Silver Trade

Topics: EconomicsTrade


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Last updated: October 4, 2019

Silver is defined as precious shiny grayish-white transition metal. the key word in this definition is precious. Silver was the great start of global trade. In the 1550s, silver mined in the Americas became available to Spain, then to the rest of western Europe, as well as to China directly by way of Spanish galleon voyages across the Pacific Ocean.

Silver financed Europe’s increasing involvement in the economy of maritime Asia and subsequently provided the basis of the emergence of an Atlantic-centered world economy by 1800.Chinese silver production was declining by the 1430s, and the nation was silver-hungry by the time that dramatic new supplies began coming in from Japan around 1530, just before the arrival of the Europeans. From the 1530s to the 1570s, Japan was China’s major source of silver. Massive amounts flowed into China, mainly in exchange for silk, but gold and jewels were also exported, and china and porcelain were often used as valuable ballast.

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At first, the silver trade with Japan was illegal, as the Ming Emperors tried to impose state control over it, but certainly in the 1540s there was a flourishing smuggling trade along most of the Chinese coast. When the Ming made a determined effort to stop smuggling around 1540 they realized that there were literally hundreds of smuggling boats operating out of illicit ports. Because of the illegality of much of this trade, it is practically impossible to find details of amounts. Around 1610 the supply of silver began to drop off, partly because of the arrival of large numbers of Dutch and English pirates and traders.The dramatic increase of silver production at Potosi dates from when they arrived in Manila in 1571, and immediately began trade with Chinese merchants, once again exchanging New World silver for silks, gold, and porcelain (they also traded for spices, but within the Philippines). As early as 1573 two Spanish galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco with cargoes of silk and porcelain, and a galleon seized by the English raider Thomas Cavendish in 1587 was carrying silks worth 30 tonnes of silver.It’s clear, then, that the Spanish dramatically added to the supply of silver reaching Ming China, beginning in the 1570s and probably increasing dramatically after that. With all the silver being traded the Chinese had come to want people to pay their taxes in silver.

This was hard for those farmers who relied on paying their taxes in crops to having to find silver to pay taxes with. Therefore china had a huge part in the silver trade. imagine being taken from your family at the age of eight, this for many affricans was a devastating thing.When most of the Native Americans died of mining for silver, african slaves where casted to take their place. In tight ships they were brought over to mine for silver when the got off the boat the were placed in groups with people that did not speak their language so it was very hard to plan an escape with those who don’t understand you. An estimated total of 30,000 African slaves were taken to Potosi during the colonial era. Since mules would die after a couple of months pushing the mills, the colonists replaced the four mules with twenty African slaves. this was just cruel and unfair but the African salves did not speak up.

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