The Imagination of Matter in the Atlantic World’s Political Economy
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The above quotation from Long’s Significations situates the modern “self” within the network of exchanges that constituted the “Atlantic world economy of mercantilism and capitalism.” The network of exchanges constituting the Atlantic World determined how people involved in them would conceive the relationship between and among themselves and God and between themselves and nature. The break up of the medieval synthesis made it improbable that theologians could provide a comprehensive framework for merchants, monarchs, nation-states, ecclesiastical bodies, and so on to operate since Christendom was fractured between Roman Catholics and Protestants. What would emerge as a modern sensibility—a modern way of imagining matter—ensued from a number of factors rather than a single cause. Although it is convenient to periodize the transition from the medieval to modern period with the Renaissance/ Reformation there is no way to prove this irrefutably. Some would prefer the Age of Reason and others the Industrial Revolution. For our purposes we are locating the transition to modernity in the long sixteenth century because this is when Europeans first began their Voyages of Exploration that connected Africa, the Americas, and Europe for the first time.
KeywordsMaterial Object Sixteenth Century Human Consciousness Slave Trade Sexual Exchange
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