mercantilism

Cultural Dictionary
mercantilism [(mur-kuhn-tee-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-ti-liz-uhm, mur-kuhn-teye-liz-uhm)]

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.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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