The Homestead Acts were several laws in the United States by which an applicant could acquire ownership of government land or the public domain called a homestead. In all, more than 160 million acres of public land, or nearly 10 percent of the total area of the United States, was given away free to 1.6 million homesteaders. An extension of the homestead principle in law, the Homestead Acts were an expression of the Free Soil policy of Northerners who wanted individual farmers to own and operate their own farms, as opposed to Southern slave-owners who wanted to buy up large tracts of land and use slave labor, thereby shutting out free white farmers; the first of the acts, the Homestead Act of 1862, opened up millions of acres. Any adult who had never taken up arms against the Federal government of the United States could apply. Women and immigrants who had applied for citizenship were eligible; the 1866 Act explicitly included black Americans and encouraged them to participate, but rampant discrimination slowed black gains.
Historian Michael Lanza argues that while the 1866 law pack was not as beneficial as it might have been, it was part of the reason that by 1900 one fourth of all Southern black farmers owned their own farms. Several additional laws were enacted in the latter half of the early 20th centuries; the Southern Homestead Act of 1866 sought to address land ownership inequalities in the south during Reconstruction. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 granted land to a claimant, required to plant trees—the tract could be added to an existing homestead claim and had no residency requirement; the Kinkaid Amendment of 1904 granted a full section—640 acres –to new homesteaders settling in western Nebraska. An amendment to the Homestead Act of 1862, the Enlarged Homestead Act, was passed in 1909 and doubled the allotted acreage from 160 to 320 acres. Another amended act, the national Stock-Raising Homestead Act, was passed in 1916 and again increased the land involved, this time to 640 acres. Land-grant laws similar to the Homestead Acts had been proposed by northern Republicans before the Civil War, but had been blocked in Congress by southern Democrats who wanted western lands open for purchase by slave-owners.
The Homestead Act of 1860 did pass in Congress, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan, a Democrat. After the Southern states seceded from the Union in 1861, the bill passed and was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. Daniel Freeman became the first person to file a claim under the new act. Between 1862 and 1934, the federal government granted 1.6 million homesteads and distributed 270,000,000 acres of federal land for private ownership. This was a total of 10% of all land in the United States. Homesteading was discontinued in 1976, except in Alaska, where it continued until 1986. About 40% of the applicants who started the process were able to complete it and obtain title to their homesteaded land after paying a small fee in cash; the Donation Land Claim Act allowed settlers to claim land in the Oregon Territory including the modern states of Washington, Oregon and parts of Wyoming. Settlers were able to claim 320 or 640 acres of land for free between 1850 and 1854, at a cost of $1.25 per acres until the law expired in 1855.
The "yeoman farmer" ideal of Jeffersonian democracy was still a powerful influence in American politics during the 1840–1850s, with many politicians believing a homestead act would help increase the number of "virtuous yeomen". The Free Soil Party of 1848–52, the new Republican Party after 1854, demanded that the new lands opening up in the west be made available to independent farmers, rather than wealthy planters who would develop it with the use of slaves forcing the yeomen farmers onto marginal lands. Southern Democrats had continually fought previous homestead law proposals, as they feared free land would attract European immigrants and poor Southern whites to the west. After the South seceded and their delegates left Congress in 1861, the Republicans and other supporters from the upper South passed a homestead act; the intent of the first Homestead Act, passed in 1862, was to liberalize the homesteading requirements of the Preemption Act of 1841. Its leading advocates were George Henry Evans and Horace Greeley.
The homestead was an area of public land in the West granted to any US citizen willing to settle on and farm the land. The law required a three-step procedure: file an application, improve the land, file for the patent. Any citizen who had never taken up arms against the U. S. government and was at least 21 years old or the head of a household, could file an application to claim a federal land grant. Women were eligible; the occupant had to reside on the land for five years, show evidence of having made improvements. The process had to be complete within seven years. Enacted to allow poor tenant farmers and sharecroppers in the south become land owners in the southern United States during Reconstruction, it was not successful, as the low prices and fees were too much for the applicants to afford. The Timber Culture Act granted up to 160 acres of land to a homesteader who would plant at least 40 acres of trees over a period of several years; this quarter-section could be added to an existing homestead claim, offering a total of 320 acres to a settler.
