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The globalisation of codfish and wool: Spanish-English-North American triangular trade in the early modern period

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This paper analyses the transformation of two of the staple trades of the pre-modern international economy –those in wool and dried codfish– during the transition from the late medieval to the early-modern period. The development of early modern long-distance trade was subject to three major constraints: transport, balance of payments problems leading to bilateralism and the lack of credit markets. Economic history has concentrated in particular on the first of these. By contrast this paper provides new data for the wool and fish trades that create the basis for an in depth analysis of how balance of payments problems and credit restrictions could be minimised. We show that the integration of these two very different commodity trades was a clear strategy to overcome these constraints. Their integration in turn led to a de-monopolisation of pre-existing commercial networks and transformed both the supply and distribution networks of both goods. Finally, the paper analyses resulting alterations of the economic geography of these trades.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22363/1/wp71.pdf

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