based on property rights in land
political rights and influence based on relationship to land
an "organic", "natural" order
Spain was still largely "feudal" and passed these arrangements on to what is now Latin America.
France was in transition and planted a weak form of feudalism in New France.
England was already well beyond feudalism and more in the grip of a commercial, trade oriented system when the British colonies were established in America.
(But be careful here! These are broad generalizations
which grossly over-simplify the topic.)
François Quesnay (1694-1774)
- net additions to a nation's wealth must originate in agriculture
- other types of activity merely serve to circulate the wealth created by farmers
- therefore, a nation must have a well-developed agricultural sector if it is to prosper. (Which is, of course, what all farmers have known since the beginning of time!)
The Commercial Revolution:
- Asia … America
- commercial interests
- a new social class and political force emerges in Europe
As European trade and commerce began to
expand around the world in the 16th Century another new
body of ideas was developed as thoughtful people tried to make sense of what
Mercantilist thought is not a consistent, coherent body of principles, but it reflects a common view that a nation's "wealth" can be influenced by its trade with the rest of the world.
How? By achieving what they called " a favourable balance of trade" -- i.e. an excess of exports over imports which would generate a net flow of cash.
They suggested this could
be done by using the power of the state to influence markets:
But here our main interest is in how this affected the colonial policies of the European powers in North America.
The Role of Colonies-to help enrich the "mother country" by
-yielding up treasure directly
-the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in southern and central America
providing cheap raw materials to be used in the mother country's trade with rival states
-the French and British colonies in northern North America
"good colonies" complement the mother country's economy…"bad colonies" compete with it.
The objective of Mercantilist colonial policy was to ensure that the country's colonies supported the economic objectives of the mother country.
The very best colonies in this respect would be those which provided the mother country with gold and silver directly…Mexico was a classic example of such a "good" colony.
Spanish policy was to strip the colonies of all their available stores of precious metals.
French and British policy would have been to do the same if their American colonies had possessed any gold and silver. But they did not.
They had to make do with using their colonies to supply whatever cheap raw materials they could to help the mother country achieve a favourable balance of trade with the rest of the world.
The very worst colonies from
the Mercantilist point of view would be ones which became competitive
with businesses based in the mother country.
The New World in the early 18th CenturyNew Spain
semi-feudal + commercial fur trade
commercial -- owned by the Hudson's Bay Co.
The largest part (in yellow) was claimed by Spain whose possessions included all of present day Mexico and most of what is now the southwestern US.
A vast inland region extending inland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence along the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes waterway and then southward through the valley of the Ohio and the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico was claimed by the French.
South-east of New France Britain's "Thirteen Colonies" were scattered along the Atlantic sea coast.
North of the French territories
lay territory, Rupert's Land, granted by Britain to the Hudson's Bay Company
(a claim contested by the French).
-- quasi-feudal agriculture-- control of the inland fur trade
Acadia-- small-scale agriculture
-- military-- commercial
New France in the 18th century- a small settled area along the north shore of the St.Lawrence River in which a kind of quasi-feudal agriculture was practised and which served as the base for an extensive inland fur trading operation which produced mainly beaver pelts for export to France.
+ some small settlements in the Bay of Fundy region based on a peculiar tidewater marshland type of farming. French interest in the region appears to have been more in its military, strategic value than economic.
on the history of New France depicts it as having a rather feeble
economy compared to the British colonies to the south. This has been challenged
by more recent scholarship which suggests that it compared favourably with
them in many respects. (See references in the Guide to Eccles, and Altman,
for examples of this reinterpretation.)
The British ColoniesThe "13 Colonies" established along the eastern seabord
-- havens for religious dissidents
-- commercial adventures
-- diverse regional economies
Despite the lack of mineral or other resources to support major exports of raw materials to the mother country, the British colonies on the north-eastern Atlantic coast proved to be economically and politically the most vigorous and successful European settlements in North America.
But the diverse activities of colonial entrepreneurs their brought them into conflict with British commercial interests back home.
The British colonies further
south were able to develop activities complementary to the commercial system
of the mother country:
Other British ColoniesNewfoundland
the cod fishery
restrictions on settlement
the Hudson's Bay Company monopoly
continental fur trade
The Newfoundland settlements
were unique because they developed despite British policy, which was designed
to protect the interests of commercial fishing fleets based in Britain
by discouraging permanent settlement in Newfoundland. Despite this policy,
a local economy began to develop based on:
Settlement was also discouraged
in Rupert's Land to avoid damaging the resource base of wild beaver upon
which the fur trade depended.
British-French RivalryThe European Wars
- War of the League of Augsburg 1689-97
- War of the Spanish Succession 1702-13
- War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48
- Seven Year's War 1756-63 (known as the "French and Indian War" in the US)
- ends with the collapse of French power in North AmericaAlmost continuous military conflict among European states through the 17th and much of the 18th Centuries
- mainly involving territories in Europe
- but spilled over into North America
- culminating in the withdrawal of France from North America in 1763
Treaty of Paris 1763France cedes all possessions in North America to Britain
-except Miquelon and St. Pierre and fishing rights in Newfoundland
Royal Proclamation of 1763
reserving interior lands for the native people
In 1759 the British attacked, overwhelmed, and destroyed Quebec in a decisive military victory.
Quebec Act 1774Defined Quebec, limiting the colony to the immediate vicinity of the St. Lawrence
Guarantees to preserve
- rights of Roman Catholic religion
- the French Civil Code
- French language and culture
The arrangements made by the British government in 1763 were more fully spelled out in the Quebec Act of 1774 which:
However, much of the commercial life of the colony was soon taken over by English-speaking immigrants from England, Scotland, and the American colonies.
Even more significant for the future course of development in British North America was the effect the destruction of New France as a military threat had on the relations between Britain and the older British colonies to the south.
With the destruction of French
power in the region, the American colonies no longer needed the protection
of British military force to ensure their own security.
NextThe American Revolution
The causes of the American Revolution?
- less clear than older historians
made them out to be
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