Early Globalization and the Economic Development of the United States and Brazil

By John Dewitt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Atlantic Ocean Circulation Systems, Early Settlements, and Land Distribution Systems

The Atlantic Ocean has distinct circulation systems north and south of the equator. The northern system made travel to British America during the age of sail easier and faster than to Portuguese America. Even more important for economic development, the northern circulation system offered much greater fish resources and commercial opportunities than were available in the South Atlantic.

American colonies were established to improve the economies of the mother countries. Plantation colonies extended from Chesapeake Bay in North America through the Caribbean to Guanabara Bay in Brazil. Exporting agricultural products to Europe and importing manufactured goods, they were close to the mercantilist ideal. Colonies on the fringes of the plantation region were of little direct economic interest to the European parent.

Within plantation America large landholdings predominated, creating a society where a few large landowners controlled political and economic life while the vast majority of landless agricultural workers, slave and free, were exploited by wealthy planters. In British America north and west of the plantation zone, land was distributed to family farmers who formed a large agricultural middle class with political and economic influence. The aim of U.S. land policy was to settle poor farmers on small farms. The goal of land policy in Brazil was to provide wealthy farmers with huge landholdings.

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