Exports for Precious Metals: Mercantilism in the Early Modern World

Mercantilism was a political movement and an economic theory, dominant in Europe between 1600 and 1800. Introduction Mercantilism is an economic system that dominated the major European trading nations during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. This “mercantile system” was based on the premise that national wealth and power were best served by increasing exports[…]

It All Began at Sutter’s Mill in 1848: An Overview of the California Gold Rush

This massive migration to California transformed the state’s landscape and population. Introduction On January 8, 1848, James W. Marshall, overseeing the construction of a sawmill at Sutter’s Mill in the territory of California, literally struck gold. His discovery of trace flecks of the precious metal in the soil at the bottom of the American River[…]

Comic Gold: The Easterner Goes West in Three Early American Comics

Looking at the effete 19th-century Eastern urbanite who traveled to the Wild West in quest of a fortune. This article, Brilliant Visions: Peyote among the Aesthetes, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ The California Gold Rush transformed the landscape and[…]

When Department Stores Were More than Just Stores in Australia

Australia’s Foy & Gibson department store once dominated Melbourne, with showrooms, factories and warehouses spread over 500,000 square feet, and while it no longer exists, its legacy lives on. Introduction In 1870, an Irish draper named Mark Foy set up a business on Melbourne’s now-hipster Smith Street called Foy’s. What began as a drapery went[…]

The Haymarket Affair: Labor Exploitation and Violence in Chicago, 1886

Introduction The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket riot or Haymarket massacre) on Tuesday May 4, 1886, in Chicago, began as a rally in support of striking workers. The strikes began on May 1st in Chicago and other locations in support of an eight hour work day. After several days of strikes, an unknown[…]

An Historical Overview of Ancient Economic Thought

Discussions of economics have existed since ancient times but it was not a separate discipline until the nineteenth century. Introduction In the history of economic thought, early economic thought refers to ideas from before and during the Middle Ages. The earliest discussions of economics date back to ancient times, such as Chanakya’s Arthashastra or Xenophon’s[…]

Remarkable Radical: Thaddeus Stevens, 1859-1868

Thaddeus Stevens was a fearsome reformer, who never backed down from a fight. In 1813, a young Thaddeus Stevens was attending a small college in Vermont. This was well before the time when good fences made good neighbors. Free-roaming cows often strayed onto campus. Manure piled up. Odors lingered. Resentment among students festered. One spring[…]

Ctesiphon: Urban Trade Center in Ancient and Early Medieval Persia

The city became an important center for trade along the Silk Road. Introduction Ctesiphon was an ancient city and trade center on the east bank of the Tigris River founded during the reign of Mithridates I (the Great, 171-132 BCE). It is best known in the modern day for the single-span arch, Taq Kasra, which[…]

The Changing Face of Digital and Physical Shopping

The Internet has dramatically changed the ways that people browse, shop for, and purchase their goods. The landscape has evolved; physical storefronts now compete, interact with, and employ digital storefronts and software. This gives shoppers far more options than ever before. However, in light of these changes, the boundaries between traditional and online stores have[…]

History and Theories of Social Class

The notion of social class is still questioned as it becomes even more difficult to define in an increasingly fluid and globalized society. Introduction Social class refers to the hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies or cultures. Anthropologists, historians, and sociologists identify class as universal, although what determines class will vary widely from[…]

A History of Guilds from the Medieval Era

Guilds started as small associations of skilled artisans, experienced and confirmed experts in their field of handicraft. Introduction A guild is an association of craftspeople in a particular trade. The earliest guilds may have been formed in India circa 3800 B.C.E., and certainly existed in Roman times. They particularly flourished in Medieval Europe, where they[…]

Medieval Trades

Trades and trading practices varied over time and place throughout the Middle Ages. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Many trades in medieval times were essential to the daily welfare of the community and those who had learned a skill through apprenticeship could expect to make a higher and more regular income than farmers or even soldiers.[…]

