The history of capitalism can be traced back to early forms of merchant capitalism practiced in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. It began to develop into its modern form during the Early Modern period in the Protestant countries of North-Western Europe, especially the Netherlands (Dutch Republic) and England. Traders in Amsterdam and London created the first chartered joint-stock companies driving up commerce and trade, and the first stock exchanges and banking and insurance institutions were established.
Over the course of the past five hundred years, capital has been accumulated by a variety of different methods, in a variety of scales, and associated with a great deal of variation in the concentration of economic power and wealth. Much of the history of the past five hundred years is concerned with the development of capitalism in its various forms.
Since 2000 the new scholarly field of “History of Capitalism” has appeared, with courses in history departments. It includes topics such as insurance, banking and regulation, the political dimension, and the impact on the middle classes, the poor and women and minorities.
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