This offered a cheap plot of land to homesteaders. Recognizing that the Sandhills of north-central Nebraska, required
History of capitalism
The history of capitalism has diverse and much debated roots, but fully-fledged capitalism is thought to have emerged in Northwestern Europe in the Low Countries and Great Britain, in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. Over the following centuries, capital has accumulated by a variety of different methods, in a variety of scales, associated with a great deal of variation in the concentration of economic power and wealth. Capitalism has become the dominant economic system throughout the world. Much of the history of the past five hundred years is, concerned with the development of capitalism in its various forms, it is an ongoing debate within the fields of economics and sociology as to what the past and future stages of capitalism consist of. While ongoing disagreement about exact stages exists, many economists have posited the following general states; these states are not mutually exclusive and do not represent a fixed order of historical change, but do represent a broadly chronological trend.
Laissez-faire capitalism, a social system in which there exists no government intervention in the economy. Agrarian capitalism, sometimes known as market feudalism; this was a transitional form between feudalism and capitalism, whereby market relations replaced some but not all of feudal relations in a society. Mercantilism, where national governments sought to maintain positive balances of trade and acquire gold bullion. Industrial capitalism, characterized by its use of heavy machinery and a much more pronounced division of labor. Monopoly capitalism, marked by the rise of monopolies and trusts dominating industry as well as other aspects of society. Used to describe the economy of the late 19th and early 20th century. Colonialism, where governments sought to colonize other areas to improve access to markets and raw materials and improve the standing of nationally based capitalist firms. Predominant in the 1890s, notably as a response to the economic crises of the 1890s. Welfare capitalism, where mixed economies predominated and governments sought to provide a safety net to alleviate the worst abuses of capitalism.
The heyday of welfare capitalism is seen to be from 1945 to 1973 as major social safety nets were put in place in most advanced capitalist economies. Mass production, post-World War II, saw the rising hegemony of major corporations and a focus on mass production, mass consumption and mass employment; this stage sees the rise of advertising as a way to promote mass consumption and sees significant economic planning taking place within firms. State capitalism, where the state intervened to prevent economic instability, including or nationalizing certain industries; some economists include the economies of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc in this category. Corporatism, where government and labor collude to make major national decisions. Notable for being an economic model of fascism, it can overlap with, but is still different from state capitalism. Financialization, or financial capitalism, where financial parts of the economy predominate in an economy. Profit becomes more derived from ownership of an asset, credit and earning interest, rather than actual productive processes.
The processes by which capitalism came about and spread, are the subject of extensive research and debate among historians. Debates sometimes circle around how capitalism is bring substantive historical data to bear on key questions. Key parameters of debate include: how far capitalism is a natural human behaviour and how far it arises from specific historical circumstances; the historiography of capitalism can be divided into two broad schools. One is associated with economic liberalism, with the eighteenth-century economist Adam Smith as a foundational figure, one with Marxism, drawing particular inspiration from the nineteenth-century economist Karl Marx. Liberals tend to view capitalism as an expression of natural human behaviours which have been in evidence for millennia, the most beneficial way of promoting human wellbeing, they tend to see capitalism as originating in trade and commerce, freeing people to exercise their entrepreneurial natures. Marxists tend to view capitalism as a unusual system of relationships between classes, which could be replaced by other economic systems which would serve human wellbeing better.
