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Geography, Early Modern Colonialism and Central Europe’s Atlantic Trade

  • Klaus Weber (a1)

Abstract

Only during the last decade or so has Germany been considered more systematically as a factor in European Expansion from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. The effects of the Price Revolution – a decline in wages and prices stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to Central and Eastern Europe – favoured the growth of labour-intensive cottage industries, largely in the textile sector. Central Europe’s geographic features – reliable precipitation supports forestry and feeds rivers, providing hydro-energy for machines and transport lanes from hinterlands to maritime ports – favoured energy-intensive production of steel-, brass- and glass-ware, all destined for colonial markets and for the barter trade against slaves from the West African coast. Early on, these commodity flows and commercial networks had integrated German territories into the colonial empires of the Western sea powers, laying the groundwork for the colonial adventures of the Wilhelmine Empire.

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2.This contribution draws on two previous articles of mine, and intends to further elaborate the issue: K. Weber (2015) Mitteleuropa und der transatlantische Sklavenhandel: eine lange Geschichte. In WerkstattGeschichte, pp. 7–30. K. Weber (2015) Linen, silver, slaves, and coffee: a spatial approach to central Europe’s entanglements with the Atlantic economy. In Culture & History Digital Journal, 4(2), www.cultureandhistory.revistas.csic.es/index. It also benefits from support granted by the Instituto de Historia of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in the context of the project Una ruta Global: Análisis histórico con bases de datos y geovisualización espacio-temporal del comercio marítimo internacional (1717–1850), GlobalNetHAR2011-27694.
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