Very special thanks go to Diana C. Gildea, Richard A. Walker and Henry Bernstein for encouraging this project at more than one decisive conjuncture. Thanks also to Michael Johns for suggesting that I follow the story of American silver into Europe, and to T.J. Byres, Carole Crumley, Erik Jönsson, Jonathan Leitner, Jessica C. Marx, MacKenzie K.L. Moore, Jeff Sommers, Dale Tomich, Wendy Wolford and two anonymous referees, for invaluable comments and discussion. This essay as a whole is dedicated to Giovanni Arrighi, who helped me learn how to write world history as if the world depended on it.
‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’ Part II: The Global North Atlantic in the Ecological Revolution of the Long Seventeenth Century
Article first published online: 1 MAR 2010
© 2010 The Author – Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Journal of Agrarian Change
Volume 10, Issue 2, pages 188–227, April 2010
How to Cite
MOORE, J. W. (2010), ‘Amsterdam is Standing on Norway’ Part II: The Global North Atlantic in the Ecological Revolution of the Long Seventeenth Century. Journal of Agrarian Change, 10: 188–227. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0366.2009.00262.x
- Issue published online: 1 MAR 2010
- Article first published online: 1 MAR 2010
- political ecology;
- environmental history;
- historical sociology;
- world-systems analysis;
- capitalism as world-ecology
‘Amsterdam is standing on Norway’– this was a popular saying in the Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century. There was more than one inflection to the phrase. Amsterdam was, in the first instance, built atop a subterranean forest of Norwegian origin. But southern Norway was also a vital resource zone, subordinated to Amsterdam-based capital. This paper follows the movement of strategic commodity frontiers within early modern Europe from the standpoint of capitalism as world-ecology, joining in dialectical unity the production of capital and the production of nature. Our geographical focus is trained upon the emergence of the Global North Atlantic, that zone providing the strategic raw materials and food supplies indispensable to the consolidation of capitalism – timber, naval stores, metals, cereals, fish and whales. I argue for a broader geographical perspective on these movements, one capable of revealing the dialectical interplay of frontiers on all sides of the Atlantic. From its command posts in Amsterdam, Dutch capital deployed American silver in the creation of successive frontiers within Europe, transforming Scandinavian and Baltic regions. The frontier character of these transformations was decisive, premised on drawing readily exploitable supplies of land and labour power into the orbit of capital. We see in northern Europe precisely what we see in the Americas – a pattern of commodity-centred environmental transformation, and thence relative ecological exhaustion, from which the only escape was renewed global conquest and ever-wider cycles of combined and uneven development.