They tend to see capitalism as originating in more powerful people taking control of the means of production, compelling others to sell their labour as a commodity. For these reasons, much of the work on the history of capitalism has been broadly Marxist; the origins of capitalism have been much debated. The traditional account, originating in classical eighteenth-century liberal economic thought and still articulated, is the'commercialization model'; this sees capitalism originating in trade. Since evidence for trade is found in palaeolithic culture, it can be seen as natural to human societies. In this reading, capitalism emerged from earlier trade once merchants had acquired sufficient wealth to begin investing in productive technology; this account tends to see c
Mercantilism is a national economic policy, designed to maximize the exports of a nation. Mercantilism was dominant in modernized parts of Europe from the 16th to the 18th centuries before falling into decline, although some commentators argue that it is still practiced in the economies of industrializing countries in the form of economic interventionism, it promotes government regulation of a nation's economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. Mercantilism includes a national economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade of finished goods; such policies led to war and motivated colonial expansion. Mercantilist theory has evolved over time. High tariffs on manufactured goods, was an universal feature of mercantilist policy; these policies aim to reach a current account surplus. With the efforts of supranational organizations such as the World Trade Organization to reduce tariffs globally, non-tariff barriers to trade have assumed a greater importance in neomercantilism.
Mercantilism became the dominant school of economic thought in Europe throughout the late Renaissance and the early-modern period. Evidence of mercantilistic practices appeared in early-modern Venice and Pisa regarding control of the Mediterranean trade in bullion. However, the empiricism of the Renaissance, which first began to quantify large-scale trade marked mercantilism's birth as a codified school of economic theories. Mercantilism in its simplest form is bullionism, yet mercantilist writers emphasize the circulation of money and reject hoarding, their emphasis on monetary metals accords with current ideas regarding the money supply, such as the stimulative effect of a growing money-supply. Fiat money and floating exchange rates have since rendered specie concerns irrelevant. In time, industrial policy supplanted the heavy emphasis on money, accompanied by a shift in focus from the capacity to carry on wars to promoting general prosperity. Mature neomercantilist theory recommends selective high tariffs for "infant" industries or the promotion of the mutual growth of countries through national industrial specialization.
England began the first large-scale and integrative approach to mercantilism during the Elizabethan Era. An early statement on national balance of trade appeared in Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England, 1549: "We must always take heed that we buy no more from strangers than we sell them, for so should we impoverish ourselves and enrich them." The period featured various but disjointed efforts by the court of Queen Elizabeth to develop a naval and merchant fleet capable of challenging the Spanish stranglehold on trade and of expanding the growth of bullion at home. Queen Elizabeth promoted the Trade and Navigation Acts in Parliament and issued orders to her navy for the protection and promotion of English shipping. A systematic and coherent explanation of balance of trade emerged in Thomas Mun's argument England's Treasure by Forraign Trade or the Balance of our Forraign Trade is The Rule of Our Treasure - written in the 1620s and published in 1664. Elizabeth's efforts organized national resources sufficiently in the defense of England against the far larger and more powerful Spanish Empire, in turn, paved the foundation for establishing a global empire in the 19th century.
Authors noted most for establishing the English mercantilist system include Gerard de Malynes and Thomas Mun, who first articulated the Elizabethan system, which Josiah Child developed further. Numerous French authors helped cement French policy around mercantilism in the 17th century. Jean-Baptiste Colbert best articulated this French mercantilism. French economic policy liberalized under Napoleon Many nations applied the theory, notably France, the most important state economically in Europe at the time. King Louis XIV followed the guidance of Jean Baptiste Colbert, his Controller-General of Finances from 1665 to 1683, it was determined that the state should rule in the economic realm as it did in the diplomatic, that the interests of the state as identified by the king were superior to those of merchants and of everyone else. Mercantilist economic policies aimed to build up the state in an age of incessant warfare, theorists charged the state with looking for ways to strengthen the economy and to weaken foreign adversaries.
