Silver

Silver

It was fairly common believe in China that with arrival of large amounts of silver would bring prosperity; but with such an extreme amount of this precious metal coming into one are caused problems. The Ming Dynasty declared that all taxes must be payed in silver. This created great disruption in the economy since silver coins were scarce at this time many people were unable to pay their taxes. To suffice the demands of the government a great deal of people would get their silver through middle-men. This exchange for silver lowered the value of Ming goods (Doc3).

Wang Xijue, a court official, foresees the possible problems the large amounts of silver that the Ming would have coming into it if they began to trade with Europeans (Doc7). Inflation was a large concern for Xijue. This fear soon became a reality and the uncontrolled flow of silver into Ming China hurt the economy. Ye Chunji, a county official during the Ming Dynasty, ordered a limit to wedding expenses in the 1570’s (Doc1). If these frugal ways would have been instilled in the Ming people, the economy wouldn’t have had such a downfall.

Furthermore, now shops would send bills for work and “must be paid with silver obtained from a moneylender” (Doc5). During this time moneylenders thrived while the Chinese economy suffered. Initially the silver demand help Spain but long term weakened the empire. “High prices ruined Spain as the prices attracted Asian commodities and the silver currency flowed out to pay for them” (Doc2). Contrastingly, the middle-men were largely benefiting from the trade of silver. Ralph Fitch, a British merchant, stresses this point by saying that the Portuguese received luxurious goods in return for silver in China (Doc4).

In Document 8 Charles D’Avenant, an English scholar describes the trade England would have with Spanish colonies of luxury goods for silver for gold (Doc8). He expresses this trade a profitable. In conclusion, the increase in silver production in Japan and the Spanish Empire from 1500 to 1750 benefits the middle man instead of the consumer and supplier. An additional document with numerical evidence of to what extreme the silver trade increased during this time period would be useful to further understand the extent in which this all took place.