Commerce in the Netherlands 17th century
The Netherlands and Europe more generally became the leaders of international commerce in the seventeenth century. One of the reasons of this success was their efficient interaction with other countries, particularly North America and Asia, and trade of new commodities. Therefore, the main focus of the paper will be put on the two new commodities which are Chinese dishes and beaver hats. In addition, the main effects of the17th century trade on modern commerce will be analyzed.
International Commerce Leadership of Netherlands and Other European Countries
One of the reasons of international commerce leadership of the Netherlands was involvement of more innovative merchants, financiers and shipping firms in Asia and across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Besides, the country and especially Amsterdam had the best distribution system on the continent. However, after 1650, the Netherlands gradually started losing their leadership because trade methods of other countries also improved. Apart from that, the Netherlands expanded the choice of their goods and started interaction with other countries. Finally, they increased the number of their suppliers. For example, they started to make beaver hats from North American material. It increased the supply and demand for this product (Ormrod, 2003)
First Commodity (Blue and White Chinese Dishes)
One of the objects described by Brook was blue and white Chinese dishes. They were imported to the Netherlands and other European countries from China. In particular, in the seventeenth century, the main importer of Chinese products in big amounts was the Dutch East India Company. In addition, the popularity of the Chinese style in Holland made it traditional for the country, and potters started to imitate it. Moreover, the delftware got commercial success. However, these blue and white dishes would not appear in the Netherlands without setting a Portuguese trading post on Macao in 1557 (Murphy-Gnatz).
The producers of the commodity were Chinese. The customers were European, particularly Dutch, English, French, etc. Traders bought the already processed dishes, so they did not require any additional manipulations. However, such popularity of Chinese porcelain and its high cost motivated Europeans to produce their own dishes in the same style. In particular, the first successful imitation of Chinese porcelain was made in Florence in 1570, a short time after arrival of the first examples from China. As for global interaction, this commodity forced China as the producer to interact with the European market as it comprised important customers of their goods. High cost of blue and white Chinese dishes reflected a person's social class and status because they were affordable mainly for the upper class. This commodity became particularly popular after appearing of a new European fashion of tea-drinking (Murphy-Gnatz). Therefore, its value was equally high in various contexts and it was not reduced with its different usage by different individuals.
Second Commodity (Beaver Hat)
One more popular commodity of the 17th century is a beaver hat. It was demonstrated on the painting Officer and laughing girl. European and Asian commerce of this product exists for many centuries. The major suppliers of animals until the 15th century were Russia, Central Asia and Northern Scandinavia. The main customers were in the Mediterranean and Middle East. The transportation of the commodity was performed through Constantinople. However, the reducing of European beaver population caused almost the complete stopping of export beaver from Russia. Therefore, new center of fur trade was opened in the 17th century. In particular, merchants started importing fur from North America, especially from its northern parts. Moreover, England, Britain and the Netherlands opened there colonies until the middle of 17th century. For example, Britain and France occupied the Hudson Bay, whereas the Netherlands had colonies New Holland that later was renamed as English colony of New York. The trade of North American beaver was successful because there were no physical differences between material bought there and in Europe. However, European traders had to start cooperation with Native Americans who knew better where and how to hunt beavers. After catching animals, their pelts were transported to Europe, particularly to France or England. After that, beaver pelts were either sold in their domestic markets or exported to other European countries for sale. One of the biggest buyers was Russia. However, some categories of beaver also needed climbing that was performed in Russia (Crean, 1962).
The type of customers of pelts greatly depended on their categories. Thus, imported pelts were divided in three categories such as castor gras, castor sec, and bandeau. For example, castor gras pelts were popular among Native American hunters. People wore them during hunting season because they were soft and easy to felt due to body oil and sweat. However, this category of pelts was the most expensive. Another category was castor sec. Pelts of this category were scraped clean, but they were never worn. They needed additional processes for the preparation for felting. Finally, bandeau pelts were scraped. However, they could be dirty. Moreover, some of them were a little rotted or even decayed at the moment of their arrival in Europe. After arrival, castor pelts also needed combing. Therefore, the Dutch, British and French customers could buy the beaver hats the first; then, the goods were transported for sale in the rest of Europe and Russian market. The last market was used as an outlet for pelts that were not purchased (Crean, 1962).
Hats played an important role in demonstrating social identity of their owners. In particular, the style and shape of the hat could reflect a person's profession, social position or rank and financial state. For example, according to Ecclesiastical heraldry, a person that wore wide-brimmed hat of red color was a cardinal. In addition, the shape and style of hat in the seventeenth century England could say about a person's political or religious affiliation. It also demonstrated the gender because even on the painting Officer and laughing girl, it was worn by the man, particularly, the military man. As for social status and wealth, usually, only wealthy people could allow buying beaver hats, so those who had ones were considered as representatives of the higher class. However, traders managed to reduce prices for hats offering demi-castor or half-beavers that were made from beaver wool or hare fur. These changes did not affect the style, whereas the quality was worse. However, the production of demy-castors was gradually improved after developing of carroting that made hare fur easier to felt (Crean 1962).
Therefore, beaver hat had a long way to get to the Netherlands, which in the seventeenth century usually started in North American colonies. Then, beaver pelts were transported to England or France. Pelts required combing, so they often were moved to Russia and then re-exported to England and France again. After that, beaver pelts were transported to other European countries, including the Netherlands. However, the Netherlands had their own North American colonies producing beaver pelts, so this commodity could get directly to the country. The main producers of beaver hats were English and French. The main customers were Europeans. Another important peculiarity is that the commodity was transformed in the process of exchange from just the beaver pelt into beaver felt and beaver hat. The necessity to process hats and reducing of the beaver population in Asia and Europe also forced people from around the globe to interact. For example, Europeans had to interact with Native Americans in order to have better access to beavers because they knew where and how to hunt beavers more efficiently. On the other hand, the English and French (as major producers of the commodity) had to interact with Russians because the last had the combing technique for beavers while Russians also needed to import beaver pelts from Europe because their beaver population was greatly reduced. Other European countries were supposed to interact with France and England because they were the major suppliers of the commodity on the continent. The main mark on beaver hats was made by the Russian society that developed the combing technique, as well as European countries that developed demy-castors and carroting which allowed beaver hats to become more affordable for people. As for changing the viewing of the beaver hat in different contexts, it depended on its style, color and shape. In other words, the beaver hat was the visual reflection of a person's social status, value, gender, religious or political affiliations. The value of the commodity obviously changed in accordance with its owner's status.
In conclusion, the trade of beaver hats and Chinese porcelain demonstrates that the seventeenth century became the beginning of the commerce that the world civilization has today. As in the past, the desire of manufactures to sell their commodities forces them to interact with other countries. In addition, the way from the initial supplier to the end buyer can involve many parts. For example, material for beaver hats was found in the North America due to the interaction of local population with Europeans. Then, beaver pelts were transported to Europe and after that exported to Russia for transforming into beaver felts. After that, it was again re-exported to European leading producers and then sold to the rest of Europe.