In Europe, academic belief in mercantilism began to fade in the late-18th century in Britain, in light of the arguments of Adam Smith and of the classical economists. The British Parliament's repeal of the Corn Laws under Robert Peel in 1846 symbolized the emergence of free trade as an alternative system. Most of the European economists who wrote between 1500 and 1750 are today considered mercantilists; the standard English term was "mercantile system". The word "mercantilism" was introduced into English from German in the early 19th century; the bulk of what is called "mercantilist literature" appeared in the 1620s in Great Britain. Smith saw the English merchant Thomas Mun as a major creator of the mercantile system in his posthumousl
Islamic Golden Age
The Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century. This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world's classical knowledge into the Arabic language; this period is traditionally said to have ended with the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate due to Mongol invasions and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258 AD. A few contemporary scholars place the end of the Islamic Golden Age as late as the end of 15th to 16th centuries; the metaphor of a golden age began to be applied in 19th-century literature about Islamic history, in the context of the western aesthetic fashion known as Orientalism. The author of a Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine in 1868 observed that the most beautiful mosques of Damascus were "like Mohammedanism itself, now decaying" and relics of "the golden age of Islam".
There is no unambiguous definition of the term, depending on whether it is used with a focus on cultural or on military achievement, it may be taken to refer to rather disparate time spans. Thus, one 19th century author would have it extend to the duration of the caliphate, or to "six and a half centuries", while another would have it end after only a few decades of Rashidun conquests, with the death of Umar and the First Fitna. During the early 20th century, the term was used only and referred to the early military successes of the Rashidun caliphs, it was only in the second half of the 20th century that the term came to be used with any frequency, now referring to the cultural flourishing of science and mathematics under the caliphates during the 9th to 11th centuries, but extended to include part of the late 8th or the 12th to early 13th centuries. Definitions may still vary considerably. Equating the end of the golden age with the end of the caliphates is a convenient cut-off point based on a historical landmark, but it can be argued that Islamic culture had entered a gradual decline much earlier.
The various Quranic injunctions and Hadith, which place values on education and emphasize the importance of acquiring knowledge, played a vital role in influencing the Muslims of this age in their search for knowledge and the development of the body of science. The Islamic Empire patronized scholars; the money spent on the Translation Movement for some translations is estimated to be equivalent to about twice the annual research budget of the United Kingdom’s Medical Research Council. The best scholars and notable translators, such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, had salaries that are estimated to be the equivalent of professional athletes today; the House of Wisdom was a library established in Iraq by Caliph al-Mansur. During this period, the Muslims showed a strong interest in assimilating the scientific knowledge of the civilizations, conquered. Many classic works of antiquity that might otherwise have been lost were translated from Greek, Indian, Chinese and Phoenician civilizations into Arabic and Persian, in turn translated into Turkish and Latin.
Christians the adherents of the Church of the East, contributed to Islamic civilization during the reign of the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers and ancient science to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic. They excelled in many fields, in particular philosophy and theology. For a long period of time the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were Assyrian Christians. Among the most prominent Christian families to serve as physicians to the caliphs were the Bukhtishu dynasty. Throughout the 4th to 7th centuries, Christian scholarly work in the Greek and Syriac languages was either newly translated or had been preserved since the Hellenistic period. Among the prominent centers of learning and transmission of classical wisdom were Christian colleges such as the School of Nisibis and the School of Edessa, the pagan University of Harran and the renowned hospital and medical academy of Jundishapur, the intellectual and scientific center of the Church of the East.
The House of Wisdom was founded in Baghdad in 825, modelled after the Academy of Gondishapur. It was led with the support of Byzantine medicine. Many of the most important philosophical and scientific works of the ancient world were translated, including the work of Galen, Plato, Aristotle and Archimedes. Many scholars of the House of Wisdom were of Christian background. Among the various countries and cultures conquered through successive Islamic conquests, a remarkable number of scientists originated from Persia, who contributed immensely to the scientific flourishing of the Islamic Golden Age. According to Bernard Lewis: "Culturally and most remarkable of all religiously, the Persian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense importance; the wo
Feudalism was a combination of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries. Broadly defined, it was a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour. Although derived from the Latin word feodum or feudum in use, the term feudalism and the system it describes were not conceived of as a formal political system by the people living in the Middle Ages. In its classic definition, by François-Louis Ganshof, feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility revolving around the three key concepts of lords and fiefs. A broader definition of feudalism, as described by Marc Bloch, includes not only the obligations of the warrior nobility but those of all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, the peasantry bound by manorialism. Since the publication of Elizabeth A. R. Brown's "The Tyranny of a Construct" and Susan Reynolds's Fiefs and Vassals, there has been ongoing inconclusive discussion among medieval historians as to whether feudalism is a useful construct for understanding medieval society.
