|1.||economics Also called: mercantile system a theory prevalent in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries asserting that the wealth of a nation depends on its possession of precious metals and therefore that the government of a nation must maximize the foreign trade surplus, and foster national commercial interests, a merchant marine, the establishment of colonies, etc|
|2.||a rare word for commercialism|
An economic doctrine that flourished in Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Mercantilists held that a nation's wealth consisted primarily in the amount of gold and silver in its treasury. Accordingly, mercantilist governments imposed extensive restrictions on their economies to ensure a surplus of exports over imports. In the eighteenth century, mercantilism was challenged by the doctrine of laissez-faire. (See also Adam Smith.)
Note: The European quest for colonial holdings in Asia, Africa, and North and South America was partially a product of mercantile economics.