What was the role of trade in the commercial capitalism?

As the name indicates, Commercial Capitalism emerged primarily out of profits of trade and commerce. The nature of this trade is considered to be long- distance trade.

According to Fernand Braudel, long-distance trade undoubtedly played a leading role in the genesis of merchant capitalism and was for a long time its backbone.

The views of modern historians, however, are hostile to it in many ways.

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Jacques Heers, for example, writing about the Mediterranean in the 15th century, insists that there were a large number of short- range trades, instead of long-distance trade, the greatest traffic being in grain, wood and salt.

Peter Mathias has also established with statistics that England’s foreign trade on the eve of the Industrial Revolution was considerably smaller than her domestic trade. It has been argued that inter-regional trade within Europe was a hundred times greater in the 16th century than the exchange between Europe and the New World.

Braudel says that even though the volume of local trade might have been much greater and therefore the trade in the Mediterranean was in a position of minority, the value of minority in history should not be overlooked, though, he admits, today’s historiography is concerned primarily with the experience of majority, of the millions forgotten by previous schools of history.

In the first place, Braudel continues, long-distance trade, known to German historians as Ferhandel, created groups of Fernhandler – import-export merchants, who were always a category apart.


They introduced themselves into the circuit between the artisan and his distant raw materials – wool, silk, cotton. They also interposed themselves between the finished product and its marketing in distant places.

The products of far-off lands also found their way into the hands of the import- export merchant like silk from China and Persia, pepper from India, cinnamon from Ceylon etc.

The risks of long-distance trade were great, but so were its profits. According to Braudel, the long list of long-distance trade shows that distance alone could create ordinary everyday conditions for profiteering.

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