There is no accepted modern definition of feudalism, at least among scholars. The adjective feudal was coined in the 17th century, the noun feudalism used in a political and propaganda context, was not coined until the 19th century, from the French féodalité, itself an 18th-century creation. In a classic definition by François-Louis Ganshof, feudalism describes a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords and fiefs, though Ganshof himself noted that his treatment related only to the "narrow, legal sense of the word". A broader definition, as described in Marc Bloch's Feudal Society, includes not only the obligations of the warrior nobility but those of all three estates of the realm: the nobility, the clergy, those living by their labour, most directly the peasantry bound by manorialism. Since the publication of Elizabeth A. R. Brown's "The Tyranny of a Construct" and Susan Reynolds's Fiefs and Vassals, there has been ongoing inconclusive discussion among medieval historians as to whether feudalism is a useful construct for understanding medieval society.
Outside a European context, the concept of feudalism is used only by analogy, most in discussions of feudal Japan under the shōguns, sometimes medieval and Gondarine Ethiopia. However, some have taken the feudalism analogy further, seeing feudalism in places as diverse as Spring and Autumn period in China, ancient Egypt, the Parthian empire, the Indian subcontinent and the Antebellum and Jim Crow American South; the term feudalism has been applied—often inappropriately or pejoratively—to non-Western societies where institutions and attitudes similar to those of medieval Europe are perceived to prevail. Some historians and political theorists believe that the term feudalism has been deprived of specific meaning by the many ways it has been used, leading them to reject it as a useful concept for understanding society; the term "féodal" was used in 17th-century French legal treatises and translated into English legal treatises as an adjective, such as "feodal government". In the 18th century, Adam Smith, seeking to describe economic systems coined the forms "feudal government" and "feudal system" in his book Wealth of Nations.
In the 19th century the adjective "feudal" evolved into a noun: "feudalism". The term feudalism is recent, first appearing in French in 1823, Italian in 1827, English in 1839, in German in the second half of the 19th century; the term "feudal" or "feodal" is derived from the medieval Latin word feodum. The etymology of feodum is complex with multiple theories, some suggesting a Germanic origin and others suggesting an Arabic origin. In medieval Latin European documents, a land grant in exchange for service was called a beneficium; the term feudum, or feodum, began to replace beneficium in the documents. The first attested instance of this is from 984, although more primitive forms were seen up to one-hundred years earlier; the origin of the feudum and why it replaced beneficium has not been well established, but there are multiple theories, described below. The most held theory was proposed by Johan Hendrik Caspar Kern in 1870, being supported by, amongst others, William Stubbs and Marc Bloch.
Kern derived the word from a putative Frankish term *fehu-ôd, in which *fehu means "cattle" and -ôd means "goods", implying "a moveable object of value." Bloch explains that by the beginning of the 10th century it was common to value land in monetary terms but to pay for it with moveable objects of equivalent value, such as arms, horses or food. This was known as feos, a term that took on the general meaning of paying for something in lieu of money; this meaning was applied to land itself, in which land was used to pay for fealty, such as to a vassal. Thus the old word feos meaning movable property changed little by little to feus meaning the exact opposite: landed property. Another theory was put forward by Archibald R. Lewis. Lewis said the origin of'fief' is not feudum, but rather foderum, the earliest attested use being in Astronomus's Vita Hludovici. In that text is a passage about Louis the Pious that says annona militaris quas vulgo foderum vocant, which can be translated as "Louis forbade that military provender (which they popular
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery; the Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early and Late Middle Ages. Population decline, counterurbanisation, collapse of centralized authority and mass migrations of tribes, which had begun in Late Antiquity, continued in the Early Middle Ages; the large-scale movements of the Migration Period, including various Germanic peoples, formed new kingdoms in what remained of the Western Roman Empire. In the 7th century, North Africa and the Middle East—once part of the Byzantine Empire—came under the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate, an Islamic empire, after conquest by Muhammad's successors. Although there were substantial changes in society and political structures, the break with classical antiquity was not complete.
