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Mercantilism is an economic theory, dominant in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century, that holds that a nation’s wealth and power are best served by increasing exports and accumulating precious metals. It is based on the idea that trade is a zero-sum game and that a nation’s gain is another’s loss. Mercantilists believed that the key to economic prosperity was to maintain a favorable balance of trade, that is, to export more goods than are imported.


  • Findlay, R., & O’Rourke, K. (2007). Power and Plenty: Trade, War, and the World Economy in the Second Millennium. Princeton University Press.
  • Hsiao, T.-T. (1997). Mercantilism. In The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law (Vol. 3, pp. 771-774). Macmillan.