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How Mercantilism Helped to Shape the American Nation In the Middle Ages the definition of wealth was based on the amount of productive land According to this definition France was the wealthiest and therefore the most powerful of the European nations During the sixteenth century the definition of wealth began to change As the ability to conduct profitable foreign trade increased so did the amount of cash Thus the new definition of wealth came to mean the gain of cash or specie Specie included gold silver or bullion The wealthiest nation became the one with the most cash and therefore the most powerful nation As the redefining of wealth took hold there was an increased desire and ability to conduct foreign trade on a larger scale as cash became the new medium of exchange in contrast to bartering Mercantilism began to take hold of the countries of Europe Mercantilism was characterized by the governmental regulation of industries trade and commerce This was especially true with foreign trade and was determined more by national aims rather than individual or local interests This new quest for trade began the Age of Expansion in the early fourteen hundreds This era ushered in a search for new sources of revenues and focus turned toward the colonization of the New World The Portuguese Spanish and English directed many efforts of colonization and development toward this new land in an attempt to establish themselves as the economic leaders of the world As mercantilism began to change so did the power flux of the European countries Thus began the shaping of North America as we know it The Age of Expansion brought many changes to medieval Europe During this period the countries of Europe began to look beyond their borders In Europe there was nowhere to grow This being the case the only place to turn was west Portugal came into existence in the early 1400s It is a small country
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