Silver Trade

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Silver is defined as precious shiny grayish-white transition metal. the key word in this definition is precious. Silver was the great start of global trade. In the 1550s, silver mined in the Americas became available to Spain, then to the rest of western Europe, as well as to China directly by way of Spanish galleon voyages across the Pacific Ocean. Silver financed Europe’s increasing involvement in the economy of maritime Asia and subsequently provided the basis of the emergence of an Atlantic-centered world economy by 1800.

Chinese silver production was declining by the 1430s, and the nation was silver-hungry by the time that dramatic new supplies began coming in from Japan around 1530, just before the arrival of the Europeans. From the 1530s to the 1570s, Japan was China's major source of silver. Massive amounts flowed into China, mainly in exchange for silk, but gold and jewels were also exported, and china and porcelain were often used as valuable ballast. At first, the silver trade with Japan was illegal, as the Ming Emperors tried to impose state control over it, but certainly in the 1540s there was a flourishing smuggling trade along most of the Chinese coast. When the Ming made a determined effort to stop smuggling around 1540 they realized that there were literally hundreds of smuggling boats operating out of illicit ports. Because of the illegality of much of this trade, it is practically impossible to find details of amounts. Around 1610 the supply of silver began to drop off, partly because of the arrival of large numbers of Dutch and English pirates and traders. The dramatic increase of silver production at Potosí dates from when they arrived in Manila in 1571, and immediately began trade with Chinese merchants, once again exchanging New World silver for silks, gold, and porcelain (they also traded for spices, but within the Philippines). As early as 1573 two Spanish galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco with cargoes of silk and porcelain,...
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