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  • Published: 1 Sep 2017
  • DOI: 10.4324/9781138201521-HET13-1


  • Abstract
  • Mercantilism
  • Cameralism
  • Revival of old themes
  • Concluding remarks
  • Bibliography

Mercantilism and Cameralism


‘Mercantilism’ and ‘cameralism’ designate two types of political economy – doctrinal and practical – ascribed to economists in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It has been questioned to what extent especially mercantilism is coherent enough to be recognized as a doctrine or system at all, but historians of economic writing as well as many economic historians still seem to find a use for it. In general, mercantilist writers and administrators supported the view that economic wealth could be achieved by increased international trade, a large population and more manufacture utilizing a greater division of labour. It was from discussions on how to achieve national wealth, the role of trade for economic growth and the effects of regulation and protection that the mercantilist literature evolved during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

A common view is that cameralism was a German special case of more widespread mercantilistic discourse and policy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Taken literally, this Latin word refers to the king´s or the prince’s treasure chamber and its enrichment. Its emphasis on taxation and the administration of state finances reflected the late formation of German territorial states (such as Prussia) and their landlocked position and consequent lack of both significant foreign trade and a naval force.