The Atlantic System

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How did the Atlantic System affect Europe, Africa, and the Americas? (The Earth and Its Peoples, 500)

The movement of goods, people, and wealth in the late 17th and 18th centuries permanently changed societies across the continents of Europe, Africa, and North and South America, thereby increasing the reach of globalization in the modern age. Most influential to this movement was what is sometimes referred to as “The Atlantic Circuit”, a triangle of trade between Western Europe, western Africa, and the West Indies. Out of this circuit came the rapid growth of the Atlantic slave trade, which not only established multiple industries of agriculture, but significantly changed the economies of all countries involved. The agriculture industries, in combination with further colonization transformed the land of the Americas, and the impacted diets across the world. Capitalist systems and mercantilist policies provided structure to trade, and allowed both private investors and nations to profit from it. These systems laid the foundation for future economies by creating new levels of power and interaction between the private and public sectors and, in the process, generating many successes and failures.

One of the most significant catalysts of the system was the growth of the Atlantic slave trade. The success sugar plantations of the West Indies and the colonial expansions in South America would not have been possible without African slave labor. Although African slaves were expensive, approximately equivalent to 6.5 thousand USD in today’s currency , compared to natives or indentured servants from Europe, they were seen as a better investment. The mercantilist policies of European states such as England and the Netherl...

... middle of paper ... policy, the many edicts established during his time bolstered the domestic economy, and succeeded in growing overseas trade. The main purpose behind his interests was competition with the Dutch, who had secured many trade interests in the East and the West, and whose naval forces dwarfed those of the French. Originally, Colbert had sought to ally with the English against the Dutch, however, in the establishment of these policies the two nations became lasting rivals.

Works Cited

Original figure: Bulliet et al. « The Earth and Its Peoples » . Houghton Mifflin Company. 2005.

Conversion to modern worth: Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson. « Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2010 » MeasuringWorth. 2011.

Conversion to USD: Citibank, N.A. via Google. Retrieved September 2011.
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