Skip to main content Accessibility help

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

  • Klaus Weber (a1)


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.



Hide All
1. Brahm, F. and Rosenhaft, E. (Eds) (2016) Slavery Hinterland: Transatlantic Slavery and Continental Europe 1680-1850 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer).
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), 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.
3. Crouzet, F. (1996) Wars, blockade, and economic change in Europe, 1792–1815. In S. Engerman (Ed.), Trade and the Industrial Revolution, 1700–1850 (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar), pp. 191212, see p. 192.
4. Kindleberger, Ch. P. (1996) World Economic Primacy: 1500-1990 (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press), quote from p. 22. Ch. P. Kindleberger (1984) A Financial History of Western Europe (London, Boston, Sydney: Allen & Unwin), pp. 117–122.
5. Weber, K. (2004) Deutsche Kaufleute im Atlantikhandel 1680-1830: Unternehmen und Familien in Hamburg, Cádiz und Bordeaux (Munich: C. H. Beck). M. Schulte Beerbühl (2007) Deutsche Kaufleute in London. Welthandel und Einbürgerung (1600-1818) (Munich: Oldenbourg). J. Poettering (2013) Handel, Nation und Religion. Kaufleute zwischen Hamburg und Portugal im 17. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
6. von Stromer, W. (1978) Die Gründung der Baumwollindustrie im Mittelalter (Stuttgart: Hiersemann).
7. Häberlein, M. (2012) The Fuggers of Augsburg: Pursuing Wealth and Honor in Renaissance Germany (Charlottesville, London: University of Virginia Press). M. Małowist (2009) Portuguese expansion in Africa and European economy at the turn of the 15th Century. In J. Batou and H. Szlajfer (Eds), Western Europe, Eastern Europe and World Development, 13th-18th Centuries. Collection of Essays of Marian Małowist (Leiden: Brill), pp. 373–393, see p. 389.
8. Makepeace, M. (1989) English traders on the Guinea Coast, 1657–1668: an analysis of the East India Company archive. In History of Africa, 16, pp. 237–284, see pp. 239, 255–268. E. Saugera (1995) Bordeaux port négrier. Chronologie, économie, idéologie, XVII e -XIX e siècles (Biarritz, Paris: Karthala), pp. 246, 352.
9.Recent investigation (work in progress) by A. Steffen at the National Archives (Kew), in the context of the project ‘The Globalized Periphery’: Also see A. Steffen and K. Weber (2016) Spinning and weaving for the slave trade: proto-industry in eighteenth-century Silesia. In F. Brahm and E. Rosenhaft (Eds), Slavery Hinterland: Transatlantic Slavery and Continental Europe 1680-1850 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer), pp. 87–107, see pp. 88–92.
10. Kriedte, P., Medick, H. and Schlumbohm, J. (1981) Industrialization before Industrialization: Rural Industry in the Genesis of Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). H. Medick (1997) Weben und Überleben in Laichingen 1650-1900. Lokalgeschichte als Allgemeine Geschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). M. Cerman and S. Ogilvie (1996) European Proto-Industrialization. An Introductory Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
11. Sprengel, R. (1996) Kritik der Geopolitik: ein deutscher Diskurs, 1914-1944 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag), pp. 101105, 112–132, 141–147.
12. Deutsch, K. (1981) On nationalism, world regions and the nature of the west. In P. Torsvik (Ed.), Mobilisation, Center–Periphery Structures and Nation-Building, A Volume in Commemoration of Stein Rokkan (Bergen: Universitetsvorlaget), pp. 5191, see pp. 62–65.
13. Kriedte, P., Medick, H. and Schlumbohm, J. (1981) Industrialization before Industrialization: Rural Industry in the Genesis of Capitalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 86.
14. Zeuske, M. and Ludwig, J. (1995) Amerikanische Kolonialwaren in Preußen und Sachsen: Prolegomena. In Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas, 32, pp. 257–301, see p. 274.
15. Kossok, M. (2000) Die Bedeutung des spanisch-amerikanischen Kolonialmarktes für den preußischen Leinwandhandel am Ausgang des 18. und zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts. In M. Middell (Ed.), Manfred Kossok. Ausgewählte Schriften. Kolonialgeschichte und Unabhängigkeitsbewegungen in Lateinamerika, vol. 1, (Leipzig: Leipziger University-Verlag)), pp. 171178.
16. Conrad, S. (2013) Rethinking German colonialism in a global age. In The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 41(4), pp. 543–566 (Special Issue: German Colonialism). D. Blackbourn (2012) Germany and the birth of the modern world, 1780-1820. In GHI Bulletin 51 (Washington: German Historical Institute Washington), pp. 9–21.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed