Many European rulers during the 16th and 17th centuries embraced the precepts of mercantilism, an economic system that sought to increase national wealth through a strictly regulated economy and a favorable balance of trade.
In short, a nation’s strength was directly linked to its ability to be self-sufficient and accumulate capital.
The English also embraced mercantilism as they entered the race for American colonies.
Since the Dutch controlled a majority of the merchant vessels used to ship products from the New World, the English Parliament enacted the first of a series of Navigation Acts that permitted only English ships to carry American goods.
The manorial system, in which lords owned the land worked by their vassals, or serfs, started to wane in the late Middle Ages with the development of nation-states.
Medieval cities, dominated by the guilds that brought economic stability, became the centers of commerce.
Colonies were acquired to supply raw materials to the “mother country” and serve as exclusive markets for domestic manufactured goods.
One of the first countries to embrace mercantilism in America was Spain, whose colonies existed primarily to increase national wealth and power.
The explosion of trade opportunities in Europe and the discovery of riches in the New World prompted the development of better navigational tools.
For years mariners determined their latitudinal direction by following the east to west advancement of the sun and by tracking the movement of the stars at night.