The World from 1450 to 1700

By John E. Wills Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
New Shapes of Power,
1570–1610

In 1694 Sir Josiah Child, at that time the dominant figure in the English East India Company, wrote, “Trade does contribute in a very great measure to the honor, strength, wealth, and preservation of our government.”1 The idea that there can be a synergy of profit and power, that increase of private wealth and profit, and increase of the coercive power of the state can, indeed must, support each other and interact positively, is a commonplace today. Rulers who do not facilitate the growth of their national economies lose legitimacy almost as quickly as those who are bullied by other countries. Strong economies are in themselves sources of the “soft power” of aid, commercial expansion, and cultural influence, and they pay for military power.

The possibility that profit and power could support each other was not commonplace in the world of 1450; it would be quite a bit more widely understood and pursued by 1700. Englishmen, Frenchmen, Spaniards, and many others had been arguing about the best policies to produce private wealth and national strength since the early 1500s. At several times in China’s long history, statesmen had pursued fuguo qiangbing (fu guoh chiahng bing), a rich state and a strong military, but this was definitely wealth in the service of power and not vice versa. Venice and Genoa had battled for centuries before 1400 for domination of the profitable trades of the eastern Mediterranean. Shifting diplomatic alliances, the pursuit of profit and power together, the possibilities and limits of exploiting a conquest, all were highly developed in the statecraft of Renaissance Italy. This statecraft spread to northern Europe as a coherent nation-state system developed, and states adopted “mercantilist” policies. These were measures that were supposed to promote profitpower synergies by giving a monopoly of a line of trade or of the right to produce certain luxury goods to the nation’s own businessmen.

But to the statesmen of the “gunpowder empires,” Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal, it seemed that prosperity and commercial profit were likely to lead to political instability and loss of power. One difficulty was that so many of the most adept merchants and artisans were not

-72-

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The World from 1450 to 1700
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Editors’ Preface xi
  • Prologue- Texas - And the World 1
  • Chapter 1 - Islam and a Wider World, 1450–1490 7
  • Chapter 2 - Columbian Exchanges, 1490–1530 26
  • Chapter 3 - Old Ways Made New, 1530–1570 49
  • Chapter 4 - New Shapes of Power, 1570–1610 72
  • Chapter 5 - Settlers and Diasporas, 1610–1640 96
  • Chapter 6 - Time of Troubles, 1640–1670 119
  • Chapter 7 - Toward an Early Modern World, 1670–1700 140
  • Chronology 155
  • Notes 157
  • Further Reading 160
  • Web Sites 164
  • Acknowledgments 166
  • Index 168
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