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Going the DistanceEurasian Trade and the Rise of the Business Corporation, 1400-1700$
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Ron Harris

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691150772

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691150772.001.0001

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Trade by Rulers and States

Trade by Rulers and States

(p.226) 8 Trade by Rulers and States
Going the Distance

Ron Harris

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the formation, weaknesses, and demise of two ruler-owned trade enterprises. It describes the mercantile endeavors of early Ming China and sixteenth-century Portugal. The two were radically different. The Chinese state was based on Confucian ideology, on extensive learned bureaucracy, on a worldview of being the Middle Kingdom, and on its huge geographic scale and huge population. In many eras the Chinese Empire had no ambitions with respect to overseas trade, and in others it allowed either foreign or local merchants to trade but was not involved in trade directly. Portugal was a small and young kingdom on the margins of the Iberian Peninsula. Its state capacity was limited, but its exposure to seafaring was significant due to its location on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Keywords:   ruler-owned trade enterprises, Ming China, sixteenth-century Portugal, Confucian ideology, Middle Kingdom, overseas trade

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