American Economic System

The economic system in the Americas during the time period of 1450-1750 was a time period marked by the introduction of colonization and slavery. European countries, specifically Spain, England, and France, influenced the creation and expansion of these economic systems heavily.

European Interaction with Americas


Spanish Colonization
Many European countries made strong efforts to colonize the Americas. The Spanish were one of the first to do so. Starting in the 16th century, Spain set out to conquer lands in Central and South America. They set up their first colonies in the Caribbean, and went on to conquer the areas of the Aztecs (Mexico) and the Inca (Peru). A very important motive of the conquests was to bring in money for Spain through trading and silver and gold mining, and in areas where there was no gold or silver, plantations were set up.
The methods of labor and taxation for the Spanish Colonies were the Encomienda amd Mita systems. The Encomienda System was primarily used for agricultural work. Encomenderos were put in control of a certain area of natives and put them to work and taxed them as needed. The Inca introduced the Mita system and the Spanish adopted it for their colonies. The Mita system was a system to support the elite and elderly through mandatory work (usually silver mining) for a portion of the year. After their months of work were done, they were allowed to return to normal life until they had go back and work again. Both of these systems did not last because the natives doing the work slowly died off.
Slavery was also used a lot by the Spanish colonies. Most of the slaves shipped to the Americas before 1650 ended up going to sugar plantations in Spanish colonies in South America. After 1650, more and more slaves were shipped to the Caribbean to work on the sugar plantations there. Although sugar was not native to the Caribbean, it grew well there and produced great profit. The plantations had many fields of sugar cane, as well as a mill and processing plant, which required many slaves to work in hot and demanding conditions. Most of the slaves were male and many died of disease, so slaves had to constantly be shipped in to work the plantations. The sugar produced was very important because many countries relied on it, and Spain’s American colonies were very important to world trade and contributed greatly to Spain’s wealth.

English Colonization
The English arrived in America by the 17th century. They laid claim to the area the Spanish did not, which was the North American east coast. Most of the colonies were set up by trading companies like the London Company that set up the Jamestown colony. The northern colonies had farms that were usually family run. The southern colonies were more suitable for large plantations, and slaves quickly became an important part of the South’s economy. The slaves would work on plantations in the south. In Virginia and some neighboring states the staple crop was tobacco. Tobacco was becoming very popular in Europe in this time and slaves were the only way to keep the production level up because many people were needed to harvest it. In areas like South Carolina, cotton and rice caused plantations to be very large and consist of hundreds of slaves.
Mercantilism was also a big part of the English colonies economic interaction with England. Mercantilism is an economic doctrine that controls foreign trade with the nation’s colonies and restricts their trade so they can only trade with the mother country. Mercantilism did not benefit the colony but it did benefit the income of the controlling country.

French Colonization
The French decided to explore and colonize a wide range of areas in the 17th century. They set up colonies ranging from Canada to Louisiana to Haiti. These colonies were set up mainly to export items like furs, fish, and sugar.

Columbian Exchange
The Columbian Exchange was the trade routes through the Atlantic Ocean that linked the Americas, Europe, and Africa through trade and had a major impact on the world economy.

Europe to the Americas
The items exchanged from Europe to the Americas were mainly horses, cows, pigs, wheat, barley, sugar cane, melons and grapes

Americas to Europe
The items exchanged from the Americas to Europe were mainly corn, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, beans, pineapples, peppers, tobacco, and chocolate.

American Interaction with Africa

Columbian Exchange

Africa to the Americas
The items exchanged from Africa to the Americas also include Asian products. These items were mainly bananas, coconut palms, coffee, sugar cane, goats, and chickens. Slaves were also shipped along the Middle Passage.

Americas to Africa
The products shipped from the Americas to Africa were generally the same products that were shipped to Europe (corn, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, beans, pineapples, peppers, tobacco, chocolate)