We in the 21st century like to think of our time as the era of globalization. In fact, the birth of that era took place some five hundred years ago—as the author shows in this fascinating, original work of economic history. He traces the roots of globalization to the rapacious pursuit of gold, silver, and copper in the 16th century, when empires were won and lost based on their ability to find, exploit, or control increasingly large volumes of mineral wealth. This book tells the story of how the closely-related states of Portugal, Spain, and the later Dutch Republic were able to check the powerful Ottoman Empire, supersede the great Italian city-states, and overturn centuries of Muslim commercial domination in Africa and Asia. Their phenomenal rise to power was achieved mainly through the exploitation of mineral resources in Central Europe, Africa, the Americas, and Japan. In the process, they created the first multinational corporations, launched scores of boomtowns, and squandered huge amounts of capital. The Europeans also destroyed indigenous societies across the globe through policies of colonial subjugation that still cast a shadow on our contemporary world. This lively narrative includes larger-than-life characters—the epic voyagers Columbus, Da Gama, and Magellan; the great Iberian monarchs and their merchant bankers; and conquistadors like Cortes and Pizarro—as well as obscure entrepreneurs who scoured the globe for precious metals, introduced important new technologies, and made the first European visits to Japan and New York harbor. He documents how the mineral wealth that funded the first global empires was dissipated in a series of never-ending wars in Europe, culminating in a succession of Spanish state bankruptcies, the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the rise of the Dutch Republic in the northern half of the Spanish Netherlands. The underestimated Dutch emerged as the world’s most powerful trading nation at century’s end. It was they who co-opted the Iberian achievements and served as a commercial bridge to the later triumphs of the British Empire and the United States. This engrossing popular history makes many intriguing connections between sources of economic wealth and the rise of empires, showing that the forces of globalization have been five centuries in the making.
"Erlichman has written a quite fascinating popular history of the role played by the overseas expansion of the Iberian nations in the sixteenth century. Conquest, Tribute, and Trade is a well-researched and well-told saga of international rivalries between the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Ottoman empires, the international search for minerals, and the sometimes unexpected similarities between then and now."
--Stanley Engerman, John H. Munro Professor of Economics and professor of history, University of Rochester
"A fascinating account of the attempts of Portugal and Spain to find a new route to the spice markets of the Indies after Muslims had taken control of the overland avenues through the eastern Mediterranean; the inadvertent discovery of gold and silver in the Americas; the consequences of massive inflows of wealth on nascent European politics; and the ultimate emergence of a new world economy centered in Amsterdam…. All in all, informative, full of new insights, and an enjoyable read."
--Brian J. L. Berry, Lloyd Viel Berkner Regental Professor and dean of the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas