This book traces the development of business in Great Britain, North America, and Japan.
It explains the impact of historical factors on business practices in the three countries.
Business both shapes its external environment and is shaped by that environment.
Economic and technological factors lead to changes in the world of business. The
differing environments in the three nations have influenced the way businesses have
By the late 1600s and early 1700s, Great Britain, North America, and Japan were either
themselves unified political bodies or, as in the case of the North American colonies,
parts of such a body. Political unity provided a stable framework for economic growth
and business development. All three were commercial economies, where people lived by
buying and selling goods. Not subsistence economies, in which people simply made
goods or grew crops for their own consumption. Agriculture was becoming increasingly
commercialized in all three nations. They were able to raise larger crops for their
markets because of increased productivity.
An increase in trade accompanied regional specialization. Trade both permitted rational
specialization and was, in turn, stimulated by it. Great Britain, North America, and Japan
were all fortunate in being able to carry on trade via coastal shipping, for until the
construction of canals and railroads, inland transportation was very expensive.
All the three economies were highly urbanised. Cities and towns were growing in
importance. They provided a major market for agricultural goods, thus stimulating the
commercialization of agriculture and the expansion of trade. Cities also became the locus
of early industry.
The people were commercially oriented and well educated by the standards of their day.
They were ready for industrialization.
The preindustrial period was, in business terms, the age of the merchant. In all three
countries, merchants were the leading businessmen.
It was merchants who, as much as explorers and the military, built the British Empire,
Merchants also played the most important role in developing Great Britain’s domestic
economy. These merchants operated in a variety of ways: as members of and investors in
joint-stock companies, as members of partnerships, and as single-owner proprietors.
Much of the expansion of Great Britain’s overseas trade and the new direction this
commerce took between 1550 and 1650 resulted from the actions of newly formed joint-stock companies.
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