Global Flow of Silver

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 November 2016

Global Flow of Silver

During the mid-seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, many events occurred along with the global flow of silver bullion. In the early 1600’s, the Dutch East India Company was founded and this contributed to the Dutch Golden Age of trade, science, military and art. Also in the early 1600’s, Tokugawa Ieyasu seized Japan and made the Tokugawa Shogunate military government that was headed by the shoguns. In the mid 1600’s the Taj Mahal was being built in Agra, India by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. In the late 1600’s, John Locke was starting to publish his first work and he was starting to influence Voltaire and Rousseau.

With these influential time periods came the global flow of silver throughout the world. The global flow of silver from the mid-seventeenth century and early eighteenth century can be split up into three groups of social (Documents 1, 6, 7 and 8), destructive economic (Documents 2 and 3) and constructive economic (Documents 4, 5, and 6) with the constructive economic effects having the largest effect on the global flow of silver because the influences of the silver currency throughout the world and the rise of wealth of silver-producing countries is substantial compared to the social and destructive economic effects.

The social effects of the global flow of silver from the mid-seventeenth and early eighteenth century did indeed have an effect on the trade of silver throughout the world as this is expressed in documents 1, 6, 7 and 8. Although the social effects on the global flow of silver were miniscule compared to the economic effects, they affected the trade system and small scale trading relations. Although document 1 is the shortest document, it shows the extensive greed of an extravagant un-satisfied man with a lot of money compared to a satisfied person that has little money. This document clearly states that silver was the form of wealth in the Ming dynasty and the well-being of an individual was solely based on the amount of satisfaction a person has about the amount of silver they own.

The author has no known bias but did have some power in the Ming dynasty, which has a substantial effect on his point of view. This court official obviously knows some about the value of money in society but clearly does not know the poor people’s story and what they have to say about silver affects. The document that is needed to counter this document is an opinion of a lower-class person with lower amounts of silver. Document 6 is written by a priest that has the bias of caring for and working with people of the Spanish faith, poor and rich. This priest feels sorry for the poor fellow Indians working in the Potosi silver mine and thinks they work so very hard and don’t get paid much. The social hierarchy in Spain puts Indians low and this force Indians to do the majority of the physical labor to supply the silver for the silver trade. Thousands of Indians were killed by mercury exposure and millions of others died of labor.

Majority of the Indians working at the mine were free wage earners but others were mingas and mitayos. This document also shows that there wouldn’t be a global flow of silver if it were not for the poor miners producing the silver. Document 7 is not like 6 in the way of social groups but it’s talking about the trade between Chinese merchants and the Spanish. He Qiaoyuan, a Ming court official, states that the Ming dynasty should be trading with Spanish merchants because the Chinese yarn, worth 100 bars of gold, can be sold in the Philippines for higher amounts of profit. The global flow of silver, as portrayed in this document, can bring great wealth to a region if it is traded in the right places. If the ban on foreign trade was repealed, China could gain a lot of profit from their trading of desired goods in foreign lands (especially porcelain, sugar, and fruit).

Document 2 and 3 represent the destructive economic things caused by the global flow of silver. These documents show the negative effects of silver flow and sadly, these effects are more prominent than both the social and the positive economic effects. Document 2 strongly states that silver flow began to snowball towards the Asian commodities in Asia, rather than those in Spain. This was due to the fact that prices of Spanish commodities were very high and people turned to the less costly Asian commodities. As an effect, silver flow started to concentrate in Asia and around Asian commodities. Wang Xijue, a Ming dynasty court official, reports to the emperor in document 3 about the scarcity of silver coin and the negative effects it has on the value of grain. Grain was a main cash crop in the Ming dynasty in the late 16th century and when the price of grain dropped, cultivators earned less of a profit.

This snowball effect was directly based upon the price of silver because when the government takes the silver and doesn’t distribute it, there is less silver to pay for the grain. As a result, this reduces the amount of food produced and the population of the dynasty is reduced as less land is put into cultivation. Silver’s indirect effect on the amount of food produced affected many societies throughout the globe in the mid-seventeenth century and early eighteenth century. Document 4, 5 and 6 are expressing the constructive economic impact on the global flow of silver. In document 4, the positive economic effect on the global flow of silver is that silver coins are a great use of currency. Portuguese use the Japanese silver coins to their advantage in China because they can trade it for lots of wonderful goods.

The Japanese silver coins are a wonderful form of currency that affects the global part of silver flow because it spreads the silver throughout the world. This is the main positive economic effect but others benefit people around the globe. Although people may perceive document 5 as being a destructive economic effect, others believe this document to be constructive to the global silver flow. This document is stating that people used to be able to trade goods to get cloth dyed but now you have to use silver to pay for the cloth being dyed. With the use of silver as payment instead of trading items or food crops, people are forced to spread the use of silver.

As a result of this spread of silver, more and more people began using it as a universal form of payment. As silver spreads and becomes more popular, an increasing number of people begin learning about silver and its worth. Lastly, document 6, as well as representing a social effect, is also representing a positive economic effect on the global flow of silver. This document shows the importance of the Potosi silver mine and how it produced a lot of the silver coins that were in global use, but it also shows that silver was in high demand and was always useful to mine. If it were not for the certain silver mines like the Potosi silver mine, we would not have the silver for global currency that was such a big deal in the mid seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

The constructive economic effects on the global flow of silver are more influential than those of the social and destructive economic effects because these keep the flow of silver flowing. One of the positive economic effects on the global flow of trade is the global use of silver coins as currency. This has allowed people to trade with less conflict caused by bartering and difference in trading amounts. Silver coins have made trading much simpler. Also, another constructive economic effect of silver in the global trading system is that it increased the wealth of many regions and countries with minimal negative effects. With the help of many silver miners, the globe has benefited from the flow of silver.

The stories and thoughts of the silver miners themselves as well as lower class poor people are left out of this DBQ. It is important to take into consideration the lives and values of the silver miners because they are the people supplying the silver. If we were to have a document of a silver miner, we might have to change our groupings and standings. Also, if we had a document of a poor person with a low amount of silver, we could get their point of view on the silvers importance and value in society. These documents, along with the others already there, would give us an accurate understanding of the varied impact of silver throughout society.

Although these groupings are spectacular, depending on the viewpoint of the reader, they may be grouped in a variety of combinations. For example: Document 2 and 7 can be placed in the economic advantage group because they show that silver brought a lot of wealth and wonderful commodities to and from China. Also, document 1 and 5 can be categorized into the social group because they share the view of how silver effects the interactions between people.

Silver’s flow throughout the world can be categorized into three major groups of social (Documents 1, 6, 7, and 8), destructive economic (Documents 2 and 3) and constructive economic (Documents 4, 5 and 6) with the positive economic effects influencing the global flow of silver the most because the silver currency throughout the world and the rise of wealth of silver-producing countries is substantial compared to the social and economic effects. Silver was a largely traded item in the mid-seventeenth and early eighteenth century and brought great wealth to many regions throughout the world.


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 November 2016

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