Between 1400 and 1800 most of the states of Western Europe were heavily influenced by an "economic policy known as mercantilism. No general definition of mercantilism is entirely satisfactory, but for the purposes of this paper it is thought of as a collection of policies designed to keep the state prosperous by economic regulation. Secondly, it was a series of economic controls intended to strengthen the military and colonies of a country, against other antagonistic empires. These two principles of mercantilism are interconnected, and they give an accurate view of the common attitude that shaped this time period. This concept has been coined as "nation building.
Before this time period commerce was literally viewed as a sin. There was no moral/ethical allowance for merchants to make any profit from trade. This was reflected by the Church's control over economic dealings. But the decline of the medieval feudal economy gave rise to nation-states, bringing forth a revolution in commercial activity. This revolution sparked new thinking in wealth accumulation. Instead of viewing money as a mortal sin, it was now seen as the main source of a nation's wealth. No longer was the market viewed as an entity in its own right, independent of the state, but viewed as a political institution designed to serve the national interest. (Duchesne pp. 7)
With the rise of the nation-state, there was awareness that the central government could become more powerful if they could accumulate more wealth through trade. The driving force behind virtually all trade was the merchant. Merchants slowly adopted a doctrine called the "balance of trade theory , which says that the source of wealth comes from selling more than one bought, especially in regards to other nations. Therefore, international trade was passionately pursued, to enhance the accumulation of wealth. As the economist Thomas Mun sugges... Continue Reading