Numerous factors changed the balance of power in terms of trade between different regions throughout the world during 1400 to 1700. In the course of this time, Europe becomes a dominant force in the emerging trade market through discovery and colonization. When we look to the past many people presuppose that Europe was always going to become a big power in the growing world trade market. In actuality when you consider the leaders, merchants and technologies it’s seen that Europe was as a matter of fact very fortunate things worked out the way they did.
At the beginning of the 1400s Europe was seen as an unpleasant region to deal with, what came along with this is that Europe’s trade power was not significant at all. This image comes from their unseemly villages, constant regional warfare between one another, uprisings that would be stopped violently, and most importantly in terms of trading and or bartering, nobody wanted the European crude goods merchants had for sale or for barter. Another reason this is the case is the mindset of the European people in this era. The European people and nations were always attempting to conquer and believing they are superior this is proven by Christopher Columbus’s journal from the 1530s, “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force” showing that his first instinct is to take these people over. Later he continues to write to Spain’s monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella explaining how he would bring home six people as they can become servants for them because Columbus saw them as ingenious. “If It please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your highness [Spain’s monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella] that they may learn our language…”. Lastly, he goes on to write “I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased…” further showing the mindset of Europe at the time. All in all, Europe did not position itself well to become a leader in global trade as of then, but that would change.
Even though all of those factors made Europe unappealing. Europe was about to kickstart its path to becoming the Europe we know. This can be displayed using statistics like the GDP per capita (in 1990 international dollars) where in the year 1500 was $771 and in 1600 it grows to $889 then to $997 in 1700. With the age of discovery came new concepts, developments, and a little bit of thievery for tools they used in travel. Tons of things that favour growth start to happen. Europe was introducing the idea of private property which would further the sense of stability civilians would feel since land would be normally owned by monarchs. Hunger was not as big of an issue anymore because the Columbian exchange from the Americas helped Europe create a lot more food for the population and eventually a surplus of 140000 tons of grain would then be sent to growing cities by water and land which expanded more opportunity for trade. Another factor that helped Europe were their birthrates. They were under the biological maximum limit which then meant that quality of life was getting better than the normal resulting in better everything in general. This helped people better afford goods. Then comes investing, wealthier citizens began investing money they had earned back into the economy. Over time this process really multiplies yields and profits if invested correctly. Lastly, Europeans benefited greatly off of other regional inventions. Inventions like the magnetic compass, the stern rudder, and hulls of watertight compartments are all ideas that they had got from the Chinese who they ultimately got from the Muslims. Not to mention the astrolabe and triangle sails for ships came from the Arabs. As well as cannons were a Chinese creation. We can now see how European travel was powered mostly by foreign invention and ideas. If it isn’t for other regions coming up with these inventions that aid travel so well Europe is not as effective when it comes to colonization and travel via water and in turn makes their trade less desirable, this would change a lot of history as we know it. During this time Nation-states were beginning to emerge in Portugal, Spain, France, England and other countries. These nation states would be aligned with monarchs and made alliances with powerful people for example merchants, bankers and entrepreneurs. These nation states were important because they frequently funded exploration and or colonization to profit for the monarchs. Overall all of these factors effected the development of trade for western Europe.
A huge part of this era is the takeover of Constantinople by the Ottomans. The Ottomans were a huge power that had land in current day Iraq, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, eastern Europe, and southern Europe. Constantinople was described as by the ottomans using a famous Arabic quote” I’ve seen the towns of all the world but nowhere saw I one like this”. Constantinople was ceased by Sultan Mehmed the second. This is very important event because of where the city of located. This city captured a large percentage of trade passing through to Europe and the other way around, and to do business as a merchant a fee was needed from the Ottoman Empire. Eventually, with Italian traders in the Mediterranean and the ottoman empire blocking their way and making it tricky for them to do business east of Constantinople, Portugal Prince Henry ordered ship down the west coast of Africa to find another option to trade eastward. In the year 1487 they eventually reached the southern tip of Africa and about a year later finished the trip to India with the guidance of an Indian navigator. This discovery eventually resulted in trading posts. For about 100 years Portugal controlled this trade route. In the years 1500 to 1599 Portugal sailed 705 ships to Asia, where the second best were the Netherlands with a measly 65. Although this changed during the 1600s where the Netherlands sent 1770 ships compared to Portugal’s 371, England also sent 811 ships and France sent 155.