Atlantic Trade and Commodities, 1402–1815

David Hancock

in The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199210879
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Atlantic Trade and Commodities, 1402–1815

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  • History
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)



This article reviews the transfer of goods and services between the continents bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that the demands of long-distance trade, particularly but not solely across the Atlantic, encouraged innovation in technologies and methods, transformed commercial institutions, and required traders to develop novel ways of managing their businesses. After regaining independence from Spain in 1640, Portugal created a transatlantic trading system that was more vigorous than what had existed before 1580. The long eighteenth century witnessed a precipitate decline of France as an Atlantic commercial power and a steady rise of England. Paradoxically, France's Atlantic trading burgeoned, at least at first. While Britain and France struggled for Atlantic control, the Netherlands flourished, albeit in slightly different channels than before. The increase in the efficiency of shipping, the dematerialisation of finance, and the spread of information were substantial results of a burgeoning Atlantic trade. They also forced changes in traders' and governments' ideas about how commerce should be managed.

Keywords: Atlantic Ocean; trade; goods and services; Spain; Portugal; France; Britain; Netherlands; shipping; commerce

Article.  8132 words. 

Subjects: History ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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