From the seventh century to the sixteenth century, the stability of the gold coin in the Byzantine Empire and later European empires made it the base currency throughout the West---but that would not remain true forever. In the eighth century, the Frankish King Pepin III initiated the usage of the silver coin. As European exploration of foreign lands intensified during the sixteenth century, silver earned a high-ranking position on the global market as one of the most economically valuable natural resources in the world. The availability of silver increased and its popularity prompted the opening of new European and South American mines. As more mines were established, European governments started to issue larger silver coins, lessening the usage of gold currency starting in the seventeenth century---and this practice eventually pervaded China to an almost unfathomable extent. But the global flow of silver from the mid-sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century was certainly not without its social and economic advantages and disadvantages.
The social effects of the silver flow were mixed---and the good and bad were never in equilibrium. Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Africa experienced greater cultural diffusion as the global market for silver through maritime trade strengthened---and while this in itself was positive, there were certainly negative outcomes, as well. In Asia, silver was all the rage; China wanted plenty of it and Japan acquired huge amounts of it from Portuguese traders. A British merchant named Ralph Fitch accounted that "When the Portuguese go from...the most southern port city in China to Japan, they carry
What's most crucial to understand about silver was that its widespread usage starting in the sixteenth century spawned a global network of trade, connecting the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia under an almost universal currency for the first time ever. The economic effects of the silver flow were mixed, as well. As European...
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