There were many elements that went into the first successful trading nation. Holland in the 1600’s was the first major global trading nation. Trading posts had been developed on sea lanes by the Phoenicians, the Vikings, the Chinese, the Viennese and specifically in the North Sea region by the Frisians (the main source of the English language). Bookkeeping, a vital element came from Milan.
Holland, focused on Amsterdam, in the 1600’s was the source of government bonds markets, international shipping insurance, the stock market and other open bidding markets and importantly salaried tax collectors (source of trustworthy tax collection). The Dutch were a unique people on the planet. They had created a representative democracy with elections of many offices; the Dutch Republic united the Netherlands with seven provinces. It was founded in 1581.
The Dutch were noted by all visitors in the 1600’s as the most egalitarian people on the planet. They were also the most tolerant. They had absorbed the Jewish exiles of the Spanish Inquisition of Spain and Portugal. Amsterdam in the 1600’s was the center of technology, the center of the Enlightenment and the center of publishing in all of Europe. (See Jonathan I Israel's, The Dutch Republic)
The Dutch military conquered England in 1688 and transferred all the major financial institutions to England where the Dutch Head of State, William of Orange and his wife, became the King and Queen of England, William III and Mary. With the English Parliament that welcomed them, they create the Bill of Rights of 1689 the major source of modern English law.
Holland was prosperous in the 1600’s as was its settlement in the American colonies, New Amsterdam later New York. New York became the source of most American financial institutions and with the creation of the United States and the American Constitution it became a central financial force. New York’s representative Alexander Hamilton played a major role in building modern financial ideas into the structure of the united 13 colonies.
England with a much larger population, with the Dutch financial tools, became the largest global trading nation from 1700 until 1945.
In the history of commerce these two giant international commonwealth’s, England and Holland, generated an entire future generation of entrepreneurs and giant trading businesses. The Dutch and British colonies were gigantic new markets and training stations for homeland officials. The colonies created entrepots were the second and third sons of the hereditary elites could find important positions of power. The beginnings of meritocracy. The colonial cities also provided great ‘diversity’ in the commercial meaning of that term. Colonial networks were the origins of modern commerce. Colonies created markets for Dutch, British and other local goods and the navies to transport them.
England is considered the original home of the Industrial Revolution as water power and steam power were introduced to accelerate wool, cotton and ceramic production lines. The revolution soon moved to the rapidly expanding United States in the 1850’s with the expansion of the West that allowed the meritocratic offspring of the Colonial States hereditary elites to open the vast new reaches of America along with the commercial settlements created by the soaring number of immigrants from the entire world.
Three other ingredients played a role in this historic development of industry.
The original Free Mason Grand Lodge was founded in London about 1720 and spread around the world by the end of the 1700’s. Free Masonary became the home of diverse men who could trust each other. It became the backbone of trust and finance for the Industrial Revolution and its expansion in the 1800’s provided finance for the American frontier.
The second was the application of the new technologies of animal husbandry and horticulture to farming in the mid-to-late 1700’s in England and Holland which increased production dramatically creating free labor to supply the emerging Industrial Revolution factories.
Third and last was the widespread publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations which helped leaders and thinkers understand the nature of the explosion of industrial production and trade that surrounded them.
The industrial revolution, in retrospect was the convergence of many small but critical elements to the three major elements I have identified. Meritocracy had to emerge from within societies ruled by hereditary elites. The Dutch and British colonial system made this possible. In America, the vast Western expansion made this possible even more so.
The diversity necessary for commercial creativity and technological innovation was also a by-product of this international mingling of people and cultures in the many urban cities of the colonies.
Lastly, the emergence of safe spaces for open and tolerant men of diverse backgrounds and the institutions of modern commerce that they fostered was essential. Democracy was vital as were the Free Masons and similar institutions that the Dutch, English and Americans promoted.