The still-sizeable Byzantine Empire, Rome's direct continuation, survived in the Eastern Mediterranean and remained a major power. The empire's law code, the Corpus Juris Civilis or "Code of Justinian", was rediscovered in Northern Italy in 1070 and became admired in the Middle Ages. In the West, most kingdoms incorporated the few extant Roman institutions. Monasteries were founded; the Franks, under the Carolingian dynasty established the Carolingian Empire during the 8th and early 9th century. It covered much of Western Europe but succumbed to the pressures of internal civil wars combined with external invasions: Vikings from the north, Magyars from the east, Saracens from the south. During the High Middle Ages, which began after 1000, the population of Europe increased as technological and agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish and the Medieval Warm Period climate change allowed crop yields to increase. Manorialism, the organisation of peasants into villages that owed rent and labour services to the nobles, feudalism, the political structure whereby knights and lower-status nobles owed military service to their overlords in return for the right to rent from lands and manors, were two of the ways society was organised in the High Middle Ages.
The Crusades, first preached in 1095, were military attempts by Western European Christians to regain control of the Holy Land from Muslims. Kings became the heads of centralised nation-states, reducing crime and violence but making the ideal of a unified Christendom more distant. Intellectual life was marked by scholasticism, a philosophy that emphasised joining faith to reason, by the founding of universities; the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the paintings of Giotto, the poetry of Dante and Chaucer, the travels of Marco Polo, the Gothic architecture of cathedrals such as Chartres are among the outstanding achievements toward the end of this period and into the Late Middle Ages. The Late Middle Ages was marked by difficulties and calamities including famine and war, which diminished the population of Europe. Controversy and the Western Schism within the Catholic Church paralleled the interstate conflict, civil strife, peasant revolts that occurred in the kingdoms. Cultural and technological developments transformed European society, concluding the Late Middle Ages and beginning the early modern period.
The Middle Ages is one of the three major periods in the most enduring scheme for analysing European history: classical civilisation, or Antiquity. The "Middle Ages" first appears in Latin in 1469 as media tempestas or "middle season". In early usage, there were many variants, including medium aevum, or "middle age", first recorded in 1604, media saecula, or "middle ages", first recorded in 1625; the alternative term "medieval" derives from medium aevum. Medieval writers divided history into periods such as the "Six Ages" or the "Four Empires", considered their time to be the last before the end of the world; when referring to their own times, they spoke of them as being "modern". In the 1330s, the humanist and poet Petrarch referred to pre-Christian times as antiqua and to the Christian period as nova. Leonardo Bruni was the first historian to use tripartite periodisation in his History of the Florentine People, with a middle period "between the fall of the Roman Empire and the revival of city life sometime in late eleventh and twelfth centuries".
Tripartite periodisation became standard after the 17th-century German historian Christoph Cellarius divided history into three periods: ancient and modern. The most given starting point for the Middle Ages is around 500, with the date of 476 first used by Bruni. Starting dates are sometimes used in the outer parts of Europe. For Europe as a whole, 1500 is considered to be the end of the Middle Ages, but there is no universally agreed upon end date. Depending on the context, events such as the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas in 1492, or the Protestant Reformation in 1517 are sometimes used. English historians use the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 to mark the end of the period. For Spain, dates used are the death of King Ferdinand II in 1516, the death of Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1504, or the conquest of Granada in 1492. Historians from Romance-speaking countries tend to divide the Middle Ages into two parts: an earlier "High" and late
The Commercial Revolution consisted in the creation of a European economy based on trade, which began in the 11th century and lasted until it was succeeded by the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century. Beginning with the Crusades, Europeans rediscovered spices and other commodities rare in Europe; this development created a new desire for trade, trade expanded in the second half of the Middle Ages. Newly forming European states, through voyages of discovery, were looking for alternative trade routes in the 15th and 16th centuries, which allowed the European powers to build vast, new international trade networks. Nations sought new sources of wealth and practiced mercantilism and colonialism; the Commercial Revolution is marked by an increase in general commerce, in the growth of financial services such as banking and investing. The term itself was used by Karl Polanyi in his The Great Transformation: "Politically, the centralized state was a new creation called forth by the Commercial Revolution...".
