The Expansion of Europe in the
I. Agriculture and the Land
A. The Open-Field System
The open-field system was the great accomplishment
of medieval agriculture.
Three field rotations helped keep fields fertile.
Traditional village rights reinforced traditional
patterns of farming.
Peasants were exploited in a number of ways, with
those in Eastern Europe generally the worst off.
B. The Agricultural Revolution
The use of more complex systems of crop rotation
increased the amount of land under cultivation.
Grain crops were alternated with nitrogen-storing
The open-field system was ended by “enclosing” the
fields, particularly in England.
The enclosure movement meant an end to common
lands and to the independence of the rural poor who
relied on them to survive.
C. The Leadership of the Low Countries and
Prior to the agricultural revolution, Holland was already the most
advanced country in Europe in many areas. By the midseventeenth century intensive farming was well established
throughout the Netherlands.
One important Dutch advantage was a very dense population.
The English were adept at learning from the Dutch.
Jethro Tull gained fame in experimental agriculture and animal
By the mid-eighteenth century, English agriculture was in the
process of a radical transformation.
Half of all English land was enclosed by 1700.
By 1700 a distinctive pattern of landownership and production
existed in England.
Enclosure marked the emergence of market-oriented estate
agriculture and of a landless rural proletariat.
II. The Beginning of the Population Explosion
A. The Limitation on Population Growth
Famine, disease, and war were the usual checks on
Europe’s population growth was kept fairly low.
B. The New Pattern of the Eighteenth Century
Fewer deaths occurred in part due to the
disappearance of the plague.
Advances in medicine did little to decrease the
Improved sanitation promoted better public
An increase in the food supply meant fewer
famines and epidemics.
III. Cottage Industry and Urban Guilds
A. The Putting-Out System
The two main participants in the putting-out system
were the merchant capitalist and the rural worker.
Merchants loaned, or “put-out”, raw materials to
workers who processed the raw materials and
returned finished goods to the merchant.
The putting-out system grew because it had
Rural manufacturing did not spread across Europe at
an even rate.
B. The Textile Industry
Throughout most of Europe’s history, the textile
industry has employed more people than any other
Most participants in cottage industry worked in
Cottage industry was a family enterprise.
Relations between workers and employers were often
marked by conflict.
C. Urban Guilds
Europe’s guild system reached its highest point in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Guild masters were at the top of the world of work
Guilds jealously restricted their membership.
The power of guilds varied across Europe,
Critics of guilds saw them as obstacles to innovation
Over the course of the eighteenth century, some
guilds grew more accessible to women.
D. The Industrious Revolution
One scholar has used the term “industrious
revolution” to describe Europe’s social and economic
Northern European households made new choices
about the allocation of time and resources,
The impact of these new patterns of the quality of life
for ordinary people is hotly debated.
Economic and social change in the eighteenth
century laid the foundation for the Industrial
IV. Building the World Economy
A. Mercantilism and Colonial Wars
English mercantilism was characterized by government regulations that
served the interests both of the state of private individuals. Mercantilism
in other European countries generally served only state interests.
The Navigation Acts of 1651-1663 were a form of economic warfare
against Dutch domination of Atlantic shipping. They gave British
monopoly on trade with Britain’s North America colonies.
After defeating the Dutch, England fought a series of wars with France
for maritime domination of the world.
War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713)
War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748)
The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) ended with British winning full control over India and
London grew into the West’s largest and richest city.
Colonial populations provided an expanding market for English
English exports were increasingly balanced and diversified.
Despite their losses, the French profited enormously from colonial trade.
B. Land and Labor in British America
In Britain’s North American colonies cheap land and
scarce labor resulted in the following:
Rapid increase in the colonial population in the eighteenth
Import of African slaves to tobacco plantations in southern
Growing prosperity for British colonies.
C. The Atlantic Slave Trade
The forced migration of millions of Africans was a
key element in the Atlantic system and western
Europeans economic expansion.
After 1700, Britain was the undisputed leader of the
Increasing demands led to rising prices for African
Africans participated in the trade.
After 1775, a campaign to abolish slavery developed
D. Revival in Colonial Latin America
Under Philip V (r 1700-1746) Spain recovered
economically and successfully defended her American
Rising silver exports in the eighteenth century helped
create a class of wealthy Creole (people of Spanish blood
born in America) merchants.
Creole estate owners dominated much of the peasant
population through debt peonage, really a form of
The large middle group in the Spanish colonies were the
mestizos, the offspring of Spanish men and Indian
E. Trade and Empire in Asia
Europeans vied for dominance of Asian trade,
At the end of the sixteenth century, the Dutch became
major players in the Asian spice trade.
The Dutch replaced the Portuguese as the dominant
European power in the Indian Ocean trade world,
transforming Asian business partners into dependents.
In the eighteenth century, the Dutch faced fierce
competition from the English East India Company.
The British focused their attention on India.
Britain’s great rival in India was France.
By the early 1800’s, the British had gained economic and
political dominance over much of the subcontinent.
F. Adam Smith and Economic Liberalism
Smith challenged mercantilist ideas with his
defense of free trade and his argument for keeping
government interference in the economy to a
minimum (The Wealth of Nations ).
Smith was one of the Enlightenment’s most
His work became the basis of the classic argument
for economic liberalism.