During the early colonial era, the Spanish and Portuguese were making a strong impact in the South Americas, and this was reflected in their access to the silver ore that can be found all over parts of Peru, Nicaragua and other nations (Mohide 66). The Spanish and Portuguese silver trade was booming during the Renaissance due to the increased use of lead cupellation as a way of extracting silver from ore (Mohide 80). This extracted silver was transported all over the world, notably from South America to Portugal to Japan and then to China, as well as from Spain to the Philippines (Mohide 79). Silver had a very important impact on global trade. In China, silver production began to decline by the 1400s, but the Japanese began to trade silver with them in the 1500s (Stein & Stein 13). Shortly after this, the Europeans arrived in China and Japan and increased the availability and trade of silver, thus setting up important trade links between the East and the West purely based upon silver (Qingxin & Wang 45). The Europeans were also seen as middlemen between Japan and China, often interrupting trade routes between the two less-than-friendly nations (Qingxin & Wang 78), which again set up the precedent for trading through a third partner.
The silver trade particularly had an important impact on China during the Ming Dynasty. It was during this time, due to the illegality of some elements of the silver trade, that the Ming dynasty managed to simplify their tax structure to reflect the importance of silver in the nations, meaning that people could pay and be paid in pure silver (Qingxin & Wang 44). The New World Silver also changed the lives of many living in Europe – with strong links between South America and these Mediterranean countries, much of the world was envious of the amount of money that Portugal and Spain were gaining from access to silver trading routes (Stein & Stein 22). Evidently, the strong trading links that were set up for mining South American silver were also an important part of establishing the Hispanic culture that we can still see in South America today, including links with the Catholic Church and language links (Stein & Stein 41).
- Li, Qingxin, and William W. Wang. Maritime Silk Road. [Beijing]: China Intercontinental, 2006. Print.
- Mohide, Thomas Patrick. The International Silver Trade. Cambridge: Woodhead, 1992. Print.
- Stein, Stanley J., and Barbara H. Stein. Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2000. Print.