The Evolution of Servile Peasants in Medieval Hungary and Catalonia

It was justified by reference to historical myths that nobles and servile peasants were separated by courage and cowardice. Introduction The Uprising of the Catalan servile peasants (remences) between 1462 and 1486 was unusual in the history of European insurrections. Waged by a surprisingly well-armed force of peasants who played an important military role as[…]

Eisenhower and Mid-20th Century Taxes in the United States

During the war, the top “marginal rate” was 94%, but 94% of what? Recent history shows tax rates exceedingly high some 50 years ago. How do historians (and educators) accommodate the recent past when putting contexts around today’s loud events? There are only long answers to any questions about taxation in American history, no matter[…]

Medieval Economy: The Great Depression of the 14th Century

The economic decline was marked by a severe drop in population. By Dr. Murray N. RothbardHistorian and Economist Most people — historians not excepted — are tempted to think of economic and cultural progress as being continuous: in every century people are better off than in the one preceding. This comforting assumption had to be[…]

Medieval Enclosure: Wealth, Poverty, and the Road to the Industrial Revolution

Wealthy landowners enclosed (privatized) the commons for their own profits, impoverishing many villagers. By Jay Walljasper Medieval European agriculture was communally organized. Peasants pooled their individual holdings into open fields that were jointly cultivated, and common pastures were used to graze their animals.This system of village commons prospered for more than six hundred years at[…]

Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire

Monetary, fiscal, military, political, and economic issues are all very much intertwined. Two centuries ago, in 1776, there were two books published in England, both of which are read avidly today. One of them was Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and the other was Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon’s[…]

Money and Banking in Ancient Rome

Banking was highly developed and subject to Roman Law, and money deposits were to be safeguarded and not lent out. Introduction Ancient Rome grew out of a small city state in today’s Italy to a great empire, that dominated much of Europe. Eventually, it broke apart, the Western part disintegrated, while the Byzantine Empire lived[…]

The Economy of Ancient Greece

Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. Introduction The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region’s dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece’s soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece’s paramount location, as its[…]

Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

The inventions themselves were not an immediately profitable investment throughout many parts of Europe during the 18th century. Introduction The Industrial Revolution was a time of great change and development throughout parts of Europe in which society made substantial technological progress. A large amount of this progress was centered in Britain, not only because of[…]

Children and the Industrial Revolution

Working children were subject to very long work hours under harsh and dangerous conditions. Introduction The children of the Industrial Revolution at once hold all the opportunity of the future in their hands while also facing the terrors of poverty and reality of the present in the other. Perhaps when you imagine these children you[…]

Labor Laws and the Industrial Revolution

The working environment was harsh and laborers had to work long hours for extremely low wages. Introduction In the middle of 18th century Britain, the Industrial Revolution was well underway.  These changes brought about many differences in Britain’s economic system and greatly affected the lives of those working in it.  For workers, this meant living[…]

The Industrial Revolution and Patterns of Consumption

The Industrial Revolution was a time of major change and adaptation. Introduction There are many aspects in history books about Britain that make us perceive it as a great country, it was the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution that set them apart from other European countries. This was a period of time of rapid development,[…]

The Right Home in the Wrong Location: Does it Matter?

We’ve always had those situations when we have to do the best trade-offs, especially when buying something that costs an arm and a leg. One of the best examples is purchasing a house. What should you generally consider first? Right, it’s the house itself and its location. You’ll probably be the luckiest homeowner on Earth[…]

Jacob Riis and “How the Other Half Lives”: Poverty in 19th-Century America

Riis as a writer, photographer, lecturer, advocate, and ally for reform to address the poverty many ignored. Biography Overview Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914) was born in Ribe, Denmark. He immigrated to America at age twenty with hopes of one day marrying his teenage love, Elisabeth Nielsen [Gjørtz]. Riis wandered through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New[…]

Social Class in the American Colonies

Social class was prevalent and largely property-based in the colonies. The Colonial Elite Overview In New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies, the elite were wealthy farmers or urban merchants; in the South, they were wealthy planters. British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor helped give rise to[…]