Commercial revolution refers to the era of European colonialism, mercantilism and economic expansion. This period lasted from the thirteenth century till the start of the eighteenth century and was succeeded by industrial revolution in the middle eighteenth century. Europeans made the rediscovery of silks, spices as well as other commodities which were rare in Europe. Because of this development, the longing for trade was created and in during the second middle Ages half, trade expanded.
Through discovery voyages, European states were searching for new trading routes during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries allowing European powers the opportunity to build new and vast networks for international trade. Additionally, nations also sought after wealth sources. New economic practices and theories were also created for the purpose of dealing with the new found wealth.
As a result of the contending national interest, Europeans were driven by the desire to increase the power they had over the world through colonial empires. In essence, commercial revolution was marked by increases in general commerce as well as the expansion of financial services like insurance, investing as well as banking.
There are two circumstances that led to commercial revolution. Overseas trade preceded commercial revolution and it had many consequences which included Britain’s fleet expansion. This was an English phenomenon however the Scotts became highly engaged later on. Trade went through 3 long growth periods. In 1475-1550, existing English broadcloths markets and that of other woollens expanded rapidly due to the fact that import regions had become prosperous and they even enjoyed great purchasing power. Secondly, there was rise of new trades due to cheaper English sugar re-exports, calicoes and tobacco which created new markets.
The term commercial revolution was coined during the mid twentieth century by Roberto Sabatino Lopez, an economic historian for the purpose of shifting attention from English Industrial Revolution. In one of his best books “The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages” (1971 available in various reprints) the author argues the key contributor to medieval period was creation of commercial economy by the Europeans which was centered on Italo-Byzantine eastern Mediterranean. Eventually though, this extended to Italian city states as well as other areas of Europe.
The revolution lasted from the thirteenth century through to the eighteenth century. Historians such as Robert S. Lopez, Irving W. Raymond and Peter Spufford indicate the revolution begun in the 13th century and not later. There were several factors that contributed to this period and they include technological, monetary as well as geopolitical factors. During this period the center of European economy shifted from one that was Islamic Mediterranean to Western Europe. This change was a result of successful Africa circumnavigation which opened sea trading with the east.
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