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The First Global Economy (1450 - 1600 AD)

Neil MacGregor uses objects from around the world to chart Europe's expanding maritime trade and empires that created the first global economy between 1450 and 1600.

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Pieces of eight

5/5 Neil MacGregor with the first truly global money - silver pieces of eight.

Sat 25 Sep 2010 00:30 BBC Radio 4

See all previous episodes from A History of the World in 100 Objects

  • Where these objects were found

    Where these objects were found

    76 The mechanical galleon
    77 Benin plaque: the oba with Europeans
    78 Double-headed serpent
    79 Kakiemon elephants
    80 Pieces of eight

    Browse all British Museum objects
  • The First Global Economy AD (1450–1600)

    Europe’s expanding maritime empire created the world’s first global economy. Spanish pieces of eight were used as currency from the new world of the Americas to Japan. The Dutch East India Company was a multinational conglomeration transporting goods from the Far East to a European market. Different cultures were brought into contract for the first time with varying results. When Spanish explorers arrived in Mexico it led to the destruction of the Aztec Empire. In contrast, the relationship between the Portuguese and the kingdom of Benin was mutually beneficial, with Portuguese sailors providing much-desired brass in exchange for ivory and palm oil.

Shakespeare's Restless World

Image for Shakespeare's Restless World

Neil MacGregor uncovers Shakespeare's world through twenty objects.

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