The economic historian Roberto Sabatino Lopez, used it to shift focus away from the English Industrial Revolution. In his best-known book, The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, Lopez argued that the key contribution of the medieval period to European history was the creation of a commercial economy between the 11th and the 14th century, centered at first in the Italo-Byzantine eastern Mediterranean, but extending to the Italian city-states and over the rest of Europe; this kind of economy ran from the 14th century through the 18th century. Walt Whitman Rostow placed the beginning "arbitrarily" in 1488, the year the first European sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. Most historians, including scholars such as Robert S. Lopez, Angeliki Laiou, Irving W. Raymond, Peter Spufford indicate that there was a commercial revolution of the 11th-13th centuries, or that it began at this point, rather than later. Italy first felt huge economic changes in Europe from the 11th to the 13th centuries.
There was: a rise in population―the population doubled in this period an emergence of large cities the rebuilding of the great cathedrals substantial migration from country to city an agrarian revolution the development of commerceIn recent writing on the city states, American scholar Rodney Stark emphasizes that they married responsive government and the birth of capitalism. He argues that Italy consisted of independent towns, who prospered through commerce based on early capitalist principles and kept both direct Church control and imperial power at arm's length. Cambridge University historian and political philosopher Quentin Skinner has pointed out how Otto of Freising, a German bishop who visited central Italy during the 12th century, commented that Italian towns had appeared to have exited from feudalism, so that their society was based on merchants and commerce. Northern cities and states were notable for their merchant republics the Republic of Venice. Compared to absolutist monarchies or other more centrally controlled states, the Italian communes and commercial republics enjoyed relative political freedom conducive to academic and artistic advancement.
Geographically, because of trade, Italian cities such as Venice became international trading and banking hubs and intellectual crossroads. Harvard historian Niall Ferguson points out that Florence and Venice, as well as several other Italian city-states, played a crucial innovative role in world financial developments, devising the main instruments and practices of banking and the emergence of new forms of social and economic organization, it is estimated that the per capita income of northern Italy nearly tripled from the 11th century to the 15th century. This was a mobile, demographically expanding society, fueled by the expanding Renaissance commerce. In the 14th century, just as the Italian Renaissance was beginning, Italy was the economic capital of Western Europe: the Italian States were the top manufacturers of finished woolen products. However, with the Bubonic Plague in 1348, the birth of the English woolen industry and general warfare, Italy temporarily lost its economic advantage.
However, by the late 15th century Italy was again in control of trade along the Mediterranean Sea. It found a new niche in luxury items like ceramics, glassware and silk as well as experiencing a temporary rebirth in the woolen industry. During the 11th century in northern Italy a new political and social structure emerged: the city-state or commune; the civic culture which arose from this urbs was remarkable. In some places where communes arose, they were absorbed by the monarchical state, they survived in northern and central Italy as in a handful of other regions throughout Europe to become independent and powerful city-states. In Italy the breakaway from their feudal overlords occurred in the late 12th century and 13th century, during the Investiture Controversy between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor: Milan led the Lombard cities against the Holy Roman Emperors and defeated them, gaining independence. Similar town revolts led to the foundation of city-states throughout medieval Europe, such as in Russia, in Flanders in Switzerland (the towns of the Old Swiss Confederacy, 14th centu