Brief notes on the Age of Mercantilism


There is no unanimity amongst scholars regard­ing the age of mercantilism and different dates have been suggested re­garding its existence. For example, Alexander Gray says the mercantilist ideas in crude form appeared about the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century and continued till the second half of the eighteenth century with certain variations and modifications.

On the other hand Cannan says that mercantilism appeared only in the seventeenth century under the influence of the early industrial capitalism which was interested in promoting export trade.

However, both these views are not correct While the first view errs in so far as it assumes the existence of mercantilist ideas before the development of the commercial capitalism, the second is defective in so far as it emphasizes distinction between Mercantilism and Bullionism, which existed long before the dawn of the- mercantilist ideas but this break was not of such a serious nature that it could destroy the essential unity of mercantilist thought.


The most com­mon view is to fix the period of mercantilism between sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries. It may be observed that though mercantilism de­clined after the middle of the eighteenth century, the mercantilist ideas continued to exercise profound influence on the commercial policies of certain countries even after the Second World War.

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