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AP World History Essay

The increased flow of silver altered the worldwide global trading both socially and economically. The global flow of silver from the mid-sixteenth century to the early eighteenth century caused social and economic issues by creating social impact in China, changing the economic purpose of trading, and the overall exchange between the Chinese and European nations.

Socially, China has been impacted greatly from the introduction of silver into their nation. In document 1, Ye Chunji, a Ming Dynasty county official, spoke about the differences between the “frugal” and “extravagant” man in an order limiting expenses. He states that a frugal or poor man understands his limitations and can live off very little unlike a wealthy or extravagant man that does not have any limitations and believes nothing is ever enough. Also, in document 3, Wang Xijue, a court official in the Ming Dynasty, reported to the emperor at the time of 1593 that falling grain prices was the reason for the scarcity of silver in China. Also stating that the national government required large amounts of silver for taxes, but spent little to no silver for any type of government funding. In document 5, Xu Dunqiu Ming, informs people about the ways in which the way of payment has shifted over time. In the past, money and pricing wasn’t an issue in their minds when purchasing dyed clothing. Slowly, overtime, ways began to change; customers began paying with rice, soybeans, chickens, etc. And a little later changed so that you would receive a bill, which must be paid for with silver. Silver soon overtook the Chinese country; making almost everything only accessible with the payment of silver otherwise nothing could be purchased.

Economically, ways of trading had been changed due to the introduction of silver to the world. Ralph Fitch, a British merchant from document 4, learned from his travels to the East Indies that trade conducted by the Portuguese between Macao and Japan was a great advantage for the Portuguese in China. This is because they were able to obtain multiple luxury goods for only the exchange of silver which was very enjoyable for them. Also reported by He Qiaoyuan, in document 7, the inflated price of Chinese products in the Philippines was the beginning of the change in Chinas ways, moving away from its traditional ideas of the economy and trade, but instead learning how to become a great exporting empire. In document 8, although the demand for luxury goods remains high, D’Avenant is concerned about the amount of silver that is leaving the country to be “buried” in China. He states that it is advisable for England to continue with this trade through the hardships because no other country would comprehend the responsibility of this matter.


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China and Europe’s exchange of goods and silver is very highly unbalanced. For Asia corrupted the European government as stated by Tomas de Mercado in document 2. Asia was attracted by the prices in Europe, making prices get higher and lead to the ruin of Spain. The silver currency flowed right out to pay for the Asian commodities.  In document 6, Antonio Vazquez de Espinosa described the impact of the silver trade on the “Indians” as very labor involved because of all of the flint they had to pick. He also states that a huge amount of wealth was taken in 1545, but wasn’t discovered until 1628, not taking out all of the silver secretly taken from the mines in Spain. Also in document 8,  D’Avenant described the English position on trade in 1697 stating that all of the silver and gold Europe sent out to Asia would never return to Europe. For they would only exchange porcelain, sugar, and fruits which were desired by the foreigners.

A point of view that is necessary to implement into these documents is a peasant’s point of view. This is necessary because peasants are the ones that are affected by the government, taxes, and people in the area. Although the hierarchy probably doesn’t care about their needs, they need to be accounted for to have a somewhat stabilized society.

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