THE ROLE OF THE TUDOR MONARCHY TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MERCANTILISM IN ENGLAND
The House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh-French origin that held the English throne descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd and Catherine of France.
Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) from 1485 until 1603, with five monarchs in that period:
- Henry VII,
- Henry VIII,
- Edward VI,
- Mary I
- Elizabeth I
There is also a sixth Tudor monarch, Jane Grey, who reigned for nine days, in between Edward VI and Mary I. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart.
The first Tudor monarch, Henry VII of England, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster, a cadet house of the Plantagenets.
The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses (1455–1487), which left the Tudor-aligned House of Lancaster extinct in the male line.
Before the industrial revolution, the dominant form of capital in Western Europe was merchant capital, it was capital obtained from trade. Western Europe came into contact with the rest of the world through trade; this system of trade is known as mercantilism.
The development of mercantilism in England went through two faces namely;
a) First phase which took place from mid 15th C – mid 17th C.
b) Second phase which took place from mid 17th C – mid 18th C.
The first phase was associated with the Tudor monarchy was an English dynasty that descended from King Henry VII to Elizabeth I.
The Tudor monarchy played a significant role in the rise of mercantilism in England.
a) Acquisition of colonies.
The Tudor monarchy helped the merchants to acquire colonies. Colonies were important in the whole system of mercantilism because they provided markets and raw materials such as gold and silver which were needed by the merchants.
b) Chartered trading companies.
The Tudor monarchy charted trading companies had given them exclusive rights to trade all over the world. The most importance of these companies were the royal Africa company chartered in 1588 in order to organize slave trade and east India company chartered in 1600 for trading with India and the far east including china and Japan.
c) Set up navigation acts.
The Tudor monarchy set up navigational acts of the 17 th C which were introduced to monopolize the rights to transport goods into and from the colonies as well as the profits obtained from transportation between the mother land and the colony.
d) Ensured constant supply of wool.
The Tudor monarchy assured the merchants constant supply of wool by stopping the export of wool. Wool was important as a raw material in the textile industries. The textile industries were very important during the early days of the industrial revolution in Britain.
e) Promoted organization.
The Tudor monarchy provided organization of merchant groups for the exploitation and settlement in the new world. By the 17 th C, many Britons were investing overseas, these included members of parliament and merchants.
The Tudor monarchy assured the merchants protection on the high seas from pirates. Mercantilism was characterized with primitive accumulation of capital; one of the methods used to acquire capital was piracy, thus the assurance of protection encouraged the merchants to engage in trade.
g) Provided loans.
The Tudor monarchy provided loans and grants to the merchants, the provisions of loans and grants encouraged the merchants to engage in mercantile activities thus leading to the development of mercantilism in Britain.
h) Developed and consolidated maritime technology.
The Tudor monarchy contributed to the development of mercantilism in Britain by developing and consolidating maritime technology. Maritime technology made it possible for the merchants to trade overseas with Africa and America thus the rise of mercantilism.
i) Discarded feudal elements.
The Tudor monarchy abandoned feudal elements and promoted capitalism, this led to the emergency of the merchant class. The merchant class conducted trade overseas which contributed to the rise of mercantilism.
Sources of primitive accumulation of capital during mercantilism
a) Long distance trade.
The capitalists obtained capital from the long distance trade that was conducted among various continents such as Africa, America and Asia. This was the Trans Atlantic slave trade. European countries acquired capital by accumulating precious metals such as gold and silver which was based on unequal exchange.
These wars were fought between the Muslims and the Christians from the 11 th to 12 th centuries. The Christians claimed that these were holly wars which aimed at the holly lands from the Arabs. It should be noted that the wars were accompanied with massive looting which formed the basis of primitive accumulation of capital.
c) Confiscation of church property.
The church in England controlled large estates of land but between 1535 and 1539 AD. King Henry VIII following the advice of his chief minister Thomas Cromwell decided to confiscate church property. The land was grabbed and sold to the capitalist; this capital was acquired by using primitive means.
d) Feudal wars.
The feudal wars were very common in Europe especially between 1337 and 1453 AD. There was the hundred year’s war between the French and the British monarchies. These wars were characterized with plundering and looting which help the European powers to accumulate capital that contributed to the rise of capitalism.
e) Enclosure system.
This system involved evicting peasants and serfs from their land. The land was sold to the capitalist who organized it into compact forms and enclosed it. The enclosure system contributed to the improvement of the agriculture sector which led to the rise of the industrial revolution, but the eviction of the peasants and serfs was a primitive act.
f) Protectionist policies.
Mercantilism was associated with protectionism especially in England which was the major power during the mercantile period. The Tudor monarchy introduced navigational acts that denied other countries from trading freely with England and her colonies. This aimed at protecting the British interests.