Topic: EconomicsCurrency

Last updated: May 3, 2019

The flow of silver, economically and socially, was fueled by greed. Traders from countries like China and Portugal would come back from major silver mines with only silver nothing else. In the Ming dynasty in China, the government wanted silver so much that taxes were to be paid with it.

This greed ruined countries like Spain around 1570, and brought economic decline in China around 1593. In document 2, de Mercado spoke of silver currency leaving Spain to pay for Asian commodities. In China, court official Wang Xijue (doc 3), reveals that although the national government wants taxes to be paid in silver, they don’t disburse enough silver and now prices of crops have dropped. But the government isn’t the only face of greed. A county official in document 1 states that a poor man with only 1 bar of silver is well enough but an extravagant man can never have enough.

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Portuguese and Chinese traders leave from China with silks, perfumes, and porcelain to go to Japan or the Philippines and return with nothing but silver (doc 4 and 7). In fact, the Portuguese have a ship that goes to Japan every year that brings back more than 600,000 coins of Japanese silver.

In document 6, de Espinosa remarks on the greed of Spanish merchants. He tells about the 326,000,000 silver coins taken from mines in Potosi, and about the large amount of silver being smuggled out to avoid taxes and registry fees to places China and the Philippines. European traders take the silver to China as well as gold in exchange for materials to supply luxury. They admit in document 8 that this is the only thing of solid worth they get from Asia.

Silver was an important part of the economy but only because of greed and luxury. Governments wanted silver so bad it became the main currency. Silver was smuggled out of mines to avoid taxes. Suppliers of silver were exploited by their consumers need for silver.


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